The Danger of Separating Discipline from Doctrine: Permitting
Divorced and Civilly Remarried Catholics to Receive Holy Communion
by Fr. William Moser
If the Church were to allow people to separate Church discipline from Church doctrine, the doctrine of faith from the practice of the faith – as is in the case of allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Holy Communion– it would mean blessing hypocrisy; it would mean sanctioning that which our Lord Jesus strongly condemns.
What is Hypocrisy?
Jesus had some very strong things to say to hypocrites – very strong things indeed! Open your New Testament to the holy gospel of St. Luke and in chapter twelve you find Him saying: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Mt 12:3). Then turn to the holy gospel of St. Matthew in chapter twenty three, and you will find 7 “woes” cast at the hypocritical Pharisees. You get the idea that hypocrisy must be a very bad thing. So, what is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy means faking it essentially; it means making an appearance, feigning goodness while contradicting it in practice. The word hypocrisy is taken from the ancient Greek stage where actors put on a mask. On stage that is an appropriate thing to do, but in religion it is not.
Jesus strongly condemns doing religious things“to be seen by men.” (Mt 23:5). This covers the intention of not doing them sincerely when they are “hidden” from the eyes of others.
How Can We Contradict Our Lord?
It follows that hypocrisy is bad–very bad! Our blessed and divine Lord makes that abundantly clear. Then why is there all of this talk today about giving Holy Communion to people – even if by exception– who are living in various sinful states? Are we not in danger of blessing, ratifying, sanctioning what Jesus condemns? If our Lord, as a preface to His 7 “woes” cast upon the “Scribes and Pharisees,” says: “so practice and observe what they tell you, but not what they do for they preach, but do not practice.” (Mt 23:3). How can we contradict Him? He who is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus tells us, His present day disciples, also to do the opposite of the “Scribes and Pharisees”— the opposite of putting on a show of religion: proclaiming our beliefs but not sincerely intending to practice our faith.
How is it possible to tell anybody living in sin— in a state that is contrary to the law of God— that it is okay to receive Holy Communion? And to do the opposite of what that communion with the divine signifies? Holy Communion signifies union with our Lord Jesus Christ in belief and practice. This is why our mother the Church provides the sacrament of penance; so that those who are aware of grave sin and who are ready to repent, may confess and be absolved before they receive Him Who is the fruit of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Someone who is living in sin, who will not separate himself from an occasion of sin (by cohabiting for instance) may not even be able to receive absolution because he says thereby–living in sin—he doesn’t intend to change.
We Cannot Separate Doctrine from Discipline
Therefore, it follows that we cannot separate doctrine from discipline. I would even go on to say that “being pastoral”— quite contrary to present day thinking – means putting doctrine into practice faithfully despite the difficulties; otherwise, we would be guilty of hypocrisy. Separating doctrine from practice means blessing hypocrisy, making it acceptable. “Woe” to those people who dare propose such a contradiction of our divine Lord, Jesus Christ!