Sunday 21st December 2014

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A Leaven In The World… Rights To Traditional Mass, Reception Of Communion Stir Controversy

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By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

When has going to any Mass been considered a problem? The mission of the Church is the salvation of souls in Jesus Christ which, practically speaking, means getting them to Mass where He is truly present in the Eucharist and speaks in the Word through the Holy Spirit. But at a small Catholic college in Fort Worth, Texas, this appears in the eyes of the bishop to be a problem, not a solution.
The episcopal crackdown on Fisher-More College became public last week in a post on Rorate-Caeli.blogspot.com. The ordinary, Bishop Michael Olson, has demanded that celebration of the Extraordinary Form Mass offered daily at the college chapel for years cease immediately and that only priests approved by him are to celebrate Mass there and then only in the Ordinary Form Rite. Why not both?
Taylor Marshall’s revelations of malfeasance on the part at least one individual on the college administration are damaging. A decision against accessibility to the Traditional Latin Mass because that form was preferred by that individual hardly seems just. If any individual at the college is a problem for the common good, it seems that the solution is to ask that individual to leave the college.
If the Traditional Latin Mass has been used as a weapon, it hardly seems the solution is to exclude it. Why not ask the college to offer both forms of the Mass side by side? I have been doing that for over three years in my parish with harmonious results among parishioners.
Let us pray that all parties involved may reach a true pastoral solution which respects the rights of all Catholics to both forms of the Mass.
For more on this controversy, please visit Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s blog at wdtprs.com, and also see Rey Flores’ article on page 1A of this week’s issue.
On another controversy: In Rome in recent weeks, Walter Cardinal Kasper addressed the cardinals and the Holy Father on the pressing pastoral issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The text of his address is available, although not published by the Vatican, in which he proposes that we allow “some” Catholics who are remarried without benefit of the Sacrament of Marriage to receive Holy Communion.
It is not a closely guarded secret that often men and women without the Sacrament of Marriage go forward at Mass to receive Communion. When I become aware of such instances, I find an opportunity to offer the individuals involved the teaching of the Church on the matter to inform their consciences and give them an opportunity to self-correct. This includes those who are married only once but only civilly.
The art of teaching the faith is the art of persuasion. As John Paul II said, we “propose, not impose” the faith. For the Church to officially condone such a misuse of the sacrament would be a catechetical “Rubicon” with far-reaching and negative consequences for all the faithful.
Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to admit “some” remarried Catholics to Communion invites a host of problems. Who decides who gets the dispensation and who does not? What is just or merciful about dispensing the sacraments as special privileges for some and not for others? We already have marriage tribunals working very hard to assist bishops in taking pastoral care of those who sincerely seek to normalize their marriage relationships within the Church.
Suggestions surfacing already to streamline some aspects of tribunal work so as to assist greater numbers may be the most workable option.
As for the effect on the universal Church of this dialogue, perhaps more Catholics in invalid situations will become aware that it is settled teaching that without benefit of the Sacrament of Marriage, they are unable to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace.
The fetid Roman atmosphere surrounding the papal conversation in regard to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics is starting to take on the air of a constipated lack of reason. It would serve greatly to clear the air were the Holy Father and the cardinals to restate that the reason for reception of Communion is that the faithful may grow the state of grace, “like a fountain welling up to eternal life.”
Bordering on the inscrutable is the suggestion on the part of Cardinal Kasper that, if we are already recommending that divorced and remarried Catholics abstain from Communion at Holy Mass and instead make a “Spiritual Communion,” why don’t we just give them sacramental Communion?
First of all, the text of the Spiritual Communion prayer itself directs the individual praying to make a sincere intention while at Mass to seek sacramental Confession at the earliest opportunity because the knowledge of personal mortal sin makes reception of eucharistic Communion sinful. This follows from the teaching of St. Paul that reception of the Eucharist under such conditions renders a member of the faithful “guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.” Divorced and remarried Catholics are being urged as a pastoral matter to pray this prayer at Mass because they are objectively committing adultery as made clear by the teachings of Jesus Christ when He declares, “He who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
The genesis of the Spiritual Communion prayer is as a pastoral solution to the challenge of keeping Catholics in the flock and practicing their faith to the utmost while the reason for the inability to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace persists. The long tradition and pastoral care of the Church based on the clear and revealed teaching of Jesus Christ asks those who seek Communion to make the practical changes within their power which reflect sincere contrition. Catholics freely choose to remarry after divorce without benefit of a declaration of nullity.
That they sometimes do so without full knowledge of the dire consequences of such a decision is truly unfortunate. Perhaps the present high-profile conversations on the matter in Rome will have the double-effect of making our already clear Catholic teaching on marriage more understood and followed throughout the universal Church.

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(E-mail Fr. Cusick at mcitl.blogspot.com@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism.)

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