Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time
February 20, 2022 •
What happens when a Catholic has a spouse that does not want to follow Church teaching in the area of contraception or family planning? ... Are they complicit in that sin if they don't refuse intimacy with their spouse? What do you do? Do you have to remain chaste? And there is no Church teaching on this. The Catholic Church teaches her priests moral theology ... and leaves it up to them to work out some of these more complex moral questions. There's not necessarily one hard and fast rule, priests may differ in their opinion.
However, one of the things that the Lord has brought to my attention when I've been praying and meditating on this question is the Eucharist.
When I was in seminary, they made sure all of us seminarians knew this one important law of the Church: every practicing, baptized Catholic has a right to Holy Communion. They have a right to the Body of Christ. I as a priest, cannot refuse it to them for just any reason. Even if I were to privately know that a person was in grave mortal sin, I still cannot refuse them Holy Communion. That's Church law. ... But all of us in class that day were concerned. What if I know they are in mortal sin? What if I've even told them not to come up to Holy Communion but they present themselves anyway? Am I not therefore complicit in this sacrilege, in this offense against the Body of the Lord, in giving them Holy Communion? The Church definitively says: no.
The reason that we cannot refuse someone who we know at least privately (public sin is another matter) in mortal is because Jesus does not want that person's sins to be made known. To protect the sinners from guilt or shame of anyone finding out that they are a sinner, Jesus is willing to suffer this abuse of His most Holy Body for a sinner who is unrepentant in their sin and still approaches Him for Holy Communion. Our Lord would rather suffer this abuse personally, then shame that person publicly. That is a profound act of humility by our Lord. ... That is the love of Christ for each one of us. And it's quite beautiful.
And this kept coming to me as I prayed about the situation of a Catholic spouse and a spouse who is not in line with the Church's teaching.
Just as the priest is not complicit in any sin in giving the Body - the Body of the Lord - in this loving, intimate, and spiritual way, so too a spouse (is not complicit) who at least has made their position clear - having talked with their spouse about their belief in the Church's teachings and what they want to do. You can't necessarily deny your spouse what we call their "marital rights" even if their actions may be contrary to the Church's teachings.
Now, I do think there's one moral caveat: this is where the act of contraception is an abortifaciaent. That doesn't mean it will cause an abortion but it may. Like the pill. The pill is an abortifacient. That's different. If your spouse is using the pill, I'm sorry, you have to be chaste. Your spouse may conceive and the pill will probably cause an abortion. That's murder, that's a whole different category.
But outside of that, just taking into consideration the Church's teachings on the gift of the Body of Christ to the people of God who have a right to it - unworthy as they may be - I think that same truth would apply to this question. ...
The language of "rights" is very specific. If someone has a "right" to something - or someone - then someone else has an obligation to fulfill it. All rights come with obligations...
The Church's teaching on the rights of husbands and wives toward each other is quite clear. Every wife has a right to the body of her husband and every husband has a right to the body of his wife, which means: the other has an obligation to provide that. You formed these rights as a covenant when you stood before God in His Church and you vowed yourself as a gift to your beloved. In essence you said: I now belong to you, till death do us part. Your spouse hopefully said the same. In that marital exchange, that bonding covenant, your spouse now owns you.
So the only reason you could ever deny your spouse their rights to you is for a very serious reason.
1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38
Homily begins at 22:33