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Jeremy Putman wrote:

Hi guys,

  • Can you receive Holy Communion if you struggle with the teachings of papal infallibility and the Assumption of Mary?
  • If not, how does someone like Hans Kung remain a priest?


  { Can you receive Holy Communion if you don't understand papal Infallibility and the Assumption? }

John replied:

Hi Jeremy,

There is a distinct difference between struggling with a doctrine and the obstinate post-baptismal denial of doctrine.

In the first instance, if one is humble and is at least willing to admit that Holy Mother Church knows best, then one does not find themselves in formal heresy.

On the other hand, when someone insists on denying a truth which the Church teaches, and remains unteachable, then one is clearly in formal heresy and should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

That said, if someone is denying papal infallibility, as defined by the Church, then one obviously denies the authority of the Church, so I doubt that person would respect the admonition to voluntarily abstain from Communion.

Hope this helps,


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Jeremy,

Struggling with doctrines does not mean having a lack of faith. Doubts do not equal having a lack of faith. Struggling with doctrines is also not the same as publicly disagreeing with them.

In today's world, when people say struggle with they often really mean fight against. It used to mean wrestling with yourself and with God in faith, not struggling against the Church in disagreement.

I think that some priests who deny basic doctrines remain priests for several reasons.

  1. First, the Vatican always wants to be very sure that they know the true position of the person before excommunicating or warning them, and that takes a long time.
  2. Second, the theologians in question can say one thing to the Vatican and another thing to the world.
  3. Third, a priest might want to stay a priest even if he doesn't believe, because it is the world that he knows and his means of livelihood.

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi Jeremy,

I wanted to add on to Mary Ann's comments.

You said:

  • If not, how does someone like Hans Kung remain a priest?

Of the seven sacraments of the Church, three of them stamp a indelible character on the soul of the recipient: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

  • Baptism marks the recipient with a character that makes them a new creation in Jesus, Our Lord and part of His Mystical Body, the Church.
  • Confirmation marks the recipient with a character to stand up for the faith in the public square and to go and preach the Good News as commanded in Matthew 28.
  • Holy Orders marks a man with a very special character that conforms his body, mind and soul to Christ. This very special character allows Jesus to act in the priest and administer the sacraments of the Church.
  • Why is this important?

Once a priest is ordained a priest, he is a priest forever. When he passes from this earthly life, he will either be a priest in Heaven or a priest in Hell, based on the choices he has made in his life.

You may be asking:

  • What about the laicizing of a priest to a lay state like I have heard on the news?

This means he can no long serve publicly as a priest. Nevertheless, he is still a priest.

Hope this helps,


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