Thursday, November 9, 2017

'Sarah is not eligible for sacramental communion but only for spiritual communion'? - some reflections

[The following is post # 2 of a three part series. Access post # 1 ('The Sarah case') by clicking here and post # 3 ('A response to the dubia of the four cardinals') by clicking here.]

Based on the CDF letter concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful, a pastor following a 'rigorous' approach to sacramental discipline in the Sarah case may deem it fit - among other things, - to recommend only spiritual (as opposed to sacramental) communion to Sarah.

However, the following reflections are submitted for the judgment of Holy Mother Church:

Paragraph 53 in the Relatio Synodi of 2014 says:
'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 to sacramental Communion. As a result, the synod fathers requested that further theological study in the matter with a view to making clear the distinctive features of the two forms and their connection with the theology of marriage.' (sic)
This paragraph did not receive at least ⅔ votes in favor from the Synod Fathers. Out of 183 bishops, the number of placets was 112 and non placets 64. [Source - (scroll to the bottom).] But considering that more than ½ of the bishops present had expressed their views in favor, the Holy Father may quite possibly have wanted to affirm that there is indeed further scope for delving into that subject. Consequently, he is said to have requested the inclusion of the above paragraph in the Relatio Synodi - [see #53 here, here and translation.] It is not clear however, whether the request of the Synod Fathers for further theological study was indeed taken up; but in any case, some excerpts from an article by a Dominican are highlighted in yellow below, and interspersed in green are comments relevant to the Sarah case; portions to be particularly noted have been highlighted in bold:

'...Today, what we commonly call “spiritual communion”, for (St. Thomas) Aquinas, a communion of desire (in voto). Aquinas compares communion in voto with baptism of desire (flaminis). The baptism of desire is typically understood in the context of a catechumen, who, dying before being baptized with water, but explicitly desiring baptism, is assured salvation (CCC §1259). However, like baptism, communion in voto is an exception to the divine plan for our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. In other words, Christ established the sacraments to be taken in reality, and not only, or even principally, in voto.

Aquinas says that communion in voto happens when a person earnestly longs for the actual sacrament. Such a person receives the effects of Holy Communion before receiving it actually or sacramentally. Examples might include the person praying before the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, or the person confined to a sickbed, or a prisoner confined to prison cell, etc., yet who devoutly desires union with Christ in Holy Communion. Such a reception, in voto, though, is secondary to the sacramental eating because it is the actual consuming of the Eucharist that produces in us a greater effect than the effect that comes by a communion of desire...

...When spiritual communion is mentioned in official Church teaching (in recent documents), it seems to be solely in terms of a communion of desire...

...When Cardinal Kasper wonders if a person who is able to make a spiritual communion (in voto) cannot also receive sacramentally, we must respond sic et non. Yes, on the one hand, a person who makes a spiritual communion may also receive sacramentally, provided that he or she is properly disposed. But, no, the improperly disposed person may not receive communion sacramentally or even spiritually...

What if the pastor does discern a communion of desire in Sarah, repentance for the failings of the past, a desire to not mortally sin anymore and a desire to live as sister and brother with Mohammed? What hinders her from being granted absolution followed by sacramental communion? As long as she reluctantly submits to Mohammed's sexual advances, is she to be placed - (from a sacramental discipline perspective) - on the same footing as one who deliberately engages in adulterous acts?

Some may point to the exemplary St. Maria Goretti or 'death-but-not-sin' St. Dominic Savio, and hold that in contrast, Sarah doesn't quite 'make the cut'. In that view, she ought to show the genuine / 'acceptable' fruit of her conversion only through a manifest break with the sinful situation [viz., divorce / separation in the firm hope that God would provide for the needs (including psychological / emotional needs) of the children.]

But would that be a case of either 'putting-the-cart-before-the-horse' or restricting personal growth to a 'one-size-fits-all'?

Amoris Laetitia (AL) 308:
'...from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances – psychological, historical and even biological – it follows that “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear”, making room for “the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us on to do our best”...'
If Sarah's fears and anxieties are indicative of a lack of firm trust in the Providence of God, wouldn't a pastor who wishes to accompany with mercy and patience the stages of her personal growth find footnote 351 of AL to be just what the Physician ordered?:
'...the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak...' (cf. Lk. 10:9a, 16?)
But before that, is Sarah ineligible even to be 'washed' in absolution by the Physician [cf. CCC 1481, 1484] because although she wants to, she is not in a position to give an undertaking to live as sister and brother with Mohammed due to his non-cooperation?

Some may point to Mt. 6: 25 - 34 and hold that Sarah ought to simply walk away from Mohammed, and trust God with regard to the fate of the children.

Consider this loose analogy: Imagine you are a prisoner in a concentration camp where your rights are being violated. You can escape and no longer have to endure that. But you fear that if you do so, the other camp inmates may have to endure more severe violations of rights by the guards or even be shot in batches. If you 'decide' not to escape out of anxiety and concern for your fellow camp inmates, does that equate to your deliberately and willingly choosing the evil that continues to come upon you? Is your 'choice' to stay really 'free' such as to make you morally culpable? Would it be fair to accuse you of wanting to be violated? Does Scripture - (for instance, the aforesaid verses from Matthew) - or Church teaching compel you - under pain of mortal sin - to escape and simply trust God with regard to the fate of the other prisoners?

...when Aquinas refers to spiritual communion as a communion of desire (in voto), he says that it is very much akin to the catechumen desiring baptism (flaminis). To desire the sacrament truly is to desire its effect, which, in the case of the Eucharist, is a union of love with Christ and his Church. This union of love necessarily entails, then, desiring and loving all that Christ and the Church desire and love, while at the same time being transformed interiorly, becoming what we consume. The effects of a spiritual communion (voto), Aquinas says, are the same as those of sacramental communion.

Cardinal Kasper intimates something similar when he asks how a person who makes a spiritual communion and is one with Jesus Christ can be in contradiction with the commandment of Christ. The Cardinal has come to the heart of the problem: one must accept Christ in his entirety in order to be in communion with him. Since Christ has established the sacramental matrimonial bond as indissoluble, on account of which Christ does not permit divorce and remarriage, a person who attempts remarriage while a previous putative sacramental bond of marriage continues to exist may not lay claim to be one with Jesus Christ, for such a one contradicts at least this part of the commandment of Christ. Thus, such a person is not able to receive communion sacramentally or even spiritually. Only the person who is presently seeking to rectify Sarah wishes to live as sister and brother with Mohammed. Doesn't that count as 'seeking to rectify'? that which impedes him or her from full communion with Christ may begin to be in a state of making a spiritual communion. This would be exemplified, of course, by the person’s external actions which would witness to his or her full acceptance of all that Christ is and all that he teaches. Her acts of atonement [cf. CCC 1430] and desire to live as sister and brother with Mohammed - don't these have any weight while discerning whether to grant absolution or not? [cf. AL 37: 
'...We...find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations...']
In the meantime, we might speak of a desire for the Eucharist in a person who is not yet in full communion with the commandment of Christ, and this can be the impetus by which such a person takes the practical steps necessary for making both a spiritual and sacramental communion possible.

In an effort to elucidate the problem of the language of desire, BenoĆ®t-Dominique de La Soujeole offers a helpful distinction between a sacrament of desire and desiring a sacrament, though I modify his definition of each. The sacrament of desire is usually understood as an explicit desire for a sacrament (voto) with no interior obstacles from receiving the sacrament, The main obstacles for Sarah are: 
(a) whatever is her responsibility in the failure of her marriage with John, and
(b) the 'remarriage' with Mohammed and consequent acts of adultery for which she has consented. 
But Sarah repents for both (a) and (b) and wants to move on. She wishes to live as sister and brother with Mohammed. She realizes that he won't co-operate and that she would be placing herself in a situation where she may have to unwillingly submit to sex. The fear of another painful divorce and anxiety that her children may grow up without their (foster) father at home are factors that lead her to reluctantly put up with Mohammed's sexual advancesWhat interior obstacles prevent Sarah from being granted absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If it is held that her (free?) choice (if it can be called that!) to place (?) herself in a situation of sin is problematic, is that (deliberate? mortal?) sin so grave as to justify a refusal of absolution? but with some exterior obstacle preventing the person from actually having or receiving the sacrament. Mohammed's non co-operation can be seen as an exterior obstacle. Thus,...the baptism of desire in the catechumen gives him or her, when the sacramental rite (sacramentum tantum) cannot be administered, a participation in the graces (res) of baptism, though without baptismal character (res et sacramentum). Such would also be the case when St. Teresa urges her sisters, who are unable to receive sacramental communion but who desire to approach the Lord; they receive many graces (the res of Communion) insofar as their souls are disposed. Isn't Sarah disposed to receive absolution? Moreover, when it comes to the Eucharist, the sacrament of desire permits a participation in the res of the sacrament even in the absence of the sacramentum tantum. Such would be the case when one makes a spiritual communion outside of the context of the Mass, even in the absence of the Sacramental Presence.

Desiring a sacrament (desiderium), on the other hand, entails explicitly wanting a sacrament but not being properly disposed to receive the res of the sacrament. Both the sacrament of desire and desiring a sacrament involve an explicit desire or wish for the sacrament. They differ, however, inasmuch as the latter, the desire for a sacrament, involves some obstacle (obex) to receiving the res of the sacrament. So, for example, a person who desires baptism merely in order to mask his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan would not receive the res of baptism. Moreover, such an obstacle could make the baptism fictitious, and the celebration of the sacramentum tantum would involve sacrilege. Clearly this doesn't apply to Sarah. Rather than 'desiring a sacrament', in her case, there is the 'sacrament of desire' for absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.

With regard to the Eucharist, merely desiring to receive Holy Communion, even should one whole-heartedly believe in the Real Presence, is insufficient to receive the res of the Eucharist. Though the catechumen must possess faith in order to receive baptism, the communicant must possess faith enlivened by charity.
(a) Her acts of atonement [cf. CCC 1434] +
(b) her desire not to violate God's commandment against adultery (and thereby not wanting Mohammed also to be ¨tainted¨ by the sin of adultery) +
(c) her desire to live as sister and brother with Mohammed for the sake of the children
>> can't these all be seen as 'faith enlivened by charity'? (even though they may not rise to the levels shown by a St. Maria Goretti or a St. Dominic Savio)

<Footnote 37: ST III, q. 66, a. 11, when Aquinas speaks about baptisma flaminis, as James J. Cunningham, O.P., says, flaminis, or the baptism of desire “is not a simple desire for baptism nor the intention to receive the sacrament . . . [it] is rather the result of the activity of the Holy Spirit moving a person to intense charity and burning faith whereby he is drawn to a conversion of life and a complete acceptance of Christ” (Summa Theologiae, vol. 57, Baptism and Confirmation [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975], 49). The point about flaminis as more than simple desire is essential to understanding a true communion of desire.> When assessing whether there is indeed a move toward charity, faith, conversion of life and complete acceptance of Christ in Sarah's life, don't (a) + (b) + (c) of the previous paragraph 'tilt the scales' in favor of granting absolution in Confession?

While the Eucharistic res itself increases charity (among its several effects), the absence of charity typically places an obex to the res of the sacrament. This is true both for sacramental as well as spiritual communion. Considering what is mentioned in green in the previous two paragraphs, can it be said that there is an absence of charity? What is the obex hindering absolution?

We must be clear about this: not all desiring may be fulfilled. This is the case, not because the object is unattainable, but because one lacks the disposition or ability to attain the object. Does Sarah lack the disposition or ability? She wants to live as sister and brother with Mohammed and is ready to do so. Can Mohammed's non-cooperation be held against her? Desire, in and of itself, is not the necessary pre-condition for attaining an object. This is important for our understanding of what is involved in a spiritual communion. While one may wish or desire to go to Holy Communion at some particular Mass, or even wish for the Sacrament from afar (as when not present at Mass), without the proper dispositions to be able to enjoy union with Christ and the Church, the desire amounts to not much more than wistful thinking. It is an inherently frustrated desire. One might say it is not a real desire, for to desire the end is to desire the means to the end. If absolution followed by receiving the Lord sacramentally is seen as the end, Sarah is prepared, within the constraints of her difficult situation to desire the means to that end, viz., she is ready to live as sister and brother with Mohammed but is frustrated from following through due to his non cooperation.To desire union with Christ, one must also desire to remove whatever obstacles one has placed to this union. Sarah has not placed an obstacle - or to be more precise, although she committed adultery initially by 'remarriage' to Mohammed after the divorce with John, she now repents and wants to remove the obstacle at least by living as sister and brother. No more can a man say that he desires to share in a banquet with an estranged friend while at the same time refusing to lay aside his animosity for the friend than we can approach the Lord’s banquet without repenting of our sin. To desire Holy Communion rightly, to make a true spiritual communion, entails being able to make such a communion.Sarah is willing and able but, two hands for a clap - Mohammed's attitude is the stumbling block.

So, to reiterate, in response to Cardinal Kasper’s concern, yes, the person who makes a spiritual communion should also make a sacramental communion, if he or she is properly disposed. So, considering all that is stated above, can we not say that Sarah is disposed to receive absolution and sacramental communion? However, it cannot be the case that someone who is not properly disposed to make a sacramental communion could be thought to be able to make a spiritual communion, no matter the circumstances.

Recalling the Thomistic distinction between spiritual communion as a spiritual eating (spirituale manducatio) and as spiritual desire (voto), it is clear that for the person who has placed an obstacle to union with Christ by living apart from his commandment Sarah no longer places an obstacle to union with Christ; she does not wish to live apart from his commandment. neither kind of spiritual communion is possible. As La Soujeole points out, using the same term, spiritual communion, to refer to two different moral situations and two very different relationships to the Eucharist is problematic. We are speaking here about proper versus improper disposition for either kind of communion. Though Sacramentum Caritatis §55 infelicitously uses the term “spiritual communion” as an option for divorced and remarried persons, a possible reading is that the Holy Father meant to encourage such persons to begin to desire (desiderare) appropriately Holy Communion (rather than a communion of desire, to use La Soujeole’s distinction), and thus, to rectify their moral situation. Sarah is quite prepared to rectify the moral situation by living as sister and brother with Mohammed. Otherwise, the words would indicate that someone improperly disposed for sacramental communion might still make a spiritual communion. This confusion leads to the logical question raised by Cardinal Kasper. If one is permitted to make a spiritual communion, then why not a sacramental communion?

We must avoid the mistake of thinking that a spiritual communion is the substitute for a sacramental communion for the divorced and remarried, and indeed for anyone prevented from Eucharistic reception on account of mortal sin, La Soujeole warns. The pastoral danger inherent in this belief is that error and confusion about the doctrine of the Church will prevail, leading people “to think that sin which impedes sacramental communion ‘is not so bad’ because one can have the reality of communion anyways. In this case, it is the ordering of sacramental communion to spiritual communion that disappears. Thereby, it is the unity—or better, the identity—of the sign and Eucharistic reality (the true Body of the resurrected Christ) that is at stake.” This is an important point which can sometimes be lost sight of, irrespective of whether Sarah is eligible to be granted absolution or not.

Moreover, the salvation of souls is at stake. Rather than bringing people to conversion from sin to life in Christ, the flawed solution such as spiritual communion for someone in mortal sin lulls the sinner into a pretense of living the Christian life, including the embrace of the cross of Christ and assuming responsibility for one’s actions and decisions. The inspired words of Scripture, found in St. Paul’s admonition are relevant: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”

In order to receive the graces of communion with Christ, both sacramental and spiritual, for all persons in any state of life, what is necessary is interior conversion to Christ and a manifestation of this conversion in one’s exterior actions and manner of life. 
As noted above, Sarah's acts of atonement +
her desire - expressed in the confessional - not to violate God's commandment against adultery (and thereby not wanting Mohammed also to be ¨tainted¨ by the sin of adultery) +
her desire - expressed in the confessional - to live as sister and brother with Mohammed
>> aren't all of them indicators of her conversion?
Yes, 'desire' is not an 'external action' that can be 'verified' by a pastor - but then, even if Mohammed is open to cooperation, and Sarah consequently gave the commitment in the confessional to live as sister and brother, there would be no way for the pastor to 'verify' if she is actually following through on her word, while granting absolution.

Our external moral life is not the sole indicator of the interior disposition of the soul toward union with God, but the two must at least harmonize. Let us not forget that the end of the sacraments, which Christ himself instituted for our salvation, is a sharing in the Trinitarian communion. God, who desires not the death of the sinner (2 Pet 3:9), but that all be saved (1 Tim 2:4), insists that we renounce all that is contrary to his plan for our salvation Sarah definitely renounces all that is contrary to God's plan for salvation; any submission to sex is wholly unwillingly and reluctantly; keeping the interests of the children paramount. Sarah hopes that Mohammed may some day agree to live as brother and sister with her, ideally after undergoing a conversion himself. so that we may attain true and eternal communion with him.
Pope John Paul II spelled out the difficulty in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio:
The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.
Then, speaking of the necessary interior conversion for the divorced and remarried, he continues:

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, check for Sarah are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. check for Sarah - at least she does have the desire, although she is unable to commit due to non-cooperation by Mohammed. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” Sarah wishes to take on herself this duty, but is frustrated by Mohammed's non cooperation.
A truly pastoral response to the person snared in sin and its consequences is not to ignore the situation, or smooth over differences by offering easy solutions as if moral choices Can it be said that Sarah ¨chooses¨ moral evil after her conversion? have no serious consequences, but to seek the glory of God and the good of all persons through the ministry of the Church...

...While it is true that the fullest participation in the Sacred Liturgy includes reception of Holy Communion, it is possible (and necessary) to participate in this revealed form of worship without receiving Holy Communion. Reception of the Eucharist indicates communion with Christ and his Church, that, in the state of grace, one holds and believes all that Christ and the Church teach. Among said beliefs is the indissolubility of the sacramental bond of matrimony. As a result, the divorced and remarried, though not properly disposed for the reception of Holy Communion, are able to, and must, worship God by their participation in the Sacred Liturgy. Right - but does simply branding Sarah as 'divorced and remarried' do justice to the nuances involved?

...From the teaching of St. Paul to our own day, Tradition has consistently taught the necessity for the recipient of Holy Communion to be in the state of grace. To partake of the Eucharist without the proper disposition, especially failing to seek reconciliation with Christ and the Church through the sacrament of penance when conscious of a mortal sin, is to invite divine judgment, and is itself another serious sin. Sarah realizes the irregularity of her situation; seeks absolution; wants to live as sister and brother with Mohammed. 

While there may be some confusion about the meaning of spiritual communion in recent magisterial teaching, it remains the case that a true spiritual communion is possible only for someone who would normally be disposed to receive communion sacramentally. Isn't Sarah disposed to receive absolution and receive the Lord in sacramental communion? A spiritual communion is not possible for someone in the state of mortal sin, including those who have divorced and remarried but whose prior sacramental marital bond continues to exist. Such persons must, by divine law (and even according to natural law), continue to worship God. Every Catholic is obliged to worship God by offering himself or herself to God in union with the offering made through the hands of the priest at Mass.

The Church does not ask, as Cardinal Kasper seems to suggest, that divorced and remarried persons find salvation extra-sacramentally. They are offered the same possibility for conversion and full communion (ecclesially and sacramentally) as for anyone. As he indicates, non-participation in the Eucharist can indeed be a sign of the sacredness of the sacrament. The Cardinal asks if this non-reception of the Eucharist is too high a price to pay? The answer to this question depends on the willingness of the individual to be conformed to Christ. However, we must be clear. It is not the Church who has imposed the obstacle to full communion; it is, rather, the individual who perpetuates a choice to violate a sacramental bond of matrimony. When Sarah wishes to live as sister and brother with Mohammed but he doesn't cooperate, can it be said that she 'perpetuates a choice to violate a sacramental bond of matrimony'? By that action, as with anyone who commits mortal sin, he or she has broken communion. When Sarah wishes to live in obedience to God's commandment, wishes to live as sister and brother with Mohammed, is she breaking communion? The Church, on the other hand, offers reconciliation for the truly repentant, as she always has. Isn't Sarah truly repentant? 
Can't the door of absolution be opened to her?

...(Pope John Paul II) insists, in the words of St. John Chrysostom: “I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Then John Paul II urges:

I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, “one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin” (cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, Decretum de ss. Eucharistia, Chapter 7 and Canon 11: DS 1647, 1661). The two sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance are very closely connected. Because the Eucharist makes present the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, perpetuating it sacramentally, it naturally gives rise to a continuous need for conversion, for a personal response to the appeal made by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  
To put it in a hyperbolic vein, in this 'adulteress', miserando atque eligendo, the spark of conversion, the urge to 'set things right' and be reconciled, are discerned. She wants to 'get up' [cf. Lk. 15:18] by living as sister and brother, but Mohammed 'blocks' her.  Ought not this 'dog' [cf. Mt. 15:27], this daughter of the Church [cf. Lk. 13:16] who has humbly approached the Refuge of sinners [cf. Jos 20], the Tribunal of Mercy to be set free from her bondage be unburdened in absolution?
Then, as if anticipating the counterargument involving a person’s interior judgment, the Pope continues:

The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.” Can the charge of 'obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin' hinder a discernment that Sarah is eligible for absolution?
There is no exploitation of the suffering person, be it the divorced and remarried or even the catechumen (who also must be sacramentally justified before receiving Holy Communion). There is only the outstretched and pierced hand of the Crucified and Risen One who, through the Church, offers salvation for any person who chooses to turn to Christ, embracing him alone even in the most difficult decisions of life. Hasn't Sarah turned to Him? Isn't she embracing Him and her cross? He offers his Body and Blood continually so that all who choose to don the white wedding garment Doesn't Sarah choose to don? (cf. Mt 22:11-14; Rev 19:8) may enter his eternal banquet. There is, spread before each and every person, the feast of the Eucharist, laid out suchwise that we may all hunger more and more for the Bread of Life, both sacramentally and spiritually. For each and every Christian, repentance Isn't Sarah repentant? is the transformation of starvation into hunger, a hunger Christ promises to satisfy beyond our wildest imaginings.'

On another note, imagine there is a different woman, - let us call her Gianna, - who is also in a similar situation (i.e., divorced and remarried, with children from the sacramental as well as civil marriage; husband from the first marriage still alive but who has also entered into a civil marriage with another woman.) Gianna's new 'partner' is co-operative and ready to live as brother and sister with her. She therefore makes a sincere commitment to remain continent and is granted absolution. What if Gianna lives up to her commitment most of the time but fails occasionally due to weakness? Presuming she regrets each fall, can she be granted absolution each time she approaches the confessional with the resolve to get back on track? 
Now compare Gianna with Sarah - the former gives a commitment but fails occasionally to live up to it; the latter only reluctantly submits to sex with Mohammed each time, - all the while harboring an unwavering desire to live as sister and brother. Who is more 'worthy' / 'eligible' to be granted absolution from a sacramental discipline perspective? 

Thus, considering all of the above, - considering that there is no obex attributable to Sarah which would hinder her from benefiting from the res of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and bearing in mind that the rigor tied to the discipline of the Sacrament of Forgiveness has varied across time and regions [cf. CCC 1447], does it still make sense to deny her absolution and also say 'Sarah is not eligible for sacramental communion but only for spiritual communion'?


[Based on the arguments above and those in 'post # 1', a response to the dubia of the four cardinals is presented in post # 3 here.]