Bishops, priests and scholars correct Pope Francis’ statement on Holy Communion
A recent papal statement seems to open the door to Holy Communion for pro-abortion politicians such as Nancy Pelosi
Pope FrancisPhoto by Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Fri Sep 16, 2022 – 9:01 am EDT
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(LifeSiteNews) — Four bishops, several priests, and numerous Catholic scholars have signed a statement rebuking Pope Francis for a recent statement about the reception of Holy Communion, according to which “everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word.” The Pope wrote these words in his June 29 Apostolic Letter on the liturgy, Desiderio desideravi, but for the signatories of this new statement (see full text below), he omitted the “essential topic of repentance for sin for the worthy reception of the Eucharist.”
Therefore, the papal words about the “garment of faith” as the only requirement for the reception of Holy Communion, “contradict the faith of the Catholic Church,” as the authors wrote. They explain:
The Catholic Church has always taught that in order to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily and without sin, Catholics must receive sacramental absolution, if possible, for any mortal sins they may have committed and obey all other laws of the Church concerning reception of the Eucharist (as, for example, the laws concerning fasting prior to reception of the Eucharist).
If a sacramental confession is not possible, but the reception of Holy Communion urgent (such as for a priest celebrating Mass), the Sacrament of Penance has to be sought as soon as possible afterwards, and the penitent must have perfect contrition for his mortal sins. By extensively quoting from the Council of Trent’s documents, the signatories also make it clear that such teachings as presented in Pope Francis’ document have already been condemned as heresy. “The claim,” they write, “that faith is the only requirement for worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist was condemned by the Council of Trent as a heresy.”
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RELATED: Pope Francis doubles down on restrictions of the Latin Mass in new letter
This false teaching might become more important now at this historic moment. Only in May, a U.S. Bishop – Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone – publicly banned Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, from receiving Holy Communion because she is defying the Church’s teaching against abortion. “A Catholic legislator,” he then wrote, “who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others.”
It nearly looks as if Pope Francis’s June 2022 document is a response to that diocesan ruling, now stating that faith alone is sufficient for receiving Holy Communion.
As the new statement points out, “on the day that Desiderio desideravi was issued, Pope Francis received in audience Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives,” and on that day, she received Holy Communion at a papal Mass, in St. Peter’s, over which Pope Francis presided, thereby “causing scandal to Catholics over all the world,” in the statement’s words. The text continues: “When asked about her illegal reception of communion, Pope Francis expressed no disapproval of it. Instead, he responded by saying ‘When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem. That’s all I can say.’ This response rebukes Archbishop Cordileone for his justified application of Canon 915.”
Among the signatories of this new statement are Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, Bishop Rene H. Gracida, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Bishop Robert Mutsaerts, Father Gerald E. Murray, Father James Altman, Father John Lovell and several other priests, along with well-known academic teachers such as Professor Claudio Pierantoni, Dr. John Lamont, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Professor Anna Silvas, Dr. Anthony Esolen, Professor John Rist, and Professor Paolo Pasqualucci. Among Catholic scholars can be found Julia Meloni and George Neumayr. LifeSite’s John-Henry Westen and Liz Yore also signed the document.
The new statement by clergymen and scholars also refers back to the Code of Canon Law, especially can. 915 (and more), which lays down the same rules about the worthy reception of Holy Communion as presented above. The signatories state:
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The purpose of these canons is to prevent grave sin on the part of the person unworthily receiving the Eucharist, to prevent scandal, and to prevent the desecration of the sacrament by such unworthy reception. These canons are still in force. They cannot be validly repealed, because their content expresses the divine law concerning the Eucharist that is taught in the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition.
In a sense, one could see this new statement by Pope Francis, on faith being the only condition for receiving Holy Communion, as a linchpin and summary statement of his pontificate. Early on, from 2014 on, he promoted the idea of giving Holy Communion to unrepentant remarried divorcees; then he opened up the idea of Protestants following their own conscience when deciding to receive Holy Communion.
In addition, the Pope has been encouraging pro-abortion Catholics to receive Holy Communion and even called pro-LGBT advocate Father James Martin, S.J. as a Vatican counsellor. In all of these cases, the Pope allows Catholics to receive Holy Communion who are objectively violating the Church’s laws and teachings, thus promoting moral relativism.
LifeSite asked Professor Claudio Pierantoni, one of the signatories of this new statement, to comment on the papal words in light of the above-mentioned case of Nancy Pelosi. He wrote:
We have thought necessary to issue this statement because this error can lead to great scandal, like that of admitting to Communion politicians who publicly approve of abortion, or even promote it directly with their actions. This is precisely what has been happening recently in the US, after the ruling of the Supreme Court that overturned the infamous Roe versus Wade, when President Biden and Speaker Pelosi, both Catholic, openly supported the campaign in favor of restoring the “right” to abortion all over the country. The pope not only omitted to rebuke Biden and Pelosi for this scandalous stance; not only omitted to support those bishops who did implement canonical censures against such politicians, but went to the extreme of criticizing those bishops (though making no names), arguing that such censures (like excommunication), “are not pastoral,” and “cause political problems.”
Now this papal document (Desiderio desideravi) affirming that “the garment of faith” is “all that is required” to be admitted to the Eucharistic banquet, seems to provide a theological justification for this attitude, which could have been thought to be simply the result of political opportunism. This scandal had moreover a striking confirmation through the coincidence that Nancy Pelosi received Holy Communion in St. Peter’s basilica, on the feast of Peter and Paul, the very same day in which Desiderio desideravi was published. Such an attitude on the part of the pope is, of course, the opposite of true “pastorality,” since the first duty of the spiritual pastor is to warn the sinner, and particularly the public sinner, not only of the seriousness of his fault, but of the immense damage that is caused to millions of Catholics who are thereby deceived and led to think that this can be an acceptable and orthodox behavior.
Please see here the full statement, with the list of signatories at the end of the text. A pdf of the statement can be downloaded HERE and a Spanishversion HERE.
The teaching of the Catholic faith on the reception of the Holy Eucharist
The recent Apostolic Letter Desiderio desideravi, given June 29th 2022, the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, states:
- The world still does not know it, but everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word (cf. Ro 10:17). [Il mondo ancora non lo sa, ma tutti sono invitati al banchetto di nozze dell’Agnello (Ap 19,9). Per accedervi occorre solo l’abito nuziale della fede che viene dall’ascolto della sua Parola (cfr. Rm 10,17)[…].
The natural meaning of these words is that the only requirement for a Catholic to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist is possession of the virtue of faith, by which one believes Christian teaching on the grounds of its being divinely revealed. Moreover, in the Apostolic Letter as a whole there is silence on this essential topic of repentance for sin for the worthy reception of the Eucharist.
This natural meaning contradicts the faith of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has always taught that in order to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily and without sin, Catholics must receive sacramental absolution, if possible, for any mortal sins they may have committed and obey all other laws of the Church concerning reception of the Eucharist (as, for example, the laws concerning fasting prior to reception of the Eucharist). However, if a Catholic is unable to confess mortal sins but has a grave reason for receiving the Eucharist (such as a priest who may be required to celebrate Mass at a given time but who is unable to go to Confession), such a person must be confident to the best of his ability that he have perfect contrition for any mortal sins that he may have committed.
The claim that faith is the only requirement for worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist was condemned by the Council of Trent as a heresy.
The holy and ecumenical Council of Trent, Decree concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist (October 11th 1551).
Chapter VII. The Preparation that Must be Employed to Receive the Holy Eucharist Worthily
If it is not becoming for anyone to approach any of the sacred functions except solemnly, certainly, the more the holiness and the divinity of this heavenly sacrament is understood by a Christian, the more diligently ought he to take heed lest he approach to receive it without great reverence and holiness [can. 2], especially when we read in the Apostle those words full of terror: “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself not discerning the body of the Lord” [1 Cor. 11 :29 ]. Therefore, the precept, “Let a man prove himself” [1 Cor. 11:28], must be recalled to mind by him who wishes to communicate. Now ecclesiastical usage declares that this examination is necessary, that no one conscious of mortal sin, however contrite he may seem to himself, should approach the Holy Eucharist without a previous sacramental confession. This, the holy Synod has decreed, is always to be observed by all Christians, even by those priests on whom by their office it may be incumbent to celebrate, provided the recourses of a confessor be not lacking to them. But if in an urgent necessity a priest should celebrate without previous confession, let him confess as soon as possible.
Canon 11. If anyone says that faith alone is sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist, let him be anathema. [Si quis dixerit, solam fidem esse sufficientem praeparationem ad sumendum sanctissimum eucharistiae sacramentum, anathema sit.]
This claim also contradicts Canons 915 and 916 of the Latin Code of Canon Law, and Canons 711 and 712 of the Oriental Code of Canon Law.
Latin Code of Canon Law
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
Oriental Code of Canon Law
Canon 711. A person who is conscious of serious sin is not to celebrate the Divine Liturgy nor receive the Divine Eucharist unless a serious reason is present and there is no opportunity of receiving the sacrament of penance; in this case the person should make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.
Canon 712. Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist.
The purpose of these canons is to prevent grave sin on the part of the person unworthily receiving the Eucharist, to prevent scandal, and to prevent the desecration of the sacrament by such unworthy reception. These canons are still in force. They cannot be validly repealed, because their content expresses the divine law concerning the Eucharist that is taught in the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. This has been pointed out in the Declaration of June 24th 2000 by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried:
The Code of Canon Law establishes that “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (can. 915). … The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: “This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself.”
Pope Francis has indicated by his words and actions that he holds the view expressed by the natural meaning of the words of Desiderio desideravi cited above.
In his Angelus for the feast of “Corpus Domini” on June 6, 2021, Pope Francis said:
… there is another strength that stands out in the fragility of the Eucharist: the strength to love those who make mistakes. It is on the night he is betrayed that Jesus gives us the Bread of Life. He gives us the greatest gift while he feels the deepest abyss in his heart: the disciple who eats with Him, who dips the morsel in the same plate, is betraying Him. And betrayal is the worst suffering for one who loves. And what does Jesus do? He reacts to the evil with a greater good. He responds to Judas’ ‘no’ with the ‘yes’ of mercy. He does not punish the sinner, but rather gives His life for him; He pays for him. When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus does the same with us: he knows us; he knows we are sinners; and he knows we make many mistakes, but he does not give up on joining his life to ours. He knows that we need it, because the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, no, it is the Bread of sinners. This is why he exhorts us: “Do not be afraid! Take and eat.”
The statement that the Eucharist is not the reward of saints but the bread of sinners might be understood in an orthodox sense if taken in isolation. However, placed in the context of the reception of the Eucharist by Judas referred to in the Angelus address (cf. John 13:23-27), and in the context of Pope Francis’s other words and actions, it suggests that renunciation of sin is not necessary for one’s reception of the Eucharist to be acceptable to God. This view is borne out in the following statement from Desiderio desideravi: ‘Indeed, every reception of communion of the Body and Blood of Christ was already desired by him in the Last Supper’ (n. 6).
The teaching of the Council of Trent cited above condemns the position of Martin Luther on faith and justification. Pope Francis has publicly expressed his agreement with the condemned positions of Luther. In an in-flight press conference on June 26th, 2016, Pope Francis stated:
I think that Martin Luther’s intentions were not mistaken; he was a reformer. Perhaps some of his methods were not right, although at that time, if you read Pastor’s history, for example – Pastor was a German Lutheran who experienced a conversion when he studied the facts of that period; he became a Catholic – we see that the Church was not exactly a model to emulate. There was corruption and worldliness in the Church; there was attachment to money and power. That was the basis of his protest. He was also intelligent, and he went ahead, justifying his reasons for it. Nowadays, Lutherans and Catholics, and all Protestants, are in agreement on the doctrine of justification: on this very important point he was not mistaken.
On the day that Desiderio desideravi was issued, Pope Francis received in audience Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi has been publicly forbidden to receive communion under Canon 915 by her ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. The grounds for this measure were her consistent political support for the complete legalization of abortion up to birth. After the audience with Pope Francis, Nancy Pelosi received communion at a mass in St. Peter’s over which Pope Francis presided, causing scandal to Catholics over all the world. When asked about her illegal reception of communion, Pope Francis expressed no disapproval of it. Instead, he responded by saying ‘When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem. That’s all I can say.’ This response rebukes Archbishop Cordileone for his justified application of Canon 915.
The Apostolic Letter Desiderio desideravi is not an infallible teaching, because it does not satisfy the necessary conditions for an exercise of papal infallibility. The canon of the Council of Trent is an exercise of the infallible teaching authority of the Church. Therefore, the contradiction between Desiderio desideravi and the defined doctrine of the Council of Trent does not falsify the claim of the Catholic Church to be infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit when by an exercise of her teaching office she requires all Catholics to believe a doctrine as being divinely revealed. On the possibility of a pope publicly teaching error, see the Correctio filialis addressed to Pope Francis by a number of Catholic scholars (https://www.correctiofilialis.org), and the discussions in the book Defending the Faith against Present Heresies (Arouca Press, 2021). No Catholic can believe or act upon a papal pronouncement if it contradicts the divinely revealed Catholic faith.
We, the undersigned, confess the Catholic faith concerning the worthy reception of the Eucharist as it is defined by the Council of Trent, according to which faith alone is not a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist. We encourage all the bishops and clerics of the Catholic Church to publicly confess the same doctrine about the worthy reception of the Eucharist, and enforce the related canons in order to avoid grave and public scandal.
Please see here the list of first signatories. Scholars and clergymen are invited to contact us should they wish to sign this document: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler
Most Rev. René Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
Most Rev. Robert Mutsaerts, Auxiliary Bishop of S’Hertogenbosch in Netherlands
Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan
Fr. James Altman
Dr. Heinz-Lothar Barth, until 2016 professor of Latin and Greek at the University of Bonn
Donna F. Bethell, JD
James Bogle, Esq., MA TD VR, barrister-at-law and former President of Una Voce International
Deacon Philip Clingerman OCDS BS, BA, MA [Theology]
Deacon Nick Donnelly, MA
Anthony Esolen, PhD
Deacon Keith Fournier, JD, MTS, MPhil
Matt Gaspers, Managing Editor, Catholic Family News
Fr Stanislaw C. Gibziński, Reading, UK
Maria Guarini, STB, editor of the website Chiesa e postconcilio
Sarah Henderson, DCHS, MA (Religious Education and Catechetics), BA
Dr. Maike Hickson, PhD, journalist
Dr. Robert Hickson, retired professor of literature and philosophy
Dr. Dr. Rudolf Hilfer, Stuttgart, Germany
Dr. Rafael Huentelmann, Editor in Chief, METAPHYSICA
Steve Jalsevac, co-founder and president, LifeSiteNews.com
Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski, PhD
Dr. John Lamont, DPhil
Fr. Elias Leyds, CSJ, diocese of Den Bosch, Netherlands
Fr. John P. Lovell
Dr. Cesar Felix Sanchez Martinez. Professor of Philosophy of Nature at the Saint Jerome Archdiocesan Seminary of Arequipa (Peru)
Deacon Eugene McGuirk
Brian M. McCall, Editor in Chief, Catholic Family News
Patricia McKeever, B.Ed. M.Th., Editor, Catholic Truth (Scotland)
Julia Meloni, B.A. Yale, A.M. Harvard, author
Fr. Cor Mennen, lic. canon law, former seminary professor
Fr. Michael Menner
Dr. Sebastian Morello, BA, MA, PhD, essays editor for the The European Conservative
Fr. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D., Pastor, Church of the Holy Family, New York, NY
George Neumayr, author
Fr. Guy Pagès
Paolo Pasqualucci, ret. professor of philosophy, University of Perugia, Italy
Dr. Claudio Pierantoni, Universidad de Chile, PhD History of Christianity, PhD Philosophy
Dr. Carlo Regazzoni, philosopher of culture
Dr. John Rist, emeritus professor of Classics and Philosophy, University of Toronto, FRSC
Eric Sammons, Editor, Crisis Magazine
Edward Schaefer, president, The Collegium
Wolfram Schrems, Mag. theol., Mag. phil.
Paul A. Scott PhD, FRSA, FRHistS, FCIL, CL, Associate Professor of French and Cramer Professor, Affiliate Faculty of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, Affiliate Faculty of the Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and Speculative Imagination, General Editor of The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies (Brill) Department of French, Francophone and Italian Studies,
University of Kansas, USA
Anna Silvas, BA, MA, PhD, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, University of New England, Australia
Dr. Michael Sirilla, PhD
Anthony P. Stine, PhD
Dr. Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, Netherlands
Dr. phil. habil. Berthold Wald, retired professor, Theological Faculty of Paderborn, Germany
John-Henry Westen, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of LifeSiteNews.com
Elizabeth Yore, Esq., Founder, Yore Children
John Zmirak, PhD
Fr. Edward B. Connolly
Christina Fox, BA BDiv., independent scholar
Adrie A.M. van der Hoeven MSc, author of jesusking.info
Fr. Tyler Johnson
Edgardo J. Cruz Ramos, President, Una Voce Puerto Rico
Luis Roman, MBA and MA student of theology, host and producer of the well-known show in the Hispanic community named Conoce, Ama Y Vive Tu Fe
Prof. Leonard Wessell (ret.), Ph.D. (USA), Dr. Phil. (Germany), Doctorado, (Spain)
Deacon Timothy Woods
Deacon Frederick Bartels, MA
Rev. Edmund A Castronovo
Fr. Joseph Fishwick
Paul N. King, Esq., President, The Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy
Dr. Thaddeus J Kozinski, author and professor of philosophy
Jesse Romero M.A., Catholic Evangelist – Apologist
Elizabeth O’Bourke Acosta OCDS, BS Engineering, MBA, STL, STD student
Prof. Dr. Dr. Sergio Raúl Castaño: Investigador Principal del CONICET, Titular de Teoría del Estado (UNCOMA), Director del Centro de Estudios Políticos (UNSTA), Ex Director del Depto. de Política y Desarrollo Integrado (FUNDACIÓN BARILOCHE-CONICET)
Deacon Dr. Julian L Delgado
Robert T. Fertig, President of Fertig Christian Trust Foundation, Inc.
Fr. Angelo Luigi Fratus SMM, Montfortian priest
Michael Martonick, M.D.
Fr. Terence Mary (Naughtin) OFM Conv
Mgr. Beatriz Reyes Oribe: Becaria CONICET, Prof. de Historia de la Filosofía Medieval, Prof. de Lectura de Textos Filosóficos II UNSTA
.José Antonio Pérez Stuart: Journalist, political-economic analyst, Lic. in administration, master’s degrees in psychology, law, and history of thought.
Fr. Tam X. Tran, S.T.L., Pastor, Our Lady of Vietnam Catholic Church, Silver Spring, MD
Luis Fernando Pérez Bustamante, Catholic journalist
Fr. Thomas Nathe
Deacon Dr. Bart Overman, Netherlands
Pedro L. Llera Vázquez, school headmaster and author at InfoCatólica
Cris Yozía, editor of Diary 7 Archivos
Fr. José Miguel Marqués Campo
Fr. Michael Matysik, Fidei Donum missionary
Fabiano Farias de Medeiros, administrator and coordinator of the Pro-Life Movement in Brazil, catechist and administrator of the apostolate @educarparaoceu
Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.
Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte, Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.