Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki: Only those in the state of grace can make act of spiritual communion

Voice of the Family welcomes the recent comments by His Excellency Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Archbishop of Poznań and President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, explaining why the divorced and “remarried” do not possess the correct dispositions to make an act of spiritual communion.

The Archbishop’s intervention was reported by Corrispondenza Romana (translation Rorate Caeli) as follows:

“The divorced and remarried cannot make spiritual communion” , Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference affirmed in an intervention at the Convention “What God joined together…” Marriage, Family and Sexuality in the Context of the Synod of Bishops 2014-2015” which took place on April 14 that the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. Archbishop Gadecki, who stood out during the Synod of Bishops in 2014 for his defense of Catholic morality, wanted to respond to those, such as Cardinal Kasper who sustain that if the divorced and remarried can receive spiritual communion, they can also receive the Sacrament. The use that is made of the term “spiritual communion” in order to justify the admittance of the divorced and remarried to the Sacraments is absolutely improper, explained Archbishop Gadecki. Spiritual communion refers, in fact, to people in a state of grace, who, on account of a physical impediment, cannot receive Communion (as happened for example, in the part of Poland occupied by the Soviets after the Second World War).

On the contrary, it cannot refer to those who are forbidden to receive the Eucharist on account of a moral impediment they can freely remove, by abandoning the situation of sin they are in. All those who are in a state of God’s grace can make a spiritual communion. Those who are in a state of sin, can pray, attend Mass, develop their relationship with God, but this relationship cannot be defined as spiritual communion.

The Archbishop’s words are important because, as noted above, Walter Cardinal Kasper has tried to use confusion over this issue to further his proposal that the divorced and “remarried” should be admitted to the sacrament of Holy Communion. In his speech to the consistory of cardinals in February 2013 Cardinal Kasper asserted, basing himself on recent ecclesiastical documents, that this question was already settled and that the divorced and “remarried” were able to make acts of spiritual communion. From this he was able to draw the following conclusions:

How can he or she then be in contradiction to Christ’s commandments? Why, then, can’t he or she also receive sacramental communion? If we exclude divorced and remarried Christians, who are properly disposed, from the sacraments and refer them to the extrasacramental way of salvation, do we not then place the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church in question?

A similar argument was introduced into the relatio synodi of the Extraordinary Synod. In paragraph 53 we read:

Some synod fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons or those living together can have fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion. Others raised the question as to why, then, they cannot have access “sacramentally.”

Voice of the Family explored this question in our analysis of the final report of the synod. We wrote:

In paragraph 53 the drafters try to find an opening for the admission to Holy Communion of the divorced and “remarried” by asserting that there are synod fathers who find it difficult to understand the difference between spiritual communion and sacramental communion. The traditional understanding of the Church is as follows:

(1) If a person receives Holy Communion with the correct dispositions they receive both sacramentally and spiritually.

(2) If a person receives Holy Communion, but is not correctly disposed, they receive sacramentally but not spiritually; that is to say, they physically eat the Body and Blood of the Lord but do not receive an increase of sanctifying grace, rather “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” (1 Cor 11:29)

(3) Finally, a person who is correctly disposed to receive Holy Communion, but is not able to do so physically, receives spiritually but not sacramentally when they make an act of spiritual communion. A person who willfully persists in a state of mortal sin is thus not able to make a spiritual communion in the proper sense of the term. Therefore a person who is divorced and “remarried” is not able to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, or able to make a spiritual communion, until they repent of their sin.

The erroneous view that a person who is in unrepentant mortal sin can make an act of spiritual communion, in the proper sense of the term, is perhaps responsible for the confusion among bishops expressed in paragraph 53.

If this position is correct, and we are convinced that it is, then the argument of Cardinal Kasper and the insinuation of the relatio synodi are shown to be groundless.

We strongly recommend the excellent article “Is Spiritual Communion for Everyone?”  by Paul Jerome Keller O.P, which explains the traditional position in depth.