Cardinals Scola, Ouellet, Confusing Statements


According to Sandro Magister and confirmed by my own reading of separate texts published by Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet, the cardinals similarly hold that

it must be said that what impedes access to sacramental Reconciliation and the Eucharist is not a single sin, which can always be forgiven when the person repents and asks God for pardon. [Not the priest in Confession?] What makes access to these sacraments impossible is, rather, the state (condition of life) in which those who have established a new bond find themselves: a state which in itself contradicts what is signified by the bond between the Eucharist and marriage.

Scola, Marriage and the Family (Emphasis and comments mine).

Although both cardinals defend traditional Catholic doctrine on the subject by arriving at the correct conclusion (i.e., divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are barred from Holy Communion), their rationale strikes me as ambiguous at best and heretical at worst.

The true reason is as pure and simple as the words spoken by our Blessed Lord, who identified such unions as adultery, a mortal sin. Consequently, anyone in a state of mortal sin cannot receive Communion.

I remember reading a Protestant study bible years ago in which the comments made the exact claim that these cardinals are making: that is, that the second union, though sinful at the outset, should not be considered a perpetual state of adultery, which is plainly false. This, to me, is the primary reason for denying reception of the Sacrament.

Only after this primary reason is acknowledged can one proceed to the second reason concerning a person’s “state” in life that is objectively contrary, etc., even assuming that two Catholics cohabiting in such a state are living “as brother and sister.”


I read through the articles, and there is nothing heretical in them.

What you quoted was quite true. First of all, in confession, the request for pardon IS given to God. The priest acts in persona Christi to receive it, but the request, by definition, is given to God.

Secondly, the state of the person (in an adulterous, invalid marriage) is the bar. A single instance of adultery is often confessed and absolved. But an invalid marriage is a state, not an act.

And that is what is the bar to reception of the Sacraments. It would require the persons involved to exit their state of adulterous marriage, either by separation, or the transformation of their state into a fraternal one ( live as brother and sister)

But theologically, the statement you quoted is spot on :thumbsup:


Perhaps I’m the one in error, and please correct me if I have misunderstood you, but it sounds like you are assuming that only the marital act constitutes the sin of adultery, thereby prompting one or both parties to confess “a single instance of adultery.” If your assertion were true, we must necessarily conclude that the second union in itself (i.e., the state) is not sinful, unless and until the marital act occurs.

But, as you well know, our Blessed Lord says in Matthew 19 (and elsewhere) that “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.”

Thus, as you rightly conclude, the “invalid” and “adulterous marriage” is a perpetual condition of living in mortal sin, which cannot be confessed and absolved until the condition is cured by repentance, either by way of annulment, separation, reconciliation with one’s former spouse, or a chaste life.

The state, or condition, of ongoing mortal sin is likewise affirmed by St. Paul, who says in Romans 7:3: “Therefore, whilst her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man . . . .” (emphasis mine).

Here, St. Paul plainly identifies a woman living in such a state of life with the label of “adulteress.” Notice, however, he is not merely referring to the marital act, but the state of life which constitutes adultery.


Adultery, like any sin, occurs not in the accomplishment of the act, but when the will is set towards that act.

In the case of the adulterous marriage, the parties become adulterous when the decision to attempt marriage is made. It is then that the parties enter into an adulterous state, even before they stand before the civil judge, let alone attempt the marital act.

And that adulterous state remains so long as the will is formed to remain in the adulterous state.

When the will is changed either separate from their invalid marriage, or to transform it to a fraternal one, then it can be confessed and absolved.


It sounds like you and I are in agreement: viz., the sinful state persists unless and until the “will is changed . . . .”

But does our understanding agree with that of Cardinal Scola, who seems to be suggesting, contra St. Paul, that the second union is not in itself adulteress. What “impedes access to sacramental Reconciliation,” he says, “is not a single sin” but rather “the state (condition of life) . . . .” Doesn’t this imply, contrary to what you and I have just concluded, that the condition of life is not sinful?

To receive forgiveness of the sin of adultery one must, as you say, cease to “remain in the adulterous state.” I see now that this casts doubt even on the notion of living in a merely fraternal union as a form of repentance; we see no exception in Scripture for the approval of such nonsexual unions. Again, I think that is because the condition is adulterous so long as the parties live together.

BTW, did I ask a boring question or something? :shrug: Nobody else is participating in the discussion.


Ah ha! I think I have misunderstood the good Cardinal after all! :o By saying “not a single sin” does he in fact mean to say a state, or condition, of ongoing sin? Is that your reading, too?


I think the simple answer here, which was stated above much better theologically than I can, is that in order to be absolved of a sin, you have to be resolved not to commit that sin again. If you live in a sinful relationship and have no intention of dissolving that relationship, you are not forgiven.

Another portion to this is the occasion of sin. Obviously it would be a serious occasion of sin to live in the same house as someone you have an illicit relationship with. Which is why I think it’s ridiculous when I’ve heard the argument that they can receive communion if they “live as brother and sister”. If you are going to live as brother and sister, then don’t live in the same house like most brother and sisters :smiley: (barring extreme circumstances of course).


Yes, the serious occasion of sin does not go away.


Agreed. And welcome to the discussion! One more Catholic commentator and we can hold our own informal synod. :thumbsup:


Is a man who marries a woman whose husband he arranged to have killed in mortal sin? Could that man approach the Eucharist and receive it worthily provided the marriage was sanctioned by God?


I think you are misreading the statement. What the cardinal(s) are saying is that unlike, a single instance of adultery (which can be forgiven), the second union places one in a state of ongoing sin, and that only if that state is changed can sacramental absolution be given.

Adultery is an act of the will. If the couple resolve to end marital relations and live as brother and sister, then the state of adultery ceases, though a state of causing scandal may still exist. Especially if children are involved though, the wellbeing of the children may trump the notion of “scandal”, and two people living together in our days is hardly considered public scandal anymore. We aren’t so easily scandalized these days.

Where I think there may be some logical inconsistency though, is that the cardinals are automatically assuming that the state of adultery, which is grave matter, automatically results in a mortal degree of culpability. I’d love to hear what they have to say on that. The CCC suggests in the case of other grave sins (e.g. masturbation), that certain circumstances can reduce or eliminate culpability. What would be their explanation to suggest that this is NOT possible for those civilly divorced and remarried?

Realistically speaking though, I don’t think too many remarried couples will be lining up outside the confessional to ask for forgiveness resolving to end once and for all marital relations. So the vexing question remains how to care pastorally for these folks? Would it be possible that ending the state of de facto adultery is so difficult for some (most?) that it reduces the level of culpability similar to addiction or habitual masturbation reducing the culpability of drunkenness or self-abuse?

What then, of the case of such a union with small children? Are you seriously suggesting that the children would be better off if mom and dad separate?


Keep in mind the distinction between the personal obligation to refrain from communion (which applies to anyone with an unconfessed mortal sin), versus the legal obligation to refuse communion (which applies only to open habitual mortal sinners).

Such action impedes the validity of the subsequent marriage. A dispensation from this impediment can be granted only by the Holy See.


Canon 1090.1 One who, with a view to entering marriage with a particular person, has killed that person’s spouse, or his or her own spouse, invalidly attempts this marriage.

Canon 1090.2 They also invalidly attempt marriage with each other who, by mutual physical or moral action, brought about the death of either’s spouse.

This is an impediment to marriage. It can be dispensed by the bishop for just cause ( for example, if the death was an accident)

In the case of murder, it would be difficult to convince a bishop to issue such a dispensation.

As such, the marriage would be invalid.


Incorrect. The death must be purposeful for the canon to apply. Also, this dispensation is reserved to the Holy See.

Can. 1078 §2. Impediments whose dispensation is reserved to the Apostolic See are:

2/ the impediment of crime mentioned in ⇒ can. 1090.


You raise two very good questions. In fact, these very questions were for years a source of great pain for me, due to the gravely sinful situation I put myself in. I speak of my own fall into adultery and, later, the process of annulment, now almost accomplished.

But at the same time the very difficult truth about marriage as revealed by Christ is ultimately what led me to conversion to the Catholic Church from my former life as a Protestant, and also led me with great persistence and awful suffering, lest we suffer eternal torments later, to argue for Her authority with the woman I love and with whom I now have one beautiful daughter and one on the way. We have both been immensely blessed by our Blessed Lord, who saw in us something miserable worth saving.

The Catholic Church is quite literally the only voice in the world that upholds the absolute indissolubility of marriage, with all its consequences.


Not an easy answer there. One thing I can say is that if you stay out of sin and do the will of God, will He not help care for the children? Matthew Chapter 6 33-34: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

God bless


Awesome story…may God bless you all!! If only more of us (me included) could trust in the goodness of God and accept the cross he gives us, rather than trying to find a loophole to justify our actions.

Deo Gratias!!


Yet on the other hand, one argument the Church uses against same-sex marriage is that this allows adoption rights, and that children are best brought up by a mother and father under a single roof.

I was brought up by a single parent (my mother) after age 12. Not by choice, but because my father died of a stroke. I would not willingly impose that on any child, when the option of both parents living together and raising their children together exists, even if their union is of itself objectively flawed.

Truth may be absolute, but the human reality is rather more messy. We have a duty to care for sick souls, not shun the imperfect. I think somehow the Church can uphold the indissolubility of marriage while at the same time find a way to allow the wounded access to sacramental-and healing-grace.


The latter provided there is no danger to scandal, I believe. For example, being elderly, etc. Although I’ve known people who won’t receive communion even there.


To admit divorced and civilly remarried persons to Communion would mean there is no logical reason to keep even persons who have entered sodomidical unions from the Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, it would be a sacrilege.

You are absolutely correct in that there is much suffering in this life due to sin. But we lose the forest for the trees if we live life as though our present suffering is all there is, or that we should set truth aside in the name of a false compassion and mercy. “For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish,” says the Lord Jesus, “rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.” These words do not evince a false compromise in the name of mercy; they are the difficult words which lead to eternal life.

We might have liked our Blessed Lord to have taught differently regarding marriage (Matt. 19). The standard is His, not ours, to impose.

We are all moving toward eternity, an eternity of either perpetual happiness or torment. Even the Eucharist is a means to an end; and a fact that no one seems eager to speak of is that without God’s grace no one can merit eternal life.

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