Illinois bishop corrects Abp Cupich: ‘Conscience’ no excuse for taking Communion in grave sin
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, January 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois, has corrected public statements made by a homosexual activist and the archbishop of Chicago that conflict with Canon Law.
Individuals living in adulterous and same-sex unions desiring Communion must repent and be absolved of their sins, while also resolving to amend their lives, said Bishop Thomas Paprocki. He also said that subjective conscience would not meet the criteria for receiving Communion.
“According to the canon law of the Catholic Church, Canon 916 directs those ‘conscious of grave sin’ to refrain from receiving Holy Communion,” Bishop Paprocki said in a December 26 opinion piece for the State Journal-Register. “Individuals must form their consciences in accord with Church teaching.”
“Conscience assesses how a person’s concrete action in a given situation accords with Church teaching,” he wrote, “not to determine whether one agrees with or accepts Church teaching in the first place.”
The Springfield bishop was responding to a letter to the editor from John Freml, Springfield leader for Call to Action, a dissident group excommunicated by the Vatican, and homosexual activist group Equally Blessed.
In the December 20 letter, Freml praised statements made by Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, in which the archbishop said Catholics in irregular situations, referring to individuals in homosexual unions and those who are divorced and civilly remarried, could receive Communion when they "are in good conscience, working with a spiritual director."
“Conservative church leaders often imply that a correctly formed conscience is always in harmony with what the hierarchy teaches, but this is simply not the case,” Freml said in his letter. “In fact, the church has a rich history of saints who have stood up to church leaders in good conscience.”
Freml concluded by encouraging those who had been refraining from Communion to approach for the sacrament with a selective reading of Christ’s words at the Last Supper: "Take this, all of you, and eat it." Freml then stated, “Remember that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table without condition, even Judas.”
Bishop Paprocki directed his letter to Freml, however his correction implicitly rebuke the statements by Archbishop Cupich as well.
Archbishop Blase Cupich earlier advocated admittance to Communion for homosexual couples during October’s Ordinary Synod on the Family in Rome, saying in an impromptu press conference that the conscience is "inviolable," and thus that he thinks divorced and remarried couples could be admitted to the sacraments if they have "come to a decision" to do so "in good conscience." The archbishop said this same reasoning would also apply to gay couples when responding to a follow-up question.
The archbishop voiced this same opinion again in a December interview with the local ABC affiliate, though qualifying his remarks in light of the Synod’s final report, that every person’s conscience must be formed “according to the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
In addition to advocating that Communion be given to individuals in “irregular” situations, Archbishop Cupich has down played the significance of the Planned Parenthood human remain trafficking scandal, said Communion for pro-abortion politicians was a good thing, and while bishop of Spokane, had forbidden his priests and seminarians from taking part in the 40 Days for Life vigil.
Bishop Paprocki, who has been an ardent defender of the Church’s teaching, said it was important to set the record straight about Freml’s incorrect statements regarding the comments made by Archbishop Cupich.
Paprocki wrote, “[Freml] notes that Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago has said that people in ‘irregular’ situations, such as those who are divorced and civilly remarried and those who are in same-sex government marriages, should work with a spiritual director to come to a decision ‘in good conscience’ about receiving Holy Communion.”
“Of course, those who are in ‘irregular situations’ should talk to a qualified spiritual director or a priest in the context of sacramental confession,” Paprocki explained, “but forming a ‘good conscience’ means that they will recognize and repent of their sins, resolve to reform their lives in accord with Christ’s teachings and receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion.”
The bishop went on to clarify that while Canon 916 instructs those “conscious of grave sin” to refrain from taking Communion, Canon 915 obliges ministers of the sacrament to withhold it, “not from ‘sinners’ per se (since no one can read the state of another person’s soul),” he said, “but rather, from those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.’"
The bishop then clarified that in withholding Communion from those whose conduct is designated in Canon 915, the minister is not assessing personal "worthiness," but instead acting in accord with a long-standing sacramental discipline intended to protect the Sacrament from sacrilege and also guard the faith community from the scandal resulting from someone’s public conduct that is in conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Thus, when Mr. Freml says that people may receive Holy Communion in such cases ‘even when the church hierarchy says that they should not,’ this is simply not true,” said Bishop Paprocki. “It is true that Jesus welcomes everyone. But as Jesus said at the last supper, so we say in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, Jesus poured out his blood ‘for you and for many,’ since not everyone accepts what Christ offers, just as Judas did not accept what Christ offered him.”