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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Watching "Night Manager" Pick Up Some Golden Globes, I Thought About How A Crux Columnist Might Apply Amoris Laetitia in THIS Hard Case

Wonder what kind of spiritual direction is available in Mallorca...
Jed, of course, is as fictional as Irma, and the man with whom she is living in sin isn't warm and cuddly like Tony.
But when you think about it, breaking off sexual relations with her guy would have more immediate, more dire consequence, so really...
“But, Father, can’t I go to communion?”
As we sit in the confessional, Jed, a divorced Catholic, living with a man to whom she is not married, looks at me with pleading eyes. She is asking me a direct question.
As I respond, I must follow the guidelines that Pope Francis described in Amoris Laetitia, issued after the discussions and discernment of two Synods of Bishops on family life. I’m called to accompany Jed. I’ll need to exercise prudence throughout what may be a long, gradual process of helping Jed understand, appreciate, and fully carry out what God is asking of her.
Along the way, I must “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity” of Jed’s situation. Pastoral discernment is not needed if all I have to do is tell Jed what the rules are and then order her to obey them. I am not allowed to treat the Church’s moral commands as if they were stones that I must hurl at Jed’s life.
In a process of discernment and accompaniment, I must understand that “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin - which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such - a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.”
At this point, I have spoken many times, over almost two years, with Jed in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Over the course of our many conversations and prayers, I have come to know a great deal about her life.
Jed is from New York, where she married and had a child with her high school sweetheart, when they were both twenty-one. She doesn't remember much about him anymore. Jed now describes herself at that time as really just a “cultural” Catholic.
Neither she nor her child's father had ever really thought about their faith seriously. Their families were Catholic. Everyone they knew was Catholic. It was just assumed that when you got married, it would be in the Catholic Church.
She says that the first year of their marriage was “wonderful.” Although it was tough to make ends meet, they were managing.
But then he became a completely different person,” she told me.
Eventually when he would drink he would become physically and verbally abusive. He would always apologize the next day, and promise it would never happen again. But, it always happened again. He began to regularly “brag” about his affairs with other women.
Then he abandoned her and their child. Jed had no idea what to do. She couldn’t find work.
So, in desperation, Jed looked for a sugar daddy and left the child to live with some of her family who thought she was a skank.
After traipsing around Europe, Jed met Roper. They began dating and it felt like love. Jed described Roper as exciting and rich beyond dreams of avarice. He had a reputation as a philanthropist “He is so considerate, always surprising me with little gifts and taking me out.” Eventually they settled on a private island off Majorca with armed guards. Roper's son from a failed marriage lived with them.
Roper was not Catholic and hadn’t really ever gone to church, but he supported Jed in her decision to begin practicing again
Jed was awakened to her Catholicism. She wanted to be a good Catholic and grow in her relationship with God. She especially wanted to be able to go to communion.
Jed had no idea where her child's father might be. She didn’t really even know if he was still alive. She had no church or legal documents with her when she went to Europe, and her family would hardly speak to her much less help.
She wanted to get married but Roper, who smacked her around wasn't interested. Although Jed is convinced that she was just too young to get married the first time, it also seems that she wouldn’t have any real grounds for requesting an annulment in that her child's father’s problems did not develop until after they were married.
“But, Father, can’t I go to communion?”
Jed and I had discussed what the Church teaches concerning communion for those living. I had explained to her that if she and Roper lived as “brother and sister” then she could go to communion. She told me that Roper thought that idea was crazy. As he was used to getting what he wanted, Jed was afraid of what might happen to their relationship if they were no longer able to grow in their love through physical intimacy.
She knew Roper could handle the prospect of committing to complete celibacy for the next 70 years. Plus, both she and Roper were fond of children
Jed told me that every Sunday after she gets home from Mass with little Donald, she cries all day. She is so heartbroken that she cannot make her communion with the Lord and receive his grace in the sacrament.
Her despair is so great that as a pastor who also has a counseling degree, I am concerned that her spiritual and psychological health is being harmed by her attending Mass and not being able to receive communion. Although I have not said so to Jed, I have wondered if it would be better for her to attend a non-Catholic church.
She has told me that Roper has begun refusing to attend Mass because he can’t bear to be a part of what is causing her so much anguish. Even little Donald wants to know why Jed always cries after Mass.
“But, Father, can’t I go to communion?”
After more than a year of accompanying her, how do I answer her direct question? If she were to just come up for communion, I couldn’t deny her. First of all, everything I know about her relationship has come from within the sacrament of Confession. Outside of the sacrament, I can’t “use” that information in any way, certainly not by publicly denying her communion.
Even if I did know of Jed’s circumstances apart from Confession, no one else in the parish does. And there are ways wose situations of manifest public sin so there is no danger of scandal. I would also not know on any given Sunday if she and Roper had decided to begin living as “brother and sister.”
Jed certainly does not have an attitude of defiance or lack of love for the Church and its teaching. Given these circumstances, if she were to come forward at communion, I would not be allowed by the Church to publicly refuse her.
But I am not dealing with whether I will deny her communion. I am dealing with one of the faithful who is asking me a direct question, and she deserves a direct answer.
Jed certainly has the true “humility, discretion, and love for the Church and her teaching” that Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia has said is necessary before someone in this situation might be able to go to communion. She is in a “sincere search for God’s will” and has a “desire to make a more perfect response to it.”
Amoris Laetitia has described a number of things that I must consider as I offer pastoral care to Jed. First of all, I can see no real guilt on Jed's part for the failure of her marriage. While she is sad that she and Roper, she also believes that God has put Roper in her life for her well-being. Despite not being married, and that he beats her, their relationship in some other respects appears to have benefits.
And as she sends money to her mother, Roper in effect supports her child. I share Jed's concern that attempting life-long celibacy might endanger the seeming faithfulness and the continuance of their relationship which would certainly not be for the good of her child or his. And Jed is a good influence on Roper. I believe the end of their relationship would harm all four of them.
In this case, I have come strongly to believe that Jed would be greatly aided by the grace of the sacrament of Communion. Without it, I fear that she will stop coming to Mass, and perhaps should. I believe it may be possible that someday in the future, perhaps after another two or three children, that Jed and Roper may be able to embrace a life as “brother and sister.” Or their former spouses could die.
“But, Father, can’t I go to communion?”
Based on everything I know as a priest concerning sin, conscience, hope, Jesus, the teaching of the Church, and particularly the instruction the Church has received from Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, I tell Jed, “If you sincerely believe in your conscience that this is how Christ can aid your growth in holiness, then, yes. You may go to communion.”
After Mass the following Sunday, Jed greets me with tears in her eyes - this time tears of joy. Even Roper doesn't seem to be in too foul a humor.
Jed tells me, “For all these years at every Mass when it was time for communion, I have felt as if Jesus turned his back to me. Today, for the first time, I felt as if Jesus embraced me and told me that he loved me!”

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