The question remains: When will priests such as Rev. Edward Arsenault begin to take this seriously? How much longer will they make excuses for Catholic politicians who promote and support the culture of death?
Vatican criticizes Catholics who receive Communion without confessionNICOLE WINFIELDAssociated Press
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican singled out divorcees who remarry and Catholic politicians who support abortion on Thursday in criticizing the faithful who continue to receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin.
The lament came in a new document on the Eucharist that details abuses of the sacrament and the need for better instruction to ensure it remains sacred. The 85-page text is the working draft of a final document that will be developed during the global synod, or meeting, of bishops Oct. 2-23 in Rome.
The paper covers a range of issues related to the Eucharist: It suggests, for example, that Latin be used during international liturgical gatherings so all priests involved can understand the proceedings, and it suggests that parishes consider using more Gregorian chants to prevent more "profane" types of music from being played.
It calls for priests not to be "showmen" who draw attention to themselves and says lay people can have an important but "minimal" presence in Masses. It says the tabernacle - which holds the bread and wine held by Catholics to be the body and blood of Christ - should have a prominent place in the church and not be shunted off to a corner.
Most significantly, though, the document laments the fact that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to Mass on Sundays - in some countries, only 5 percent of the faithful attend - and that fewer Catholics are going to confession.
As a result, many Catholics are living in a state of mortal sin when they receive Communion, it said. The Church defines sin as a free and deliberate violation of God's law; a mortal sin is one that involves a "grave violation of God's law" and "deliberate consent." Catholics can repent their sins by confessing them to a priest.
"The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion without even thinking that they might be in a state of mortal sin," the document said. "As a result, the receiving of Holy Communion by those who are divorced and civilly remarried is a common occurrence in various countries."
It noted that confession isn't always available to the faithful because of the acute shortage of priests in parts of the globe, but said the sacrament nevertheless was necessary. It cited statistics showing there was one priest for every 1,797 Catholics in 1978 compared to one priest for every 2,677 Catholics in 2003.
The document, "The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the church," was written starting in 2004 based on responses received by bishops from around the world reporting on their own experiences. It stresses that it is not a theological treatise on the Eucharist and in fact it restates church teaching on most key issues.
In one section, for example, the document criticized the faithful who support Catholic politicians who themselves back abortion and other policies contrary to church teaching.
"Some receive Communion while denying the teachings of the church or publicly supporting immoral choices in life, such as abortion, without thinking that they are committing an act of grave personal dishonesty and causing scandal," it said.
"Some Catholics do not understand why it might be a sin to support a political candidate who is openly in favor of abortion or other serious acts against life, justice and peace."
The issue was highlighted during the U.S. presidential election campaign after St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said he would deny the Eucharist to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who supports abortion rights.