Rorate Caeli

No communion for adulterers? How rude!
Indian bishop finds his inner Kasper

As the 2015 Synod of Bishops approaches, signs of capitulation to the Kasperite proposal are beginning to appear in places hitherto regarded as immune to it. Last month there was news of Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana openly supporting the Kasperite thesis. Now from India comes this incoherent statement reported by no less than Vatican radio:

Indian bishop urges compassion in teaching Church doctrine on marriage, family
A Catholic bishop in India has urged diocesan priests to teach Church doctrines on family and marriage with compassion and tenderness. “I have heard of so many Catholics being rudely refused Eucharistic Communion because they are divorced persons and have remarried. We need to be kind and compassionate in communicating the Church doctrine and dogma. We should have polite dialogue with the faithful instead of rudely turning them away,” Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona (Pune) told the  members of the Conference of the Diocesan Priests in India (CDPI) on February 25.

More than 75 priests representing various dioceses across India attended the three-day meeting in Nagpur, central India.  The conference addressed the theme, “Effective ministry to families in the light of the Synod.” It also discussed issues threatening the future of Christian families and how diocesan priests could contribute to strengthen the spirituality in Christian families

Bishop Dabre, a member of the Office for Doctrine of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), also lamented the rise of “contraceptive mentality” as couples and young people increasingly fall prey to use of contraceptives promoted by government agencies.  Faced with such a mentality shaped by relativism, hedonism and materialism, the Church has to continue its raise its prophetic voice on the values of marriage which is based on reason and divine revelation, the prelate explained.

Bishop Dabre expressed dismay over rampant advertising, sales and distribution of condoms and their easy access at market places, public events and sports arenas.  “Sexual morality has sharply and widely declined and has been trivialized. So many betrayals and crimes take place because of the easy accessibility of contraceptives,” he said. The prelate while focusing on the papal encyclicals Humanae Vitae, Familaris Consortio and Gaudium et Spes, urged priests to adopt a “pastorally sound, credible and consistent doctrinal approach with humaneness.”  He wants them to render all help so that people can live up to the doctrine, vocation and mission of the family.

The bishop is a member of the Office for Doctrine of the CBCI, which in India functions as the umbrella group for that country's three Catholic jurisdictions -- the Latin Rite ("Conference of Catholic Bishops of India"), the Syro-Malabar Rite and the Syro-Malankar Rite.

Dabre sets up a distinction between "polite dialogue with the faithful" and "rudely turning them away" from communion, not "politely turning them away" and "rudely turning them away" [as some will surely try to explain this away]. But we have to ask exactly how else a priest is supposed to act when someone who is publicly known to be in a state of adultery approaches him for communion -- is he supposed to give communion because no "polite dialogue" has yet taken place? Is he supposed to carry out a "polite dialogue" right there and then? What if the would-be communicant is stubborn even after a "dialogue", and continues to go up the communion line? It is an impossible situation for priests, unless they are allowed to follow what the Church actually teaches about this, and so refuse communion whether or not it is perceived by the adulterer as a "rude" act. 

The bishop's remarks also attack contraception, but it simply illustrates a dichotomy that Western "neo-conservative" commentators frequently gloss over: ostensibly upholding Catholic teaching versus contraception, or abortion, or "marriage" of homosexuals, does not necessarily translate into the defense of all of Catholic teaching even on matters related to the family and to sexual morals. Consistency, alas, is getting rarer in the Church, and this is true even of the highest levels.