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Over 80 priests sign appeal to world’s bishops to address crisis in Church

Doug Mainwaring Doug Mainwaring Follow Doug

May 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Over 80 priests have added their signatures to an appeal to bishops around the world asking them to reaffirm Christ’s teachings and to correct errors about the Christian moral life and its relation to Holy Communion, sin, and marriage.

Initiated on Good Shepherd Sunday—April 22—the worldwide appeal was issued in English, and translated into German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. The appeal is open for any priests who wish to add their names. The appeal can be signed here

The signatories are concerned about a “mistaken approach” taken by some priests in which they allow those who commit objectively evil acts—and who subjectively judge themselves to be free of culpability—to receive Holy Communion.  Further, this mistaken approach:

In a more developed form … denies that certain behaviors are always evil and claims that in some circumstances those behaviors are the most realistic good that can be achieved or, indeed, are simply good.     

An even more extreme version declares that those behaviors can be approved or proposed by God.  

Christ’s life and moral teachings are thus presented as abstract ideals that must be adjusted to fit our circumstances rather than as realities already attuned to free us from sin and evil in every situation.

“Although this approach claims to be a new and legitimate development, its principles have always been recognized by the Church as contrary to the Gospel,” continues the letter.  ‘She opposed these theories with particularly vigorous and precise teaching throughout the twentieth century and, above all, during the fifty years since Humanae Vitae.”

The appeal, expressed in a “fraternal and filial spirit,” identifies ten crucial issues which the priests want their bishops to address, found in abridged form below:  

  1. God is love. He has arranged everything for our good and has called us to share his divine life in Christ. Consequently, he is utterly opposed to evil, to sin (i.e., the knowing and willing embrace of evil), and to the harm that these cause. Therefore, although God may choose to tolerate the presence of evil and sin, he never proposes or approves of them.
  2. Christians participating in the indwelling communion with God (i.e., in a state of grace) are in every circumstance enabled by Christ to remain faithful by avoiding the knowing and willing embrace of evil; therefore, they are culpable for any sins they commit (see I Jn 5:18 and Jas 1:13- 15).
  3. Christians in communion with God may suffer from ignorance or from impediments to freedom to a degree that mitigates or entirely removes culpability in a particular embrace of evil.
  4. Christians who embrace evil without culpability remain in communion with God, but are trapped in situations that are actually harmful and prevent them from fully sharing the abundant life Jesus came to bring.
  5. Conscience is the immediate norm of behavior but not the infallible voice of God. It can misjudge due to innocent malformation or to distortions arising from previous sins. [...] the subjective judgments of conscience are in need of being conformed to the Gospel revealed by Christ and continually proclaimed by him through the Church’s authentic apostolic witness (e.g., the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium).
  6. Marriage is a covenant established knowingly and willingly with requisite consideration and maturity by one man and one woman who are free to marry. It is an exclusive union that cannot be dissolved by any human power or by any cause except the death of one of the spouses.
  7. Sexual activity outside of marriage is in every circumstance gravely evil. The culpable embrace of this grave evil is a mortal sin which, like all mortal sins, causes communion with God to cease.
  8. To receive Holy Communion, Christians who recognize that they are guilty of mortal sin must have true contrition for their sins, including a resolve to avoid all sin in the future. In addition, they must normally first receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
  9. Reception of Holy Communion cannot be reduced to a private act based on a subjective judgment of innocence because it is a public witness to one’s embrace of the communal faith and life of the Church. Regardless of culpability, those who continue to embrace an objectively grave evil after learning that their belief or behavior is contrary to the Church’s apostolic witness may rightly be expected or, at times, required to refrain from Holy Communion.
  10. Reception of Holy Communion in specific cases by those who have remarried following a divorce depends on the objective reality of the bond of their first marriage and on the avoidance of sin and public scandal, not only on their private intention to avoid future sexual activity, their subjective evaluation of the current relationship, or their subjective judgment of innocence regarding sexual activity in that relationship (see Mt 5:32).

The priests point out “the false moral theology of past decades” that presents the “Church’s apostolic witness as idealistic, outmoded, or even cruel.” They acknowledge that some priests and laypeople who have experienced the transforming power of Gospel in their lives through fidelity to it often “have a deep sense of grief and betrayal over the advocacy of errors that leave others trapped in harmful.” 

The priests encourage their bishops “not to underestimate the pastoral value [of their] apostolic support in combating the secular mentalities which have taken hold in the Church.”

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