Pope John Paul II signs the new Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger looks over Pope’s shoulder. January 25, 1983

Capture-Can 915
Can. 915 [1983 Code of Canon Law]

From the time Pope Francis selected Cardinal Kasper to deliver the inaugural address at the consistory in February 2014, through the debates that ensued within and beyond the Church and the two Synods on the family, to the publication of Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia which has resulted in disparate implementations of it by different Bishops and across the various Bishops’ Conferences and countries, there is still no authoritative answer from the Church as to whether a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person “more uxorio” (in a marital way) can now be admitted to Holy Communion without fulfilling the conditions that were in place prior to Amoris Laetitia.

It is clear that in practice, something has changed given that there is no longer any doubt as to how Pope Francis wants his exhortation interpreted, but it is also clear that nothing has changed on the books. For example, the relevant paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC 1650 & 1385] and in the current 1983 Code of Canon Law [Can. 915], the latter which deals with who must not be admitted to Holy Communion, remain intact and unchanged.

If nothing has changed on the books then, in fact, admitting those who the canon states cannot be admitted to Holy Communion is contravening the Law. Pope Francis and his collaborators are on record saying that “no doctrines have changed” and that “no new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases, were to be expected from the exhortation”, therefore, this would be a stumbling block if down the line they would change Can. 915 to match the practice of admitting to Holy Communion those currently barred by the canon they would be changing.

Why are all those mentioned in Can. 915 not admitted to Holy Communion?

[Sufficient] rationale [arguments not exhaustive]:

  • From one commentary on the canon in this matter in the 1917 Pio‑Benedictine Code of Canon Law: The reason is that the Holy Eucharist may not be given to such as are publicly unworthy, e.g., the excommunicated, interdicted and notoriously infamous, unless they have given signs of repentance and amendment and have repaired the scandal publicly given. The reason for this general rule, as laid down by Benedict XIV, is that public and notorious sinners must not be admitted to Holy Communion, no matter whether they demand it publicly or secretly. To give them the Body of Christ would be to cooperate in a profanation of the Sacrament, and such cooperation cannot be justified even on the plea of saving the good name of the petitioner, because by the publicity and notoriety of his crime he has lost the claim to a good name.
  • From the Legislator himself of the 1983 [Johanno-Pauline] Code of Canon Law (abbreviated 1983 CIC):

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[Canon 915; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 712]. – Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37 | Pope John Paul II [EdeE 37b]

 How could Pope Francis & his collaborators get around this?

Since it is unlikely that they could just change canon after stating that “no doctrines have changed” and that there are “no new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases, to be expected”, and since it can easily be shown that the general rule laid down by Benedict XIV and the reasoning of Pope St. John Paul II both draw from the depositum fidei, and follow and are in harmony with the perennial teaching and practice of the Church, the solution calls for ingenuity that can be deduced from several recent utterances by the Pope & his collaborators. And such a solution is this:

If those whom the Church has always deemed as publicly unworthy to be allowed admittance to Holy Communion can no longer be deemed as such, then even were Can. 915 to remain on the books, it would be rendered irrelevant because there will no longer be a specified group of people to which the canon could be applied to. Can. 915 would, therefore, have been rendered inapplicable.

The evidence:

 1) Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, 301:

301. For … Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. …

Note the catch-all “any”; and irregular in quotes.

2) Pope to the priests of Lyon:

Papa Francesco: il celibato è un dono, non mi sento di cambiare questa legge Di Angela Ambrogetti Pope Francis: Celibacy is a gift, I do not feel like changing this law Di Angela Ambrogetti [Google Translate]
CITTÀ DEL VATICANO , 06 ottobre, 2017 / 4:00 PM (ACI Stampa)

Un lungo dialogo fatto di domande  e risposte quello del Papa con i sacerdoti di Lione che si è svolto ieri mattina a porte chiuse in Vaticano.


Rispondendo ad una domanda su “divorziati risposati” il Papa ha detto che un difetto della cultura di oggi è aggettivare le persone, e  “le persone non sono sostantive, sono aggettive: questo è sposato, questo è divorziato; quello che conta è l’aggettivo: sposato, sposato, ben sposato, non ben sposato, divorziato, quante volte?, tre volte divorziato … cioè, l’aggettivo è quello che conta nella scelta pastorale”, ma questo non va. “La persona,- ha detto il Papa – il sostantivo: Giovanni, Maria, Enrico, Charlotte … è la persona! Il figlio di Dio, la figlia di Dio non è un aggettivo, è una persona. E Dio si è innamoratondi persone, non di aggettivi”.


VATICAN CITY, October 06, 2017 / 4:00 PM (ACI Press)

A long conversation of questions and answers of the Pope with the priests of Lyon that took place yesterday morning in closed doors in the Vatican.


Answering a question about “divorced [re-married]”, the Pope said that a defect in today’s culture is to subject people, and “people are not substantive, they are adjectives: this is married, this is divorced; what matters is the adjective: married, married, married, not married, divorced, how many times, three times divorced … that is, the adjective is what matters in the pastoral choice, “but that does not go. “The person,” said the Pope, “the noun: John, Mary, Henry, Charlotte … is the person! The son of God, the daughter of God is not an adjective, is a person. And God has fallen in love with people, not by adjectives. “


3) [UPDATE October 9, 2017] Right on cue: Canon law must serve Vatican II vision of the church, pope says By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, 10.9.2017 | CRUX

4) Presentation of the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia: the logic of pastoral mercy, 08.04.2016 by Cardinal Schönborn:


Like any pastor, Pope Francis “addresses his paternal care to the immense variety of concrete situations”, and therefore affirms that “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor the exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases”. …


Another two key words in the exhortation are “discern” and “accompany” which, the archbishop of Vienna explained, “apply not only to the so-called ‘irregular situation’ (Pope Francis underlines this ‘so-called’) but rather to all people, to every marriage and every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of ‘discernment’ and ‘accompaniment'”. He reaffirmed that his “great joy” in response to the exhortation “resides in the fact that it coherently overcomes that artificial, superficial, clear division between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’, and subjects everyone to the common call of the Gospel, according to the words of St. Paul: ‘For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all'”.


5) Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of Italian magazine La Civiltà Cattolica:

BOSTON — An Italian Jesuit priest known to be a confidant of Pope Francis says the pontiff thinks the Catholic Church can no longer issue general rules that apply to whole categories of people.

Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of Italian magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, told a conference of bishops and theologians considering how to implement the 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia on Oct. 6 that the document recognizes that even people living in “irregular” family situations, such as divorce and remarriage, “can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in a life of grace.”

“We must conclude that the pope realizes that one can no longer speak of an abstract category of persons and … [a] praxis of integration in a rule that is absolutely to be followed in every instance,” said Spadaro, who was one of the first people to interview Francis as pope in 2013.

“Since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same,” he said.

The two-day conference at Boston College is co-hosted by theologian Jesuit Fr. James Keenan and Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich. During the event, two cardinals, 12 bishops, and 24 other invited participants are discussing what organizers call the “new momentum” Amoris Laetitia gives local bishops to renew their pastoral practices toward families.

Spadaro spoke during the fourth of [five-panel] discussions at the event. Considerations on the second day focused widely on the call Francis makes in the apostolic exhortation for bishops and pastors to listen to laypeople and respect decisions they make about their lives after undertaking a process of discernment.

Spadaro referred to a set of guidelines bishops in Sicily issued in June for how Amoris Laetitia should be implemented in their region of Italy.

“The Sicilian document concludes with clarity that in some circumstances as regards the divorced and remarried, according to the evaluation of the confessor … it is possible to admit absolution and to admit him or her to the Eucharist,” he said.

“It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all,” he concluded.


Bishops deliberate whether one rule applies to all divorced people after ‘Amoris Laetitia’, Oct 6, 2017 by Joshua J. McElwee
Impossible to judge people based on a norm above all, concludes papal confidant at conference


1) We ought to thank very much the four brave dubia cardinals and pray for them and especially for the late Cardinals Caffarra and Meisner [the ones still with us are Cardinals Brandmüller & Burke] so that they may not lose their reward because it is now very clear why their dubius 3. was part of their dubia.

[Dubius] 3. After “Amoris Laetitia” (n. 301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?

2) In the 1917 Pio‑Benedictine Code of Canon Law, CAN 855 dealt with those who weren’t allowed admission to Holy Communion.

CAN 855

LA [J. Gray]

EN [Ed Peters]

Can 855 §1. Arcendi sunt ab Eucharistia publice indigni, quales sunt excommunicati, interdicti manifestoque infames, nisi de eorum poenitentia et emendatione constet et publico scandalo prius satisfecerint.

§2. Occultos vero peccatores, si occulte petant et eos non emendatos agnoverit, minister repellat; non autem, si publice petant et sine scandalo ipsos praeterire nequeat.

Capture - Canon 855 in EN


1) PERIODICA DE RE CANONICA vol. 96 (2007) pag. 3-58 | The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin | R. L. BURKE

2) A commentary on the new Code of Canon Law by Charles Augustine, Rev. P., O.S.B., b. 1872

Posted, [First] Saturday, October 7, 2017, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted to honor Mary for the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. Pope St. Pius V and all Christians had prayed the Rosary for victory. The Rosary, or the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the best prayers to Mary, the Mother of God.


Cf. USCCB Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary Readings

[UPDATE October 9, 2017]

Cf. Disregarding the divinely-rooted Canon 915 portends serious consequences for the Church and her faithful, October 9, 2017 by Dr. Edward Peters | In the Light of the Law [CWR]

Cf. In the Wake of #AmorisLaetitia, will ‘A Simple Prayer Book’ be Revised? (A Response to Dr. Edward Peters: ‘I do not think that Francis changed any doctrines in Amoris’), February 26, 2016 

[UPDATE November 18, 2017]

Cf. CARDINAL BURKE ON THE RULE OF FAITH by Fr. Gerald E. Murray | The Catholic Thing

2 thoughts on “@Pontifex & Collaborators Moving to Render Can. 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law Irrelevant?

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