ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Australian theologian is presenting legal norms to Rome in hopes they'll allow bishops to decide which remarried adulterers can receive Holy Communion.
Father Paul A. McGavin, of the diocese of Canberra, in Goulburn, bears the title "theologian" and advocates for the reception of Holy Communion by civilly remarried adulterers. He's drawn up a form of legal permission or "rescript" that bishops might issue under Rome's directives on an individual basis when re-admitting to Communion certain persons who are divorced and remarried.
McGavin, referring to his work as an essay, writes:
This essay offers a proposal for consideration of "norms" from the Holy See for pastoral and administrative acts without doctrinal or canonical change. This is illustrated in an example episcopal Rescript letter that concludes this article.
As a theologian, McGavin says fundamental doctrine doesn't change, but the understanding of Church teaching depends on cultural and social contexts, modes of thought, and differing personalities. This has led some to criticize his "theology" as mere sophism.
Legal critics are just as hard on his use of canon law. One canon lawyer, Dr. Ed Peters, speaking of McGavin's rescript says it's "[p]ure, unadulterated, balderdash. This proposed rescript is really a license to sin." He adds,
this rescript would (purport to) grant permission to ignore one sin (adultery) and to commit another (sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion). It even manages to suggest a third sin (attempting sacramental confession without firm purpose of amendment)!
Peters then points out canonically how McGavin's "proposed rescript is also a hodge-podge of amateur's errors."
Regarding Germany's proposal to perhaps make their own pastoral enactments, McGavin admits that "without 'norms' for discipline, the danger of laxism is increased. Simply leaving discipline to priests opens space for disparate practices by confessors."
He promotes having "norms" that will guide priests in the decision whether to allow those in adulterous unions back to Holy Communion, otherwise he fears discipline will be separated from dotrine and misapplied. He cites the words of Pope Francis, who said at the close of the 2014 Synod that "hostile inflexibility" is the temptation "of the zealous, of the scrupulous ... the so-called traditionalists." Such comments, McGavin remarked, need a "sober interpretation."
McGavin says the bishop would act as "moderator" for the norms granted by the Holy See, which would "under certain circumstances admit to sacramental communion persons who for complex reasons are unable to regularize their matrimonial status."
But McGavin fails to bring up any specifics of such norms, such as the couple's committing to a celibate lifestyle. He says such couples would have to recognize the divinely established ends of marriage such as permanence and uniqueness, and admit to any personal failures causing their divorce. After certain documentation and a vague period of penitence, McGavin argues, the couple would be invited to the sacrament of confession.
But he fails to require confession of any ongoing acts of adultery or profession of a purpose of amendment in this regard. Such exercise of confession without a purpose of amendment would be invalid at best and a sacrilegious simulation of a sacrament at worst.
To learn more about divorce and remarriage, watch our Premium show Remaining in the Truth: Kasper's Broken Mercy.