Traditionalist critics of the modern Church have a kind of slogan: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, the law of prayer is the law of belief. It’s hard not to see how the already incoherent prayer of the Church is leading to incoherent doctrine and practice. The Church officially teaches that confession is necessary to be restored to holy communion after committing a mortal sin, and that receiving communion in a state of sin is itself sacrilege. Yet rare is the pastor who seems troubled by the long lines for communion and the near disappearance of the sacrament of confession among the people in his parish. Everyone just sort of knows the Church doesn’t really mean what it says.
The Church’s blasé attitude here has a pedagogical effect, teaching people that there is no need to have a holy respect or fear when approaching the altar. Naturally, this attitude has worked its way up the chain to a papal pronouncement. Pope Francis’ document justifies people receiving communion in a public state of sin by saying that the Eucharist is “not a prize” for good behavior. That is true. But instead the Church has turned it into a participation trophy, something so perfunctory and ultimately meaningless that it seems just too cruel to deny it to anyone.
Perhaps worse than Pope Francis’ official invitation to sacrilege is the document’s cowardice, cynicism, and pessimism. The Church can no longer even bring itself to condemn respectable sins such as civilly approved adultery. It can barely bring itself to address a man or woman as if they had a moral conscience that could be roused by words like “sin.” Instead, it merely proposes ideals; ideals cannot be wounded by your failure to realize them. And it promises to help you out of your “irregular” situation.