Much ink has been spilled about Cardinal Robert McElroy’s January 24th piece in America on synodality and inclusion. Less attention has been paid to Cardinal McElroy’s follow up interview (Feb 3, 2023), also in America, in which his views on sexual immorality were more explicit and, unfortunately, more concerning.
The Cardinal explains, “We have cast violations for which you need to not go to the Eucharist, or need to go to confession first, largely in terms of sexual things.” It is true that the Church has always taken sexual sin very seriously (more on that from St. Paul shortly). But Cardinal McElroy misdiagnoses the situation in stating the Church is too focused on “sexual things.” The Church is concerned with all grave sin that violates the Ten Commandments (cf. CCC 1858).
For example, it is a matter of grave concern that many Catholics apparently do not think it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday, yet it is in direct disobedience of the Third Commandment for Catholics to skip Mass on Sunday without a just excuse, such as serious illness or infirmity. The Church has even told racists that they cannot go to Holy Communion, as the Archbishop of New Orleans did in 1962 when he excommunicated several Catholics who vociferously opposed the racial desegregation of parochial schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. If our culture had a widespread issue with theft or worship of pagan gods, the Church would prominently proclaim that these serious sins precluded people from the Eucharist.
But our current culture is infatuated with sexual sin, and so the Church vocally warns of its harm, calls ardently for conversion in this area, and proclaims the beauty of God’s plan for human sexuality.
The Cardinal goes on to say that sinfulness can and does exist within sexual lives, which is an important clarification as many readers interpreted his original piece as condoning all sexual activity. He explains, “Our sexual lives have many areas of sinfulness and I’m not challenging that. All I’m saying is that in the Christian moral life, they don’t automatically represent mortal sin. Mortal sin in Catholic teaching is a sin so grave that it is objectively capable of cutting off our relationship with God. That’s pretty severe.” I won’t quibble by focusing on the fact that the Church makes a distinction between mortal sin and grave matter (mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate choice), and so the Church would disagree that sexual sins “automatically represent mortal sin.”
Continue reading at Catholic World Report