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December 9, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A respected theologian and former Vatican advisor has defended the Church’s traditional teaching on reception of Communion in the wake of Pope Francis’ comments suggesting non-Catholics could, after consulting their conscience, choose to receive the sacrament.

The pope’s comments seemed to give an indication also of how he might rule on the controverted question of Communion for the divorced-and-remarried.

On November 15, the pope told a Lutheran congregation in Rome: “I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this [to receive Holy Communion as a Lutheran], because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.”

On 26 November, the well-respected and learned Monsignor Brunero Gherardini commented on the remarks in an interview with the Italian website Disputationes Theologicae. The monsignor, who had been an advisor to several Roman Dicasteries and who was a professor of theology at the Lateran University in Rome, explained that those who are “separated from the visible unity of the Church, whether by schism or by an act of heresy,” are cut off “from the participation in the Church's Communio.” This includes the participation “in the sacred actions of the liturgy of the Church, especially the Eucharist.” Gherardini also said that there is a tendency among certain ecumenical circles within the Catholic Church to ignore the Church's teaching on intercommunion and to reject the restrictions flowing from the principle “communicatio in sacris.” These circles intend, according to the prelate, to “step over boundaries” and to “create new facts” by which they hope to promote somehow a new unity among Christians.

STORY: Pope’s advice to Lutheran woman: A clue to how he’ll rule on Communion for the ‘remarried’?

However, Gherardini stresses that one cannot create a unity “at all costs” in order to increase “credibility and efficiency.” And he concludes: “In such a delicate question, emotional pressure is not a good counselor.”

When asked whether there could be an intercommunion with Lutherans, the theologian answered:

With respect to the communion between Catholics and the separated brethren – who are either heirs of the Reformation or who come from communities who are inspired by the Reformation – it stands as follows: Their rejection of the Sacraments and of the theology of trans-substantiation – and therefore of the Real  Presence – renders illicit and stale any communio in sacris with Catholics.

On November 30, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, also rejected the idea that Lutherans themselves could determine in a prayer to Jesus whether they could go forth and receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass. Sarah insisted on the traditional Church's teaching, saying “It’s not a personal desire or a personal dialogue with Jesus that determines if I can receive Communion in the Catholic Church.” He continued that one only can receive Holy Communion by abiding by the rules of the Church, “i.e., being a Catholic, being in a state of grace, properly married [if married].” Cardinal Sarah stated very clearly: “Intercommunion is not permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics. You must confess the Catholic Faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive Communion.”