Corriere della Sera just ran an interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, about the synod underway, and especially the leak of the letter to the pope from thirteen … nine … thirteen cardinals. You can read the whole thing (in Italian) here.
I will limit my comments to the cardinal’s response to one question – communion for the divorced and remarried. Asked what can be done in such cases, he said,
“People are suffering because their marriages are broken, not because they cannot go to Communion. For us, the center of the Eucharist is the consecration. Each Christian has the obligation to go to Mass, but not to go to Communion. To concentrate on only one aspect resolves nothing.”
Two points, one more pastoral, one more theological.
First, it is rather insensitive to speak so glibly about how others are not suffering. Perhaps some people in this situation care little about the prohibition on going to Communion. But surely there are others who are hurt by it – perhaps a little, perhaps more. (I recall an older man in a hospital bed who cried because he couldn’t receive.) It befits any ordained minister, and certain a high official of the Holy See, to show sensitivity to any human suffering and not minimize or dismiss it. All the more when the suffering has to do precisely with the great importance we attach to the Blessed Sacrament.
Second, while it’s not heretical, it’s rather unfortunate Cardinal Müller says that “the center of the Eucharist is the consecration.” This almost suggests a mechanistic understanding of sacraments with undue focus on the power of the priest and the ‘thingness’ of the sacrament apart from its spiritual purpose. But the entire Eucharistic Prayer is ordered toward, and reaches its fulfillment in, the communion of the people. As John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia de Eucahristia 16: “The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion.” To say that “you got to be there for the consecration, so don’t worry about receiving Communion” not only fails to be consoling, it is also theologically suspect.
Please note, everyone: in critiquing the prefect’s unfortunate comments, I have said not one word in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried. That is another issue entirely.
One could certainly hold to the discipline of the Church in this matter, while also maintaining a right relationship between the Eucharistic Prayer and the communion of the faithful, and showing great sensitivity to those who understandably suffer because they are not able to receive sacramentally the Lord they love.
As it is, Cardinal Müller has done his cause no favors. He has only strengthened the impression that the traditional discipline is tied to the worst of the old theology and comes from people who aren’t on board with Francis’s repeated calls for bishops to be close to their people.