Everyone knows that the sun remains king of the skies in full splendor when an eclipse—a fleeting phenomenon—occurs and the moon’s shadow covers the earth.
Likewise, when God allows His Church to go through crises, and shadows of confusion, error and heresy seem to overwhelm it, we can be sure that the Church of God remains holy and sanctifying just as the sun is unaffected by the eclipse.
We are going through one of the most terrible crises the Mystical Bride of Christ has ever suffered in Her history. Doctrinal confusion, the horrific effects of which have been felt for a half-century, has affected dogma and morals. Moral heresies are being propagated and imposed on the faithful.
Given the close relationship between the truths we must believe in and the virtues we must practice to be saved, dogmatic and moral theology are related. It could not be otherwise. Moralists Lanza and Palazzini recall, “Dogma and moral or rather dogmatic and moral theology, (for even in moral we have dogmas) are therefore merely two sections of one single science of theology.”1
Fr. Dariusz Oko, professor of theology at Krakow’s Pontifical Academy of Theology (Pontifical University John Paul II), coined the term “homoheresy” to describe the infiltration of homosexual ideology into the Church.2
The Document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, stated, “The pluralism and the diversity of religions . . . are willed by God in His wisdom.”3 This relativistic principle was quickly transposed from the dogmatic to the moral field: “Pluralism and . . . diversity” in sexual morality matters would also be “willed by God.” The conclusion is that practicing homosexuals and adulterers should be admitted to the Holy Eucharist, and it is unjust to exclude them.
Robert Cardinal McElroy, bishop of San Diego, Calif., is among those who draw out the consequences from the premise accepted by Pope Francis.
Cardinal McElroy: Changing Dogma to Change Morals
Last January, the cardinal published an article in the Jesuit magazine, America, in which, among other things, he advocates the “inclusion” of practicing homosexuals (he uses the generic term LGBT) in all Church activities and especially the reception of Holy Communion.
Referring to the “Synod of Synodality,” he points out that several episcopates have advocated the “inclusion” of the “marginalized” in the Church. Among the disenfranchised, the cardinal includes “those who are divorced and remarried without a declaration of nullity from the church, members of the LGBT community and those who are civilly married but have not been married in the church.”4 This inclusion entails the reception of Holy Communion by persons who objectively live in public sin.
This marginalization is due, however, to the Church’s perennial dogmatic theology, based on Revelation, from which derive the impediments to the Sacrament’s reception by those who lack the proper dispositions.
For example, the Council of Trent teaches: “[T]he divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelievers, but also the faithful who are ‘fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners’ [1 Cor. 6:9 ff.], and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the assistance of divine grace they can refrain and for which they are separated from the grace of God.”5
So, one must change Church doctrine on the Eucharist to allow these people to receive Holy Communion without repenting and changing their lives.
Changing Catholic doctrine is no problem for Cardinal McElroy. He says: “[T]he church must embrace a eucharistic theology that effectively invites all of the baptized to the table of the Lord, rather than a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist. Unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy.”6
The cardinal calls for a change of dogma to change morals to allow those who objectively live in grave sin to receive Holy Communion.
Bishops React to Absurdity
Cardinal McElroy’s theological absurdities caused outrage among the faithful and a reaction from bishops. Bishops James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and Archbishops Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and Samuel Aquila of Denver, Col. came out against the bishop of San Diego’s theses.
Notable among these reactions was an article by Bishop Paprocki, who argued based on Canon Law. He begins by noting that the terms heretic and heresy have not been used for a long time since bishops and clergy use less pointed expressions such as “separated brethren.” “But the reality,” he says, “is that those who are ‘separated’ and ‘not in full communion’ are separated and not in full communion because they reject essential truths of ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3).” Without mentioning Cardinal McElroy, Bishop Paprocki continues, “Thus, it is deeply troubling to consider the possibility that prelates holding the office of the diocesan bishop in the Catholic Church may be separated or not in full communion because of heresy.”7
He recalls some elements of Canon Law. As the Code of Canon Law defines, heresy is “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” (canon 751).
He continues, “it is contrary to a ‘truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith’ to reject or condemn ‘a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist,’ [quoting Cardinal McElroy] as if no such barriers existed. They do exist, and they are a matter of divine revelation. The truth about eucharistic coherence that must be believed by divine and Catholic faith was articulated by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord . . . For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor. 11:27—29).”
Earlier, Bishop Paprocki had clarified that, according to Canon Law, “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” That is “a sentence that is automatically incurred without any canonical process” (canon 1364).
Bishop Paprocki explains that excommunication is automatic “since a person who espouses apostasy, heresy, or schism has de facto separated themselves ontologically—that is, in reality—from the communion of the Church. Thus heretics, apostates, and schismatics inflict the penalty of excommunication upon themselves.”8
Indeed, Pope Pius XII taught that sins of schism, heresy or apostasy “sever a man from the Body of the Church.”9
Barriers Put Up by God
Contrary to Cardinal McElroy’s statements, the bishop of Springfield emphasizes that the existing barriers to receiving communion are of divine origin, for “they are a matter of divine revelation” (see 1 Cor. 11:27—29). He adds, “[t]his has been the constant teaching of the Church for the past two thousand years.”10
The bishop recalls that an automatically excommunicated cardinal can only be removed from his office or dignity by the pope. “If he does not do so,” Bishop Paprocki says, “the unseemly prospect arises of a cardinal, excommunicated latae sententiae due to heresy, voting in a papal conclave.”
And he concludes: “We must pray that the Holy Spirit will not let this happen, and will inspire anyone who espouses heretical views to renounce them and seek reconciliation with our Lord and his Church.”11
Cardinal McElroy Responds by Reaffirming His Errors
In his response to the various bishops and lay people who challenged him, the bishop of San Diego reaffirms his errors more clearly: “I proposed that divorced and remarried or LGBT Catholics who are ardently seeking the grace of God in their lives should not be categorically barred from the Eucharist.”12
However, a person in mortal sin who ardently desires to return to God’s grace must abandon sin, repent for having offended God, confess, and obtain sacramental absolution. Only then can they be admitted to the eucharistic table.
Indeed, the Council of Trent anathematizes anyone who affirms “that the special fruit of the most Holy Eucharist is the remission of sins”13 and teaches that “so great a Sacrament may not be unworthily received, and therefore unto death and condemnation, this holy Council ordains and declares that sacramental confession must necessarily be made beforehand by those whose conscience is burdened by mortal sin, however contrite they may consider themselves. If anyone moreover teaches the contrary or preaches or obstinately asserts, or even publicly by disputation shall presume to defend the contrary, by that fact itself he is excommunicated.”14
Claiming Church Doctrine Changed in the Seventeenth Century
For Cardinal McElroy, “the seventeenth century, with the inclusion in Catholic teaching of the declaration that for all sexual sins, there is no parvity of matter (i.e., no circumstances can mitigate the grave evil of a sexual sin), we relegated the sins of sexuality to an ambit in which no other broad type of sin is so absolutely categorized.” And further down, he stated, “it is precisely this change in Catholic doctrine—made in the 17th century—that is the foundation for categorically barring LGBT and divorced/remarried Catholics from the Eucharist.”15
However, Holy Scripture, especially the New Testament (from the first century), present the sins of lust as mortal because they are among those that prevent souls from entering Heaven.16
This answers Cardinal McElroy’s gratuitous claim that Catholic doctrine on the gravity of the consummated sin of lust changed in the seventeenth century.
Is Catholic Morality “Abstract, Deductivist”?
The cardinal goes beyond his pseudo-historical argument, contradicting Scripture and the bimillennial Magisterium of the Church by defending what Pius XII condemned as situation ethics. His assertions also contradict John Paul II’s teaching in the encyclical Veritatis splendor. For him, Catholic morality, based on Revelation and the natural law, is abstract and deductivist.
Cardinal McElroy states: “The moral tradition that all sexual sins are grave matter springs from an abstract, deductivist and truncated notion of the Christian moral life that yields a definition of sin jarringly inconsistent with the larger universe of Catholic moral teaching. This is because it proceeds from the intellect alone.”17
On the contrary, in 1952, Pope Pius XII condemned situation ethics:
“The distinctive giveaway of this morality is that it is not based on universal moral laws such as the Ten Commandments but on concrete and real conditions or circumstances in which one must act and according to which the individual conscience must judge and choose. . . .
[T]he new ethics is so contrary to the Catholic faith and principles that even a child can see it if he knows his catechism.”18
In his encyclical Veritatis splendor, John Paul II criticizes new theological currents that deny the principles of the Church’s traditional morality with false presuppositions:
“At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought, which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to ‘exhort consciences’ and to ‘propose values,’ in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices.”19
The Light Reappears When the Eclipse Ceases
The Church has gone through countless crises and eclipses in which it seemed that the light of Her grace, beauty and truth, covered by shadows of heresies and confusion, no longer shone.
However, She remained holy and beautiful and came out unscathed, shining again in all Her splendor.
As Our Lady promised in Fatima, “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Photo Credit: © Stephen – stock.adobe.com
- A. Lanza and P. Palazzini, General Moral Theology, vol. 1 of Principles of Moral Theology, trans. W.J. Collins (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1961), 23, accessed Mar. 10, 2023, https://archive.org/details/principlesofmora0000lanz/mode/2up.
- See New Catholic, “Dariusz Oko’s Major Article: ‘With the Pope Against the Homoheresy,’” Rorate-caeli.blogspot.com, Feb. 16, 2013, http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/02/fr-dariusz-okos-major-article-with-pope.html.
- “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Vatican.va, Feb. 4, 2019, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html; Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “Theological and Canonical Implications of the Declaration Signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi,” TFP.org, Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.tfp.org/theological-and-canonical-implications-of-the-declaration-signed-by-pope-francis-in-abu-dhabi/.
- Robert W. McElroy, “Cardinal McElroy on ‘Radical Inclusion’ for LGBT People, Women and Others in the Catholic Church,” America, Jan. 24, 2023, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2023/01/24/mcelroy-synodality-inclusion-244587.
- Denz.-Rhaner, no. 808, accessed Mar. 10, 2023, https://archive.org/details/DenzingerTheSourcesOfCatholicDogma/page/n287/mode/1up.
- McElroy, “Cardinal McElroy on ‘Radical Inclusion.’”
- Thomas J. Paprocki, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal,” First Things, Feb. 28, 2023, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2023/02/imagining-a-heretical-cardinal?ref=the-pillar.
- Paprocki, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal.”
- Pius XII, encyclical Mystici corporis Christi, no. 23, https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html.
- Paprocki, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal.”
- Paprocki, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal.”
- Robert W. McElroy, “Cardinal McElroy Responds to His Critics on Sexual Sin, the Eucharist, and LGBT and Divorced/Remarried Catholics,” America, Mar. 2, 2023, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2023/03/02/mcelroy-eucharist-sin-inclusion-response-244827. (Our emphasis.)
- Denz.-Rahner, no. 887, accessed Mar. 10, 2023, https://archive.org/details/DenzingerTheSourcesOfCatholicDogma/page/n302/mode/1up.
- Denz.-Rahner, no. 893. (Our emphasis.)
- McElroy, “Cardinal McElroy Responds.”
- See 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19—21; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Pet. 2:19—20; Rev. 22:15.
- McElroy, “Cardinal McElroy Responds.”
- Pius XII, “Speech to the Conference of the World Federation of Female Catholic Youth” (Apr. 18, 1952), Vatican.va, www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/fr/speeches/1952/documents/hf_p-xii_spe_19520418_soyez-bienvenues.html.
- John Paul II, encyclical Veritatis splendor, (Aug. 6, 1993), no. 4, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html.
- Cant. 6:9.