Monsignor Charles Pope, on the mindful mystery and power of the seven sacraments.

A fundamental principle of the seven Sacraments is that they have a reality that exists apart from the priest’s holiness or worthiness. They work ex opere operato (ie.. they are worked from the very fact of the work).

One need not doubt therefore that a sacrament is in fact given just because a bishop, priest or deacon seems less than holy or worthy. Neither can the disposition of the recipient un-work the work.

For example, Holy Communion does not cease to be the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ merely because the one who steps forward is unworthy or even an unbeliever. The Sacrament has a reality in itself that transcends the worthiness of the celebrant or recipient.

However, sacraments are not magic in the sense that they work effects in us in a manner independent of our disposition or will. Sacraments, though actually conferred by the fact that they are given, have a varying fruitfulness dependent upon the disposition, worthiness and openness of the recipient.

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This week’s Ask Alice: Catholic Church teachings on homosexuals attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion. (Or anybody, for that matter.)


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She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

John Asks: What does the Catholic Church teach about an active gay/homosexual attending Catholic Mass and receiving Holy Communion?

Alice replies: The Catholic Church welcomes all properly disposed gay and lesbian persons to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. The exact same policy applies to heterosexual persons, as well.

The rules regarding the reception of the Holy Communion are the same for all Catholics, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

That Holy Communion may be received not only validly, but also fruitfully, certain dispositions … both of body and of soul … are required:

For the former, a person must have fasted for at least one hour, from everything in the nature of food or drink. (Water and medicine are permitted, if necessary.)

The principal disposition of soul required is freedom from (at least) mortal sin … and from ecclesiastical censure.

For those in a state of grievous (mortal) sin, confession is necessary.

It is important to note that engaging in sexual relations outside of the sacrament of matrimony is (objectively) a mortal sin.

When a person commits a sexual sin due to weakness or other occasional circumstance, it may be ordinarily confessed and routinely absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Conversely, sexually active couples who are permanently living together (without benefit of marriage) MAY NOT typically receive sacramental absolution, since as long as their present living circumstances prevail, there would be no real prospect of repentance (turning away from the sin) … something which is always necessary for a good confession.

While heterosexual couples can always get married in order to eliminate this particular problem, such permanent living arrangements will … for homosexuals … always remain mortally perilous to the soul.

For homosexuals, one significant part of the solution is to avoid cohabitation, always maintaining one’s very own, private residence. This would, at least in theory, make possible a good, sacramental confession.

See “A Last Chance for Lost Souls”

“God shows personal favor to no one.” (Galatians 2:6) And God commands us to love one another. Often, my homosexual friends have shared their joys and sorrows. Here are some tips, based on the lessons I’ve learned.

TIPS FOR LOVING ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN

1) DON’T ASSUME. If two male or two female friends are living together or spend every day together, don’t assume that they are engaging in sexual activity. No one except God knows what goes on behind closed doors.

2) DON’T BE A COMMUNION COP. Even if our friend is engaged in homosexual behavior, only God knows the true state of his soul. (Unless perhaps, he is a public advocate, loudly proclaiming, promoting, and/or lobbying for his particular brand of sexual perversion.)

3) DO SPEAK THE TRUTH. If our friend asks us what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality, we must tell him the facts honestly and compassionately.

4) DO LOVE EVERY PERSON UNCONDITIONALLY! The best way to help our homosexual brothers and lesbian sisters get to Heaven is by being faithful, loving friends to them.

5) LEAVE THE JUDGING TO GOD! “The Lord does not look at the things men look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

In Christ’s Love,

Alice

Additional comments by Doug Lawrence: Catholics are under no obligation to “knuckle under” to the ill-considered, unholy demands of militant, openly homosexual persons or groups. We are called to resist them.

Nor are Catholics permitted to act in opposition to authentic Catholic Church teachings in regard to homosexuality, which is a seriously disordered practice that has always been defined as gravely sinful and contrary to the natural law.

We are reminded however, to scrupulously avoid any type of unjust discrimination.

In this general context, two provisions of Catholic Canon Law are worthy of note:

Canon 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.

Canon 916 Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.

For all the reasons stated above, as well as many others … no matter what the government may decide … the practice of homosexuality will always remain morally wrong, and (objectively) gravely sinful.

The support and/or promotion of certain types of “gay rights” … particularly, any form of homosexual marriage … is never permissible … since that type of arrangement would typically prove deadly to the souls of all who might be involved.

The greatest acts of charity we Catholics can perform … for all our brothers and sisters … is to pray for them, treat them with respect, stand firmly on God’s truth, proclaim that truth with love, and be there for them, in their time of need.

What is the meaning of “Sacrament” according to the Council of Trent?

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Q: What is the meaning of “Sacrament” according to the Council of Trent?

A: Catholic doctrine:
Against all innovators the Council of Trent declared: “If anyone say that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema” (Sess. viii, can.vi). “If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God’s promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema” (ibid., can. viii; cf. can. iv, v, vii).

The phrase “ex opere operato”, for which there is no equivalent in English, probably was used for the first time by Peter of Poitiers (d. 1205), and afterwards by Innocent III (d. 1216; de myst. missae, III, v), and by St. Thomas (d. 1274; IV Sent., dist. 1, Q.i, a.5). It was happily invented to express a truth that had always been taught and had been introduced without objection. It is not an elegant formula but, as St. Augustine remarks (Enarration on Psalm 138): It is better that grammarians should object than that the people should not understand.

“Ex opere operato”, i.e. by virtue of the action, means that the efficacy of the action of the sacraments does not depend on anything human, but solely on the will of God as expressed by Christ’s institution and promise.

“Ex opere operantis”, i.e. by reason of the agent, would mean that the action of the sacraments depended on the worthiness either of the minister or of the recipient (see Pourrat, “Theology of the Sacraments”, tr. St. Louis, 1910, 162 sqq.).

Protestants cannot in good faith object to the phrase as if it meant that the mere outward ceremony, apart from God’s action, causes grace.

It is well known that Catholics teach that the sacraments are only the instrumental, not the principal, causes of grace. Neither can it be claimed that the phrase adopted by the council does away with all dispositions necessary on the part of the recipient, the sacraments acting like infallible charms causing grace in those who are ill-disposed or in grievous sin.

The fathers of the council were careful to note that there must be no obstacle to grace on the part of the recipients, who must receive them rite, i.e. rightly and worthily; and they declare it a calumny to assert that they require no previous dispositions (Sess. XIV, de poenit., cap.4).

Dispositions are required to prepare the subject, but they are a condition (conditio sine qua non), not the causes, of the grace conferred. In this case the sacraments differ from the sacramentals, which may cause grace ex opere operantis, i.e. by reason of the prayers of the Church or the good, pious sentiments of those who use them.

 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.h…