5.0 Objective Contradiction

This objection is that FC 84 provides an additional and purportedly doctrinal reason for the exclusion of the D&R from Holy Communion beyond mortal sin (refer 1.0 Mortal Sin) and public scandal (refer 3.0 Public Scandal), being that the D&R objectively contradict the Eucharist.

5.1 Doctrinal Background of the Objection

FC 84 states:

They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage”.   

As with being “based upon Sacred Scripture” (refer 4.0 Sacred Scripture), this reference was reiterated in:   

This reason appears to have been first expressed, before FC, in the 1977 ITC Theses at 11 and 12:

Even if it can claim some consideration under some aspects, above all when we deal with a case of the party who is unjustly abandoned, the new marriage of the divorced cannot be a sacrament, and it creates an objective incapacity to receive the Eucharist

Without refusing to examine the attenuating circumstances and even sometimes the quality of a second civil marriage after divorce, the approach of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist is plainly incompatible with the mystery of which the Church is the servant and witness. In receiving the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, the Church would let such parties believe that they can, on the level of signs, communicate with him whose conjugal mystery they disavow on the level of reality. To do so would be, moreover, on the part of the Church to declare herself in accord with the baptized at the moment when they enter or remain in a clearly objective contradiction with the life, the thought, and the being itself of the Lord as Spouse of the Church. If the Church could give the sacrament of unity to those who have broken with her on an essential point of the mystery of Christ, she would no longer be the sign of the witness of Christ but rather a countersign and a counterwitness. Nevertheless, this refusal does not in any way justify any procedure that inflicts infamy and that contradicts in its own way the mercy of Christ toward us sinners”.   

While the 1977 ITC Theses at 5.3 also provide a further reason:

The incompatibility of the state of remarried divorced persons with the precept and mystery of the Paschal love of the Lord makes it impossible for these people to receive, in the Eucharist, the sign of unity with Christ. Access to eucharistic Communion can only be had through penitence, which implies detestation of the sin committed and the firm purpose of not sinning again (cf. DS 1676).

Let all Christians, therefore, remember the words of the apostle: “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” (1 Cor 11:27-29)”.

This is however clearly a restatement of the impediment to Holy Communion provided by mortal sin, given the references to contrition and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. As outlined at 1.0 Mortal Sin, both confession and being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord are only relevant in respect of subjective mortal sin.

Accordingly the basis for treating objective contradiction as an independent impediment to the D&R receiving Holy Communion, separate from mortal sin and public scandal, appears to be that:

  • It explicitly refers to the objective state of the D&R, rather than any subjective state, such that it cannot relate to subjective mortal sin.
  • FC 84, immediately after objective contradiction, separately refers to error and confusion (i.e. scandal) regarding the indissolubility of marriage as a special pastoral reason for refusing Holy Communion to the D&R.

5.2 Church Discipline

In accordance with the 1983 CCL, as it stood both before and after AL, the only impediments to the reception of the Sacraments by the D&R in the discipline of the Church are Canons 915 (public scandal) and 916 (mortal sin).

Accordingly if the impediment created by objective contradiction was not captured in either Canon 915 (public scandal) or 916 (mortal sin), but was instead separate, it could not have formed part of the discipline of the Church prior to AL.

And if this were the case, AL could not be faulted for removing a discipline which already had no place in Canon Law.

5.3 Public Witness

However, the 1977 ITC Theses indicate that objective contradiction is in fact a subset of public scandal covered by Canon 915, where it states the D&R are “plainly incompatible with the mystery of which the Church is the servant and witness” such that providing access to the Sacraments would mean the Church “would no longer be the sign of the witness of Christ but rather a countersign and a counterwitness”.

This can further be seen by reference to the foremost defender at the two recent Synods on the Family of objective contradiction as the primary reason for excluding the D&R from the Sacraments, Cardinal Ouellet, who in his article in Communio 41, Summer 2014 stated:

Consequently, the act of eucharistic Communion is also excluded, for it expresses in the first place a “Yes” to Christ’s witness of nuptial love in our regard, within the enveloping nuptiality of the Church. Such an act in the situation of remarriage would, we might say, impose on Christ a sacramental sign contrary to his own witness …

We cannot, however, give them authorization to give public witness through Eucharistic Communion. We have alluded above to the reason for this limit on the sacramental level. What is at stake is the truth of Christ’s witness. The divorced remarried person’s new situation does not permit him authentically to express this witness because his new union is in contradiction with the love of Christ, who was faithful to death …

Maintaining such a limit is not equivalent to declaring that these couples live in mortal sin or that they are denied Holy Communion for this moral reason

The reason for this limit, I repeat, is not first moral; it is sacramental. Their second marriage remains an objective obstacle that does not allow them to participate in truth in the public witness to the sacramentality of Christ and the Church”.

Therefore the sacramental impediment to Holy Communion for the D&R, is that the objective contradiction of their state in life impairs the public witness of the Church to the Sacramentality of the Eucharist and the Church. Which is to say, the D&R may be a public scandal in relation to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, rather than the Sacrament of Marriage.

This is further supported by the fact the 2000 PCLT Declaration, which nowhere explicitly mentions the idea of objective contradiction referred to in FC 84, does refer to public scandal in relation to both the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Marriage:

In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage”.

Further FC in turn does not explicitly refer to public scandal in relation to the Eucharist, except in the guise of objective contradiction. This choice by the 2000 PCLT Declaration is therefore consistent with, and indeed is made explicable, by the fact that objective contradiction can be identified with public scandal in respect of the Eucharist.

Finally this conclusion is also supported by a close confidante of both Pope St John Paul II and Pope Francis, Rocco Buttiglione, who in his article The Anthropological Approach of St. John Paul II and The Pastoral Care of Pope Francis at page 25 indicates:

The practice of not admitting the divorced and remarried to communion is not based on the fact that they are in a state of mortal sin. It has two reasons: “Their state and their condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church signified and implemented in the Eucharist” and “the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage“. It seems to me that both of these reasons can be traced back to the concept of taking scandal from two different points of view: the fact of the sin and the consequence that results in the lives of the faithful”.

Accordingly objective contradiction is a matter of public scandal governed by Canon 915, just of scandal in relation to the Eucharist, rather than in relation to the indissolubility of marriage. The special pastoral reason mentioned after objective contradiction in FC 84 does not therefore preclude objective contradiction from also being related to public scandal under Canon 915, as both sentences relate to different species of scandal.

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