Action Alert!

The Maltese bishops lower the bar

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 14, 2017

Here are some headlines that you haven’t seen recently:

Bishops of Malta: Mafia hitmen should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’
Bishops of Malta: pedophiles should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’
Bishops of Malta: IRA terrorists should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’
Bishops of Malta: Wall Street embezzlers should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

And then here’s the headline you probably have seen:

Bishops of Malta: divorced/remarried should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

Thus have the Maltese bishops taken a commanding early lead in the rigorous-discernment-process (RDP) race.

As soon as you read the document, you could see that the RDP envisioned in the Kasper proposal, and mentioned in AL, would quickly become a rubber-stamp process. Cardinal Kasper himself finessed the question of what the RDP would entail, refusing to answer questions about how it would actually work. That finesse proving successful, Pope Francis followed suit.

When I was a child, there was a priest in our parish (his name was Burke, funnily enough) who could say the old Mass in 11 minutes: Sunday Mass, complete with sermon, in under 15. He was very popular with a lot of parishioners for that reason. The Maltese bishops are now doing the same thing for the RDP. You knew there would be priests who would be quick to give the green light; now they’re almost giving it pre-emptively. (“Yes, I’m divorced and remarried, but I went through an RDP during the Fritos commercial just before halftime, so I’m cleared for Communion this Sunday.)

Is there a term for the branch of theology that seeks to define the absolute minimum that is required for getting into heaven? The Soteriology of the Anchor Man? There’s big money in that field; it’s bound to be popular. If you stop and think about it, it’s hard to ‘accompany’ someone through a narrow gate.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: DanS - Jan. 17, 2017 9:22 AM ET USA

    The Maltese bishops are merely implementing the protestant orthodoxy of "personal conscience,"and in so doing they fulfill the "spirit of Vatican II" mandate of ecumenism, a mandate made most manifest in the Ordinary Form of the Mass which is nothing more than an Anglican service. We are now on our second generation of episcopal leadership that has dismantled both the material and the spiritual tools of the Faith. Lord, help us and our progeny recover the Faith of our fathers.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jan. 16, 2017 1:49 PM ET USA

    The real issue here is the issue of souls. In charity, we must at least consider the souls. And this consideration must involve some context or it is not worthy of even one moment's investment. The conext is the gospel. In reality it is the gospel alone. Putting the pieces together, in evaluating this story in light of the gospel-in light of the souls- there is no tepid response. It's either hot or cold. This is the unenviable reality of these times in the Church. It's our reality.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 15, 2017 5:10 PM ET USA

    Re your Fr. Burke: The Catholic chaplain at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming in 1952, a very young Jesuit whose name escapes me after 65 years, used to celebrate weekday Mass in 12 minutes flat. Every word of the Latin clearly intelligible, so we could follow our books. When he was criticized, which he frequently was, his invariable rejoinder was, "A Sacrament is in no way intensified by being prolonged." I think of him often these days of 35-minute weekday Masses, using EP II.