(LifeSiteNews) — One of America’s top liberal bishops is ramping up his attacks on Catholic teaching and tradition, insisting that homosexuals and remarried couples in “objectively grave sin” be allowed to receive the Eucharist and that women be admitted to the diaconate.
In a lengthy essay Tuesday in America Magazine, the heterodox publication of the Jesuits of the United States, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego took aim at Church teaching on various subjects, including conscience, sexual ethics, and intrinsic evil.
The essay reads like a call to action for left-wing U.S. Catholics, urging the removal of “structures and cultures of exclusion” in the Church as part of Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality. The reform McElroy imagines “will require a long pilgrimage of sustained prayer, reflection, dialogue and action—all of which should begin now,” he wrote.
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This is just the latest attack on the faith from McElroy, a favorite of the pope and a rising star in the liberal Catholic world who has repeatedly undermined Catholic teaching. He encouraged a “transformation” of the Church through the Synod on Synodality and changes to “reformable Church doctrine” in a similar article for America last year.
San Diego cardinal rejects ‘theology of eucharistic coherence’
In his essay Tuesday, McElroy demanded that “the [C]hurch must embrace a eucharistic theology that effectively invites all of the baptized to the table of the Lord, rather than a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the [E]ucharist.”
McElroy explained that his idea of “eucharistic theology” includes allowing people in “objectively grave sin,” particularly homosexuals and illicitly remarried couples, to receive Communion without repentance and chastity.
“Unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy,” he wrote.
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But McElroy’s “radical inclusion” of unrepentant sinners blatantly contradicts Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church, which make clear that Catholics must be free of mortal sin to partake in Communion.
St. Paul declares in the First Letter to the Corinthians:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.
Citing this passage, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.” “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion,” it continues. Canon law reiterates the same teaching.
McElroy has ignored Catholic doctrine on reception of the Eucharist before, however. He previously suggested that giving sacraments and Christian burials to unrepentant homosexuals is “the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe.”
As bishop of San Diego, McElroy has personally presided over LGBT-themed Masses where homosexuals and their sexual partners freely receive Communion, including one Mass that featured a nationally-known drag queen activist.
McElroy criticizes Catholic teaching on sexuality
The cardinal recognized that some may object to his “notion of radical inclusion” because “the exclusion of divorced and remarried and L.G.B.T. persons from the Eucharist flows from the moral tradition in the church that all sexual sins are grave matter.”
“This means that all sexual actions outside of marriage are so gravely evil that they constitute objectively an action that can sever a believer’s relationship with God,” he noted, adding that this objection “should be faced head on.”
McElroy then criticized the Church’s teaching that sexual activity outside of marriage is always mortally sinful, saying this doctrine has put excessive weight on sexuality in moral life, and suggested that Catholics can maintain a relationship with God while in grave sin:
The effect of the tradition that all sexual acts outside of marriage constitute objectively grave sin has been to focus the Christian moral life disproportionately upon sexual activity. The heart of Christian discipleship is a relationship with God the Father, Son and Spirit rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church has a hierarchy of truths that flow from this fundamental kerygma. Sexual activity, while profound, does not lie at the heart of this hierarchy. Yet in pastoral practice we have placed it at the very center of our structures of exclusion from the Eucharist. This should change.
McElroy did get one thing correct: The Church indeed condemns all sexual action outside of marriage as gravely sinful and disordered, as sexuality is oriented to the conjugal love of man and woman.
“The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states. “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”
The Baltimore Catechism also notes that, “if deliberate,” sins of impurity “are always mortal.”
Underlining the gravity of sexual sins, St. Paul lists unrepentant adulterers, fornicators, and homosexuals as among those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, canon law, and various magisterial pronouncements of Pope St. John Paul II specify that the divorced and remarried may not receive Communion without continence.
McElroy has previously attacked Catholic teaching on sexuality, including the Church’s recognition that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” which he slammed as “very destructive language.”
Moreover, any mortal sin — and therefore any deliberate sexual sin — does, in fact, break off one’s “relationship with God the Father, Son and Spirit.”
The Council of Trent declared as a dogma that the faithful are “cut off from the grace of Christ” by every grievous sin, even if they do not lose their faith.
“Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms. “If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.”
In Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II condemned the idea that someone could “remain faithful to God independently of whether or not certain of his choices and his acts are in conformity with specific moral norms or rules.” Echoing St. Thomas Aquinas, he taught in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia that mortal sin occurs whenever someone “knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered,” which contains “contempt for the divine law, a rejection of God’s love for humanity.”
Jesus Himself states that loving Him means following His commandments: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14-15).
And while McElroy attempts to downplay purity as an essential element of Christian discipleship, Jesus demands radical chastity, warning that “every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Emphasizing the vital importance of chastity, He says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus declares purity of heart, which necessarily includes chastity, “the precondition of the vision of God,” in the words of the Catechism.
McElroy has previously attacked Catholic teaching on sexuality, including the Church’s recognition that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” which he slammed as “very destructive language.” According to the Catechism, “tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”
McElroy says hostility toward homosexuals is ‘demonic’
Continuing his theme of “exclusion,” McElroy cited alleged “exclusions of L.G.B.T. Catholics beyond the issue of the Eucharist” mentioned in synodal dialogues.
The Church’s pastoral approach to homosexual and gender-confused individuals “must be one of embrace rather than distance or condemnation,” and must occur without distinguishing between those who do and do not practice homosexual behavior, he insisted.
“The distinction between orientation and activity cannot be the principal focus for such a pastoral embrace because it inevitably suggests dividing the L.G.B.T. community into those who refrain from sexual activity and those who do not,” McElroy wrote.
In fact, the distinction between LGBT-identifying people who commit sodomy and those do not is a necessary one especially in the context of the Eucharist, as it distinguishes those who do and do not sin mortally with regard to homosexual acts.
St. Paul made clear distinctions in this regard:
Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
And in the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral.”
The San Diego cardinal also criticized the teaching of the Church that some acts, including murder, adultery, and homosexual acts, can never be morally permissible.
Ratcheting up his rhetoric, McElroy lamented that “so many men and women have a profound and visceral animus toward members of the L.G.B.T. communities,” which he called “a demonic mystery of the human soul.”
McElroy has on multiple occasions falsely attributed violence against homosexuals, including the assassination of LGBT activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, to hatred based on sexual orientation. Milk, a child abuser whom McElroy memorialized at a San Diego Mass, was murdered by another Democratic official over a political dispute.
McElroy: Conscience has ‘primary place’ over Catholic teaching
Underpinning McElroy’s vision of “radical inclusion” is his belief that conscience can legitimately contradict doctrine, including in matters of intrinsic evil.
“While Catholic teaching must play a critical role in the decision making of believers, it is conscience that has the privileged place,” he wrote.
The San Diego cardinal also criticized the teaching of the Church that some acts, including murder, adultery, and homosexual acts, can never be morally permissible. “Categorical exclusions,” he complained, “undermine that privilege precisely because they cannot encompass the inner conversation between women and men and their God.”
Contrary to McElroy, St. John Paul II explicitly rejected the possibility that concrete circumstances could allow for “certain exceptions to the general rule and thus permit one to do in practice and in good conscience what is qualified as intrinsically evil by the moral law.”
“On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept,” he observed in Veritatis Splendor.
This line of thinking, the pope taught, “diverges from the teaching of the Church’s tradition and her Magisterium” and challenges “the very identity of the moral conscience.”
John Paul II was equally clear about the reality of intrinsically evil acts:
It must be added … that some sins are intrinsically grave and mortal by reason of their matter. That is, there exist acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object. These acts, if carried out with sufficient awareness and freedom, are always gravely sinful.
The Catechism reiterates:
There are some concrete acts — such as fornication — that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery.
It also clarifies about conscience: “A well-formed conscience will never contradict the objective moral law, as taught by Christ and his Church.” “Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church,” it adds.
Female deacons, priests?
Not finished with his scandalous remarks, Cardinal McElroy insisted that the Church should ordain women as deacons.
“The church should move toward admitting women to the diaconate” due to “reasons of inclusion” and so that women can “provide critically important ministries, talents and perspectives,” McElroy said, without specifying what those might be.
He presented the ordination of women to the priesthood as an open question as well, saying that it may be a position that “emerges from the synodal discernment.”
“The call for the admission of women to priestly orders as an act of justice and a service to the church was voiced in virtually every region of our world church,” he related.
The Church’s inability to ordain women to the priesthood is an infallible truth of the faith that “requires definitive assent,” as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in a responsum approved by St. John Paul II.
While espousing blatant heterodoxy and contradicting John Paul II on numerous points, McElroy complained of “polarization” in the Church in the United States and a “false divide between ‘Pope Francis Catholics’ and ‘St. John Paul II Catholics,’” as well as a “schism” between “pro-life communities and justice-and-peace communities.”
Vatican figures ramp up pro-LGBT messaging
McElroy’s latest controversial comments come amid a blitz of pro-LGBT messaging from high-profile Vatican figures following the death of Pope Benedict XVI.
In an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday, Pope Francis said that the Church “must” work for the decriminalization of sodomy around the world, a pronouncement that conflicts with the teachings of the Church Fathers.
Heretical LGBT activist priest Fr. James Martin, SJ, sparked blistering outrage Sunday for equating same-sex unions with marriage and defending Biden transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg’s homosexual “marriage.”
Martin, whom McElroy has publicly defended over criticism about his heterodox advocacy, retweeted the cardinal’s America essay.