Archbishop Gadecki's Intervention at the 6th General Session of the Synod of Bishops
To begin, I want to emphasize that the following intervention reflects not only my personal opinion, but the opinion of the entire Polish Bishops’ Conference.
1. There is no doubt that the Church of our time must—in a spirit of mercy—help civilly remarried divorcees with special charity, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, while they may indeed, as baptized, participate in Her life.
Let us, therefore, encourage them to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show Herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope (cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84).
2. Yet, the Church—in Her teaching on the admission of remarried divorcees—cannot yield to the will of man, but only to the will of Christ (cf. Paul VI, Address to the Roman Rota, 01.28.1978; John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 01.23.1992, 01.29.1993 and 01.22.1996). Consequently, the Church cannot let Herself be led by feelings of false compassion for people or by modes of thought that—despite their worldwide popularity—are mistaken.
Admitting to Communion those who continue cohabiting “more uxorio” [as a husband and wife] without the sacramental bond would be contrary to the Tradition of the Church. The documents of the first synods of Elvira, Arles and Neocaesarea, which took place in the years 304-319, already confirmed the Church’s doctrine of not admitting the divorced who have remarried to Eucharistic Communion.
This position is based on the fact that “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84; 1 Cor 11:27–29; Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 29; Francis, Angelus, 16 August 2015).
3. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the baptized who are in the state of sacramental grace. Admitting the civilly remarried divorcees to Holy Communion would cause great damage not only to family pastoral ministry, but also to the Church’s doctrine of sanctifying grace.
In fact, the decision to admit them to Holy Communion would open the door to this sacrament for all who live in mortal sin. This in turn would lead to the elimination of the Sacrament of Penance and distort the significance of living in the state of sanctifying grace. Moreover, it must be noted that the Church cannot accept the so-called “gradualness of the law” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 34).
As Pope Francis reminded us, we who are here do not want and do not have power to change the doctrine of the Church.
+ Stanislaw Gadecki, Metropolitan Archbishop of Poznan
President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference
Now, the theological commentary provided by the Conference, based in particular on the immutable teachings of the Tridentine Council:
Fr. Dariusz Kowalczyk SJ
Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome
God’s Grace, Sacramental Grace, Sanctifying Grace
God’s grace is basically every saving action of God for man. We can therefore say that grace is one, just as there is one God. However, taking into account changes in circumstances as well as in the modalities and the consequences of God’s action, we distinguish different types of grace, including “sacramental grace” (gratia sacramentalis), “the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1129).
The Council of Trent teaches that through the sacraments “all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is repaired” (Denz. 1600). Therefore, sacramental grace is essentially sanctifying grace (gratia sanctificans). It should be noted that the concept of “sanctifying grace” is much broader than that of “sacramental grace.” For, God can come to sanctify human relationships outside the sacraments. In other words, God also saves non-sacramentally, as the Second Vatican Council stated: “we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
The situation of divorced persons living in new unions would then be a situation in which they are deprived of the sacramental grace linked to the sacrament of marriage, the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion, but they should not be, by definition, deprived of God’s grace in general, of this sanctifying grace that God can give—as we said—non-sacramentally. This is why John Paul II was able to write in Familiaris Consortio: “They [divorced and remarried divorcees] should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace” (No. 84).
Divorced persons living in new unions can therefore truly ask God to grant them His grace, which, although it is not and cannot be sacramental grace without the fulfillment of certain conditions, is nevertheless a true grace of God that restores a saving relationship with Him. However, this does not open the way for sacramental Communion for divorced people engaged in new unions. On the contrary, if this were so, they would turn away not only from the internal logic of sacramental grace but also risk to eliminate the grace received non-sacramentally.
[Source: Rorate Caeli ]© Polish Episcopal Conference
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