The Worthy Reception of the Eucharist Neglected at the Synod
by Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap.
The 2015 October Synod on the Family has ended. So, what came out of it?
A final document was handed to Pope Francis that was a fine academic treatise on the family. But media reports say that Cardinals, archbishops and theologians are still wrestling over whether the Synod opened a way for “some” divorced and irregularly married couples to be able to receive communion.
But this question pales in significance compared to another fact, namely, that the Synod omitted any discussion of Canons 915 and 916 of the Code of Canon Lawpromulgated in 1983 by John Paul II.
It’s important to say, first of all, that the Code of Canon Law isn’t some stuffy collection of “do’s and don’ts.” Since Christ established the Church, she has been collecting rules and directions of right conduct under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For centuries these directives have been collected and codified in an orderly way, using the principles of both civil and ecclesiastical law to express divine truths. Therefore, the Code of Canon Law is no less than the “road map” established by the Holy Spirit to guide the Church!
How would Canons 915 and 916 have been relevant to the work of the Synod? It’s no secret today that everywhere people are coming to communion indiscriminately—including manifest sinners—which is a sacrilege. Canons 915 and 916 point out the duty of the pastors to prevent these abuses of the Eucharist.
This widespread ignorance, or indifference, to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the greatest scandals of our age. But, this “abuse scandal” is one that few Catholics notice and most pastors seem either unconcerned or wish would go away. How did it begin? Why does it persist?
I believe we can trace this fundamental offense to God—the practice of indiscriminate communions, and receiving the Eucharist indifferently—to one source: Many, if not most, bishops are not enforcing Canons 915 and 916 of the Code of Canon Law.
If they did, the conversation at the Synod would have been very different. For example, bishops who argued for opening communion to some couples in irregular marriages would have been required to hold their ideas up to the light of Canons 915 and 916. In other words, their standards would have to include discussions of the sacredness of the Eucharist and the necessity to make good confessions and avoid “grave sin.” But these fundamental ideas were not the focus of the Synod’s discussion. Rather the concern seem to be—how do people feel and what do people want?
I believe this omission reveals, not only a Church struggling to be honest, but also a Church where many appear to be languishing in doubt about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and doubts about the possibility of eternal punishment.
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