Malta’s bishops have said that remarried people should receive Communion if they think they are at peace with God. They also suggested it might be “impossible” for some divorced and remarried Catholics to avoid sex. In a new document they said that if “a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to … believe that he or she is at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments”.
What the commentators are saying
Canon lawyer Dr Edward Peters dubbed it “the Maltese disaster”. An individual’s assessment of his or her readiness to receive Holy Communion, he wrote on his blog, should not dictate a minister’s decision to administer the Eucharist. “In Malta now, anyone who approaches for the sacraments should be recognised as being ‘at peace with God’. Objective evidence to the contrary is simply no longer relevant.”
Dr Peters also pointed out that the bishops’ guidelines read as if there was equivalence between sex between unmarried persons and married persons. “Non-married people can have sex, of course, but Catholic pastoral integrity does not hold such sexual acts on a par with the physically identical, but truly conjugal, acts as performed by married persons,” he said.
Fr Dwight Longenecker shared Dr Peters’s concerns. “What troubles me in the Maltese bishops’ document is that it opens the door to complete subjectivity”, he said, as it made the criteria for reception of Communion something that an individual parish priest could determine.
“The bishops of Malta, in their well-meaning attempt to clarify the issue, have only continued the relativistic ambiguity. Rather than clearing the waters they have only muddied them further,” Fr Longenecker wrote.
However, he added, “Archbishop Scicluna’s words are kindly and
pastoral and no doubt he intends to be a good pastor to his people.”
Fr Kevin Cusick tweeted: “If my diocese allowed the unmarried to receive Communion as in Malta I could no longer justly insist anyone else go to Confession prior either.”
The most overlooked story of the week
✣ Persecution of Christians ‘at its worst level yet’
Last year was the worst yet for Christian persecution, according to the charity Open Doors, which has monitored persecution for 25 years. “Christians … continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith,” the charity said. It found persecution had risen for the third year in a row.
Why was it under-reported?
Islamic oppression, the report said, was the “most common cause of pressure against Christians” and it was “rising most sharply in Africa, where more people are killed for their Christian faith than anywhere else in the world”. Nine out of the top 10 countries where Christians were said to suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that were majority Muslim, the charity said.
Many publications in Britain would rather view Muslims as the victims of oppression rather than the perpetrators of it.
What will happen next?
The report warned of long-term trends which threaten Christians’ lives and liberties, and which may well continue to rise. These include not just international terrorism, but also a resurgent nationalism. In Asia this is fuelled by religious identity politics and exacerbated by political crises. “It is common – and easy – for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians,” the report said. For instance, persecution of Christians in India has risen to its highest level due to a surge in Hindu nationalism.
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