Binding teaching of the Church?

I’m not sure which forum to use. Hope this is the correct one. If a Church council, the Council of Trent, declares that something is anathema and even goes on to say that if a priest preaches the opposite of that Church teaching then he is excommunicated, is that something that can never be changed? Has the question been settled or not?
The case I am looking at in particular has to do with the reception of the Eucharist while knowingly in a state of mortal sin.

Can you quote the particular anathema you mean from Trent? It would help.



The Church can change the punishment for certain actions, or even allow certain actions, itself. Discipline is not doctrine, it can change.

For example. Trent declared anathema against any priest who didn’t use a burse in the Mass. Today, a burse is now optional, and not using it carries no penalty.

Are you asking if the canons on excommunication for teaching against the faith can change, or about the declaration of receiving the Eucharist can change?**CHAPTER VII


 If it is unbecoming for anyone to approach any of the sacred functions except in a     spirit of piety, assuredly, the more the holiness and divinity of this heavenly sacrament     are understood by a Christian, the more diligently ought he to give heed lest he receive     it without great reverence and holiness, especially when we read those terrifying words of     the Apostle: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to     himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." [32] Wherefore, he who would communicate,     must recall to mind his precept: "Let a man prove himself." [33] Now, ecclesiastical     usage declares that such an examination is necessary in order that no one conscious to     himself of mortal sin, however contrite he may feel, ought to receive the Sacred Eucharist     without previous sacramental confession. [34] This the holy council has decreed to be     invariably observed by all Christians, even by those priests on whom it may be incumbent     by their office to celebrate, provided the opportunity of a confessor is not wanting to     them. But if in an urgent necessity a priest should celebrate without previous confession,     let him confess as soon as possible.


I am so trying to learn…
God Bless you Momster. You’ve been a blessing to me.


That quote is very similar to the one I had in mind which was in Chapter 8, Canon 11 of the Council of Trent. The last sentence in this Canon states: “If anyone moreover teaches the contrary or preaches or obstinately asserts, or even publicly by disputation shall presume to defend the contrary, by that fact itself he is excommunicated.”

The reason I brought up the excommunication part was because it seemed to show me how very important this canon is/was. Bben15, thank you for the clarification about discipline over doctrine. Thinking of it that way I can see how it COULD change, right? But since the Church still teaches that one must not be conscious of having unconfessed mortal sin on their soul before receiving the Eucharist, then no one should be preaching the opposite until/unless this is changed. Is my thinking correct here? Thank you all for your help.

The penalties (or reserved absolutions in the eastern Catholic churches) can be

There are some canons on that topic from Latin Canon Law (CIC), parallels exist also in the eastern Catholic Canons (CCEO):**Canon 916 – **Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.
**Canon 1371 – **The following are to be punished with a just penalty:

1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in canon 1364 § 1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teachings mentioned in canon 750 § 2 or in canon 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract; 2° a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience.

**Canon 750 – **§ 1. Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which in fact is manifested by the common adherence of Christ’s faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to avoid any contrary doctrines.

§ 2. Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held; namely, those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

I don’t personally believe that the prohibition against receiving Communion while in a state of mortal sin will ever change. For one reason, it is specifically prohibited in the Bible. Since this writing is early and its judgment has been upheld throughout the whole of Catholic tradition (at least to my knowledge) it would also be unlikely it be altered.

I also don’t see any way in which it would be in the best interest of the Church and its faithful to have a change. It is a great sorrow to remain separated from the reception oh His precious blood and body. But, it also illustrates the basic alienation of the sinner from God. It is not meant to be punishment but rather a tool to bring about repentance.

There have been instances in the past where sins that had been ruled mortal were later defined as venial. There were also things defined as sin which were later not considered so. For instance, eating meat on Fridays outside of Lent could be a mortal sin at one time. Also, after Christ, the Jews of the time (the brand-new Christians) no longer had to observe all of the law of Moses. They no longer sinned by eating prohibited foods, etc.

Again, this is also a very unlikely change. Nowhere in the near future will we see abortion, use of birth control, extramarital sex, adultery or other mortal sins (assuming the person has the three requirements of being in grievous sin) “downgraded”. Humanae Vitae will not be overturned during our lifetime, and I assume it never will be.

The whole point of the prohibition is so the person feels a sharp pain of separation from the Church so that they will repent, change their behavior and reunite in communion with their fellow Catholics. The Church and God Himself desire fervently that the sinful will once again return to the flock,

I pray for anyone suffering this pain and for their eventual repentance. I hope they find the strength to follow God’s will more closely.

Do you have a concern about a specific sin? Perhaps it is time to discuss it with a priest. They can help you to understand the issue far better than my weak attempts.

Hello P & S.

It took a while for me to find the part you meant. It comes from Session XIII. (Please note it is good to provide the Session you are taking Chapters from because in the Documents Chapter 8, Canon 11 could refer to many different sections of the documents and without knowing which Session it is from, you have to go through all of the Sessions to find it.)

Here is the complete Canon: Session XIII, Chap.8, Canon 11 - “If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burthened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.”

In this canon, there are two factors - the anathema for saying faith alone is sufficient to receive the Eucharist **and **the automatic excommunication that a person incurs when he or she teaches, preaches, asserts or even defends someone who does any of the three contrary to the aforesaid anathema.

Now, I don’t have all the books of Canon Law and other sources to cross reference and triple check, but once a Canon has been laid down it pretty much only gets reinforced in future Documents and Councils and Actas, etc… This one you brought up concerns the Most Holy Eucharist and it’s disciplines. Never has it been before Trent that a person in mortal sin could receive the Eucharist because as St. Paul said and the Canon points out, he or she would receive condemnation unto himself. Trent only clarified this and re-asserted what the Apostles taught about Communion. The person must make a good Confession. Can anyone teach or preach or assert that faint alone and a contrite heart is sufficient a substitution for sacramental confession? NO!

Has anything been said contrary to this in subsequent years? I highly doubt it, though as I’ve said I lack the books here in my home to check ALL sources to confirm that. PLUS, it would take a day or so even if I had all the books. You’ll need to do some research.

But as I’ve said before, I’m no expert on anything except macaroni and cheese with nice little hot dogs in it plus ketchup! Doesn’t that sound yummy? :smiley:


I’d be very careful here. Trent lists a lot of anathemas under doctrines and dogmatic decrees. Sure one can change or remove or reinstate the bit about excommunication but that doesn’t change the underlying doctrine.

So, no, no one can receive communion in the state of mortal sin, if that’s your question, although some (like the Orthodox) regard communion without confession a decadent practice as it is, though that part isn’t doctrinal.

Thank you all so much for taking the time and effort to help me understand this. You pretty much confirmed what I thought about this teaching. I didn’t have any particular sin in mind. The situation is that I have been hearing from a priest that everyone should be receiving Communion and that it is some kind of “old teaching” that says those in mortal sin shouldn’t receive. I have talked to him about it a year or so ago. And later my husband and I stopped going to Mass at that parish. But lately, due to reasons I won’t go into here, we are back at that parish and the teaching is still going on. I was trying to be as open minded and charitable as I can be so I thought I would research if, maybe, that teaching could ever change. This priest seems to think the Bible, the Pope and he are all on the same page with this. Anyway, I pray for him and for all priests. They are constantly under attack one way or another and have a great responsibility. Please pray for me, my family, the priest, and this whole situation. Thanks so much.

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