LA PLATA, Argentina (LifeSiteNews) –– With Archbishop Victor Fernández set to become a cardinal and prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal office in just weeks, the close papal confidant has already signaled that Pope Francis might open the door for people to receive Holy Communion in instances when Catholic teaching prohibits them from doing so.
Since the July 1 announcement of Cardinal-designate Victor Fernández as the incoming Prefect of the Congregation (now Dicastery) of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), numerous Catholics have expressed severe concerns.
Fernández, formerly bishop of the Diocese of La Plata in Argentina, has won the wide-spread criticism of many Catholics due to his openness to same-sex “blessings,” his promotion of the use of condoms, and his ghost-writing of the highly controversial Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
His role in writing and promoting Amoris Laetitia is particularly key, given that its now infamous Chapter 8 opened the door to allowing the divorced and “remarried” access to Holy Communion. Shortly after its publication, Francis responded to questions by saying there is “no other interpretation” of Amoris Laetitia except the one provided by the bishops of Buenos Aires allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried.
With such a background, a homily the soon to be CDF prefect gave in March of this year has come under fresh scrutiny, as he appeared to suggest that Francis would follow through on the practice of Amoris Laetitia and implement wide-spread changes for permitting people to access Holy Communion.
Delivering a homily on March 5 at his cathedral in La Plata, Fernández argued that Francis was “helping us to be free from those patterns” of moral laws, which forbade people in a state of mortal sin from receiving Holy Communion.
“If we don’t start learning to look people in a different way, nothing changes,” he stated, adding that assessing people must go beyond looking at “their sexual orientation. If I don’t start looking beyond all, we cannot end up loving that person.”
In a statement which appeared to affirm and support people identifying as transgender or actively homosexual, Fernández stated that “the way that person presents himself, the way that person is, whether I like it or not, in that way that person is worth more than anything on earth. Each brother and sister is worth more than anything on earth.”
Francis, he argued, was taking the Church in a “different direction” to that which it had been going for “many centuries.” During previous generations, the Church had “developed a whole philosophy” and classification of morality by which to outline who was fit to receive Communion, he added. All this, continued the soon-to-be cardinal, was done by the Church “without being fully aware.”
As you well know, during many centuries the Church was going in a different direction. Without being fully aware, the Church developed a whole philosophy and moral full of classifications, to classify people, to label them, this is X, this is Y, this can receive communion, this one cannot receive communion, this one can be forgiven, this other cannot be forgiven.
Such a moral teaching is “terrible,” claimed Fernández: “It is terrible that this has happened in the Church. But thank God that Pope Francis is helping us to be free from those patterns.”
These words echo passages which Fernández wrote defending Amoris Laetitia in 2017. Francis’ “great innovation is to allow for a pastoral discernment in the realm of the internal forum to have practical consequences in the manner of applying the discipline,” Fernández wrote.
In contrast, Catholic moral teaching clearly outlines that the reception of Holy Communion is for Catholics who have reaped the age of reason and who have the proper disposition. Moral theologian Fr. John Laux outlines the necessary disposition as being:
- Free from mortal sin, and to have the sincere purpose of avoiding venial sin.
- Receiving Communion without vanity or for “merely human motives” but to please God.
- Proper preparation, including the prescribed time of fasting.
The much loved Baltimore Catechism echoes this, stipulating:
To receive plentifully the graces of Holy Communion it is not enough to be free form mortal sin, but we should be free from all affection to venial sin, and should make acts of lively faith, of firm hope and ardent love.
Catholic teaching has remained consistent on the impossibility of receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. The Baltimore Catechism outlines: “He who receives Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but does not receive His grace and he commits a great sacrilege.”
This teaching is drawn from the words of Scripture as found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27-29)
The Code of Canon Law 915 also explicitly forbids those in mortal sin from receiving Communion: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Indeed, writing extensively on the question of denying Holy Communion to those who persist in grave sin, Cardinal Raymond Burke noted that to do so was an act of charity for those involved:
the discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.
Should Pope Francis or Cardinal-designate Fernández attempt to permit people to Holy Communion who are in fact prohibited from approaching the altar, they would be acting against Catholic teaching, the Scriptures, and the law of God as presented by Christ and reiterated by the Apostles.