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Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, enters the hall at the Synod on the Family in October 2015. Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews
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Vatican Chief of Sacraments: No pope can change divine law on Communion

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ROME, November 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- On the heels of a statement by Pope Francis seeming to suggest openness to non-Catholic Christians receiving Holy Communion, the cardinal who heads the Vatican congregation dealing with the sacraments has said that there are preconditions for the reception of Holy Communion and when those conditions are not met, and the situation is publicly known, ministers of the sacrament “have no right to give him communion.”  

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, added, speaking of priests: “If they do so, their sin will be more grave before the Lord. It would be unequivocally a premeditated complicity and profanation of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus.”

The statements from Cardinal Sarah come from a forthcoming article in the French Catholic magazine L’Homme Nouveau. Vatican specialist Sandro Magister has published an excerpt in advance.  

“The entire Church has always firmly held that one may not receive communion with the knowledge of being in a state of mortal sin, a principle recalled as definitive by John Paul II in his 2003 encyclical ‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia,’” said the prefect.  “Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law.”

With confusion rampant even among the clergy about Pope Francis’ own stance regarding communion for those in grave sin, such as divorced and remarried couples, homosexual couples, and others, Cardinal Sarah’s statements come at a critical moment.

Regarding “communion for all, without discrimination,” Cardinal Sarah says that those in grave sin who are unrepentant (unless in total ignorance) “would remain in a state of mortal sin and would commit a grave sin by receiving communion.”  

Even in the toughest case of an abused wife who left her first marriage and was remarried without an annulment, Cardinal Sarah notes there can be no communion unless she decides to live without sexual relations with her new partner.

The cardinal’s most powerful statements, however, are his lament at the confusion about Holy Communion among the clergy.  “I feel wounded in my heart as a bishop in witnessing such incomprehension of the Church’s definitive teaching on the part of my brother priests,” he said.  “I cannot allow myself to imagine as the cause of such confusion anything but the insufficiency of the formation of my confreres.”

Recalling his position as “responsible for the discipline of the sacraments in the whole Latin Church,” Cardinal Sarah said he was “bound in conscience” to spell out the Church’s teaching regarding sexuality – the source of much of the current confusion.

The Church, he said, “stigmatizes the deformations introduced into human love: homosexuality, polygamy, chauvinism, free love, divorce, contraception, etc.”

“In any case, it never condemns persons. But it does not leave them in their sin. Like its Master, it has the courage and the charity to say to them: go and from now on sin no more.”

“The Church does not only welcome with mercy, respect, and delicacy. It firmly invites to conversion. As its follower, I promote mercy for sinners - which all of us are - but also firmness toward sins incompatible with the love for God that is professed with sacramental communion.”

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