No Communion for Dissenters

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  October 14, 2015   

Abp. Myers: believe or don't receive

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NEWARK, October 14, 2015 ( - New Jersey archbishop John Myers is enforcing Church law regarding reception of the sacraments in his archdiocese. The archbishop published a two-page memorandum last month meant to protect the Blessed Sacrament and address the avoidance of scandal.

The memo, dated September 22 and titled "Principles to Aid in Preserving and Protecting the Catholic Faith in the Midst of an Increasingly Secular Culture," was sent to all diocesan priests and applies to all "the parishes, institutions, and programs of the archdiocese of Newark." Pastors were instructed to then "explain these matters in appropriate ways" to those in their pastoral care.

The memo's first paragraph addresses reception of the sacraments:

Catholics must be in a marriage recognized as valid by the Church to receive Holy Communion or the other sacraments. Non-Catholics and any Catholic who publically rejects Church teaching or discipline, either by public statements or by joining or supporting organizations which do so, are not to receive the sacraments.

This longstanding discipline of withholding Communion to those who dissent from Church teaching or resist Church authority is being currently contested by certain progressive prelates at the Synod in Rome. Some see in the timing of Abp. Myers' statement the intention to send a message to his brother bishops in support of this traditional pastoral practice.

The second paragraph is directed to the appropriate use of Church property:

Parishes and other institutions of the archdiocese should allow use of facilities only to persons and organizations which agree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and its canonical legislation or, at least, not oppose them.

The violation of this norm is on the rise in dioceses across the United States resulting in public scandal and at times a grave disrespect shown to consecrated churches.

The third paragraph bars Catholic participation at events that oppose Church teaching or authority:

Catholics, especially ministers and others who represent the Church, should not participate in or be present at public religious events or events intended to endorse or support those who reject or ignore Church teaching and canon law.

Examples of such events would include rallies promoting abortion and gay "marriage," and organizations that support such events.

Concerning the memo, spokesman for the archdiocese James Goodness commented:

With so much being generated in the media with regard to issues like same-sex unions and such, this memo about ensuring that Catholic teaching is adhered to in all situations — especially with regard to the use of diocesan properties and facilities — seemed appropriate.

Goodness played down the significance of the document, saying the archbishop writes such letters "from time to time" in his role as a "teacher."

The archbishop had issued similar letters before: to Catholic officeholders in 2004, asking them not to seek Communion if they support abortion rights, and to voters a month before the 2012 presidential election, telling them to support candidates who oppose gay "marriage."

Goodness went on to say the archbishop's message was a notice "to everyone in our ministry that we need to maintain our integrity and fullness of Catholic teaching and tradition."


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