George Weigel: Unity in What?

Among the many urgent questions raised by the Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015 and the current Synod on Synodality — questions that will inevitably bear on the next papal conclave — is that of unity: in what, precisely, does the unity of the Church consist? What is the content of the “one” in the Creed’s affirmation of “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church?”

The Synods on the Family grappled with this in their debates on worthiness to receive Holy Communion: Could those in canonically irregular marriages, who were not living in unity with the settled teaching and pastoral practice of the Church, participate fully in the sacrament of unity, the Eucharist? Or ought they refrain from receiving Holy Communion while still joining the community in offering true worship to the Father?

The ambiguities in Amoris Laetitia, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation that followed those Synods, did not resolve that question. Rather, it deepened the concern that fault lines were opening in the Church, with some local Church interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to the line they had taken at the Synods (i.e., those in irregular marriages could receive Holy Communion) and other local churches interpreting the apostolic exhortation differently (those in irregular marriages should refrain from receiving Holy Communion).

Those fault lines were deep indeed. For how could it be that a source of sanctifying grace in Germany was a grave sin 10 miles away, on the Polish side of the German-Polish border?

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