VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Allowing civilly remarried divorcees to receive Communion would not only open the door to the sacrament for all who live in mortal sin, but also would cause great damage to the church’s doctrine on sanctifying grace, said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, Poland.
The church must help divorced and remarried couples “with special charity” and “in a spirit of mercy,” but cannot allow them to receive communion, Archbishop Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, told the Synod of Bishops on the family.
The archbishop addressed the synod Oct. 10, saying he was speaking on behalf of the entire Polish bishops’ conference. The conference posted an English-translation of his speech on its website Oct. 13.
As baptized people, divorced and remarried Catholics should be encouraged to continue participating in the life of the church, the archbishop said. “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.”
However, the Polish archbishop stressed that the church’s doctrine must not “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,” he said. Without an annulment or a promise to abstain from sexual relations, such couples are living in a state of mortal sin according to church teaching.
“The Eucharist is the sacrament of the baptized who are in the state of sacramental grace,” he said. “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.”
If civilly remarried divorcees are allowed to receive Communion, the archbishop said, it would open the door to the sacrament “for all who live in mortal sin,” thus eliminating the need for the sacrament of penance, and it would “distort the significance of living in the state of sanctifying grace.”
“As Pope Francis reminded us, we who are here do not want and do not have power to change the doctrine of the church,” the archbishop told the assembly.