In my last column before Easter in this series on marriage, the foundation was laid for why the Church has anything to say at all on these issues of marriage and family life, and why the faithful should rely on this teaching as solidly revealing the truth. The Church, by the will of God himself, teaches with authority and with the mind and heart of Christ himself on matters of faith and morals. This is an authority that the risen Christ gave to the Church through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

Now we turn to some specific “hot topics” that are very much in the news these days in the wake of the last Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on marriage and family, and in preparation for the next Ordinary Synod on the same topic. We shall first look at the question of Holy Communion for those who are divorced and remarried in a ceremony not recognized as valid by the Church, i.e. without a declaration of nullity for the first marriage, establishing that the parties are free to marry in the Church.

But first, let us look at the issue of Holy Communion itself, and who is able to receive that most wonderful sacrament. I want to start here because the impression must not be given that we are somehow singling out one class of people who are divorced and remarried, and thus unable to receive Holy Communion. To approach and receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, all must be what we call “properly disposed” to receive the sacrament.

Part of being properly disposed to receive Holy Communion is to be in a state of grace (free from mortal sin). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.” (CCC, #1415)
This teaching and discipline of the Church is rooted in our theological understanding of the Holy Eucharist, in which is truly contained the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior Jesus Christ. To receive him worthily, we must be living a life in conformity with his will — in a state of friendship with our Lord. St. Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

There are many circumstances, therefore, in which a person might find himself unable to receive Holy Communion. Any mortal sins that have not been confessed and absolved would do so. Just a few examples would be deliberately missing Mass on Sunday through one’s own fault, murder, abortion, euthanasia, theft of a large amount, defrauding an employee to an extreme degree, masturbation, or telling a lie that does grave damage to a person. Of course the usual additional factors must be present to incur mortal sin, i.e. knowledge of the gravity of the sin and the full consent of the will in committing the act.

One of these objectively mortal sins is the sin of adultery. Adultery means engaging in sexual activity with a person who is married and/or while being married yourself. Knowingly and freely engaging in this act would constitute mortal sin and prevent one from receiving Holy Communion. (CCC, ## 2380-2381) It is the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospel that divorcing one’s spouse and marrying another is to commit the sin of adultery:

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to [Jesus], “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” [Jesus] said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:4-9)

There is no doubt that this is a difficult teaching to accept, but it comes to us from the lips of our Savior himself. It is a teaching that upholds and reinforces the indissolubility of the bond of marriage, which is a sacramental sign of the permanence of Christ’s love for us, his Bride, the Church. We should be able to see in this teaching what it says to us about the importance and dignity of marriage, even as it presents real life challenges to those who experience the tragedy of divorce in their own lives.

In the next installment we will talk more about this sensitive issue and how we can be merciful to those who find themselves in these difficult circumstances. There is much we can do to help.

Confirmation Schedules

Friday, May 1 — Adult Confirmation, St. Joseph, Salem, Archbishop Sample, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 3 — St. John the Apostle, Oregon City, Bishop Steiner, 3 p.m.
Sunday, May 3 — St. James, McMinnville, Archbishop Vlazny, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 5 — St. Cecilia’s, Beaverton, Archbishop Vlazny, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 6 — Ascension, Portland, Archbishop Vlazny, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 6 — St. Pius X, Portland, 7 p.m. Bishop Steiner
Wednesday, May 6 — St. Patrick, Canby, Archbishop Sample, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 7 — St. Paul, Silverton, Bishop Smith, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 7 — St. Thomas More, Eugene, Archbishop Sample, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, May 8 — Adult Confirmation, St. Mary Cathedral, Archbishop Sample, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 10 — Sacred Heart, Tillamook, St. Joseph Mission, Cloverdale, St. Mary by the Sea, Astoria, St. Augustine, Lincoln City, at Sacred Heart, Tillamook, Bishop Smith, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, May 11 — The Madeleine, Portland, Bishop Smith, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 12 — St. Thomas More, Portland, Bishop Smith, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, May 12 — St. Mary’s, Corvallis and Sacred Heart, Newport at St. Mary’s, Corvallis, Archbishop Sample, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 13 — St. Henry, Gresham, Bishop Smith, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 13 — Holy Cross, Portland, Bishop Steiner, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 14 — St. Peter, Newberg, St. John, Yamhill, and St. Martin de Porres, Dayton at St. Peter, Newberg, Archbishop Sample, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 14 — All Saints, Portland, Bishop Smith, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 15 — St. Anne, Grants Pass, Shepherd of the Valley, Central Point, and St. Joseph Roseburg, at St. Anne, Grants Pass, Archbishop Sample, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 16 — Resurrection, Tualatin, Bishop Smith, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 16 — St. Stanislaus, Portland, Archbishop Sample, 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 17 — St. Edward, North Plains, Bishop Steiner, 9 a.m.
Sunday, May 17 — Sacred Heart, Medford and Our Lady of the Mountain at Sacred Heart, Medford, Archbishop Vlazny, 7 p.m. (Bilingual)
Sunday, May 17 — St. Francis, Sherwood, Archbishop Sample, 5 p.m.

Archbishop Sample’s Schedule

Saturday, April 18 — Annual Catholic Charities Benefit Dinner, Oregon Convention Center, Portland, 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 19 — Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, Christ the Teacher Chapel, University of Portland, 10:30 a.m.
Tuesday, April 21 — Mount Angel Seminary Visit - Philosophy Class; Celebration of the Holy Eucharist and Confirmation, Holy Family Church, Portland, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, April 22 — KBVM Radio Interview, Portland, 7 a.m.; Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, Christ the King Church, Milwaukie, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 23 — Pastoral Ministry Conference, Holiday Inn, Wilsonville, 8 a.m.; Evening Prayer, Rite of Candidacy, St. Cecilia’s Church, Beaverton, 5:30 p.m.
Friday, April 24 — Celebration of the Holy Mass, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, 7:30 a.m.
Saturday, April 25 — Knights of Columbus Convention, Necrology Mass and Dinner, Newport, 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 26 — Celebration of the Holy Mass, St. Joseph’s Church, Roseburg, 10 a.m.; Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Albany, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, April 28 — Mount Angel Seminary Board Meeting, Mount Angel, 1 p.m.; Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, Sacred Heart-St. Louis Church, Gervais, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, April 29 — Seminary Tea, Portland Golf Club, 3 p.m.
Friday, May 1 — Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, St. Joseph Church, Salem, 7 p.m.