Vatican doctrine office encourages single mothers to receive Communion after confession

Vatican doctrine office encourages single mothers to receive Communion after confession

By Courtney Mares

Catholic News Agency

December 15, 2023

ROME— The Vatican’s doctrine office published a letter on Thursday confirming that single mothers can receive Communion after going to confession and urging the need for further “pastoral work” in parts of the world where single mothers might still face harsh judgment.

In the letter signed on Dec. 13, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández underlined that women who chose life and face difficulties because of this choice should be “encouraged to have access to the healing and consoling power of the sacraments.”

“Pastoral work should be done in the local Church to make people understand that being a single mother does not prevent that person from accessing the Eucharist,” Fernández wrote.

“As for all other Christians, sacramental confession of sins allows the person to approach Communion. The ecclesial community should, furthermore, value the fact that single mothers welcomed and defended the gift of life they carried in their wombs and struggle, every day, to raise their children.”

The prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote the letter in response to an email he received from a Latin American bishop, noting that Pope Francis had also received several letters from laypeople on the same topic.

Bishop Ramón Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera expressed concern in the email to the prefect that some single mothers in his diocese in the Dominican Republic abstained from Communion “out of fear of the rigorism of the clergy and community leaders.”

In his response, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office cited a homily given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2012 before he was elected pope.

“There are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because [the children] were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. They are the hypocrites of today,” Bergoglio said in the homily in September 2012.

“They have clericalized the Church. They turn God’s people away from salvation. And that poor girl who could have sent her child back to the sender but had the courage to bring him into the world goes on pilgrimage from parish to parish to have him baptized.”

Fernández also claimed that many in the Church emphasize Jesus’ words to the adulterous woman, “sin no more” (cf. Jn 8:1–11), when “this phrase does not constitute the central message of this Gospel pericope, which is simply the invitation to recognize that no one can cast the first stone.”

“Indeed, there are ‘difficult situations’ that need to be discerned and accompanied pastorally. It can occur that one of these mothers, given the fragility of her situation, sometimes resorts to selling her body to support her family,” Fernández wrote.

“The Christian community is called to do everything possible to help her avoid this very serious risk rather than judge her harshly. For this reason, ‘the Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgments,’” the Argentine cardinal added, quoting Amoris Laetitia.

The letter is the second document published by the Vatican’s doctrine office this week amid a flurry of letters and “dubia” responses put out by the dicastery in recent months following the installation of Fernández as the new prefect in September.

The dicastery also published a letter by Fernández on Tuesday stating that under certain circumstances, it may be permissible for a Catholic to keep a small portion of a deceased loved one’s ashes in a personal place of significance if some conditions are met.

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