DOSSIER: The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis

Source: FSSPX News


The Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, published on March 13, 2007, is the second major document of Benedict XVI’s pontificate after the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, released in January 2006. In the Exhortation, the pope faithfully reproduces the 50 final propositions of the Synod, which had exceptionally been made public at the end of the Synod Fathers’ work period, at the end of October 2005.

While inviting to give honor again to certain pre-conciliar practices, Benedict XVI reaffirms the “beneficial influence on the Church’s life of the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.” (1962-1965). He deals with several delicate issues, such as the lack of priests, admission to Holy Communion of remarried divorcees or consistency for Catholic politicians. On these various subjects, the pope reaffirms the teaching of the Church concerning the obligation of celibacy in the tradition of the Latin Church. He recalls the impossibility of admitting remarried divorcees to the sacraments, and he invited Catholic politicians and lawmakers to “feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature.”

Benedict XVI encourages the use of Latin for celebrations at international gatherings. He also “asks that future priests receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin” (Ed. the Mass of Paul VI). He desires to see revived the use of Gregorian chant, and of Eucharistic devotions such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and processions. And he recalls that it is the bishop’s “responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his territory.”

While noting with the participants in the October 2005 Synod that there were “difficulties” and “abuses” in the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Council, Benedict XVI states that “they cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored.” The pope wishes to remain faithful to the profound intention of the conciliar renewal. As on December 22, 2005 before the Roman Curia, in a footnote of the Apostolic Exhortation, he says again that the Council must be reread according to a “hermeneutic of continuity”. (On this last point, see DICI n° 128, of January 21, 2006)

Concerning ecumenism, Benedict XVI expresses several times the desire that the Eucharist be a basis for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue: “an emphasis on this Eucharistic basis of ecclesial communion can also contribute greatly to the ecumenical dialogue” because “the Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.” “At the same time, emphasis on the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the Communities of the Reformed tradition.” While rejecting concelebrations with non-Catholics, Benedict XVI admits the possibility of Eucharistic communion for individual non-Catholic Christians. “We hold that Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Yet it remains true that, for the sake of their eternal salvation, individual non-Catholic Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. But this is possible only in specific, exceptional situations and requires that certain precisely defined conditions be met. These are clearly indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in its Compendium. Everyone is obliged to observe these norms faithfully.”