On denying communion: “How grave does a sin have to be?”

The Barbara Johnson story continues to stir debate — including this item from the Washington Post about when communion should be denied:

Some people believe Catholic teaching either required the Gaithersburgh priest to deny the woman Communion – or at the least gave him the right to – while others believe the opposite. Both sides cite canon law and high-level teachings and Scripture

There are so many phrases that need to be parsed and defined: What is a mortal sin? What does it mean to be alienated from God? What is the pastoral thing to do when a priest is confronted with someone apparently violating a church teaching? What is the right kind of respect a priest should have for a Catholic’s free will and conscience?

First, the nuts and bolts. Catholicism teaches that, during Communion, Catholics receive the literal body and blood of Christ in the form of wafers and wine; the church teaches that in this moment, Catholics become transformed so they can be more Christ-like.

People “in a state of grave sin” are not supposed to take Communion, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center. “But how grave does a sin have to be to cut you completely off from God?,” Reese asked. “Some would say any sex (heterosexual or homosexual) outside of a valid marriage is a grave sin. Others would argue it is not so grave as to cut a sinner completely off from God.”

Who decides how a grave sin is defined? The U.S. bishops in 2006, as the country debated whether pro-choice politicians could receive Communion, approved a document that appeared to list situations that violate church teaching and make someone ineligible for Communion. They included everything from “sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage” to harboring hatred of others, missing Mass on Sundays “without serious reason” and stealing.

People in such states shouldn’t present themselves for Communion, the document said, before becoming more broad. A footnote said the document was not intended to be a specific list, and instead was meant to encourage Catholics to set a high bar for their personal conduct.

Catholics, it said, who have “honest doubt and confusion” about some church teachings “are welcome to partake of holy Communion, as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the church professes and are taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt.”

“There is a lot of talk about what is mortal sin. It means to be totally alienated from God. Many theologians say this is hard to do,” Reese said…

…The Rev. Tom Richstatter, a liturgist at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, said the question of who takes Communion is “about your understanding of what God is, and what the Eucharist is,” he said, using the word that means both the Communion rite and the wafer and wine. “For some priests, law and rules are the way to safeguard that, and others feel compassion in Jesus is the ultimate deciding factor.”

The vast majority of American bishops oppose denying Communion, at least to politicians. When voting on it in 2004, in the context of pro-choice politicians, three times as many bishops said they opposed it than those who favored it. That year they issued a public position, by a vote of 183-6, saying it should be up to the individual bishop to decide whether to give pro-choice politicians Communion.

The policy in the Archdiocese of Washington, as established by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, is not to withhold Communion and for priests to privately counsel Catholics who they believe to be wrestling with violations of church teaching.

Past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Francis George has taken a similar position, as has recent Los Angeles archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony. He said during the so-called “wafer wars” that his “archdiocese will continue to follow church teaching which places the duty on each Catholic to examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive holy Communion .. That is not the role of the person distributing the body and blood of Christ.”

Read it all.

  • vox borealis

    And thank heavens that we have Thomas Reese to clarify all of these oh so confusing concepts like “grave sin.” Good, now I can get rid of my Catechism.

  • ron chandonia

    The policy in the Archdiocese of Washington . . . is . . . for priests to privately counsel Catholics who they believe to be wrestling with violations of church teaching.

    The problem is not with those who are “wrestling” with their consciences. The problem is with those who very boldy, proudly and publicly deny and even ridicule Catholic teachings, particularly about sexual behavior and the life issues. To people in the pews who may actually be “wrestling” with moral strictures they find difficult to follow, the difference is obvious, and the reluctance of Church authorities to acknowledge it is scandalous.

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    Fr. Reese is not a sound guide to the differences between Canon 916 and Canon 915 and the values underlying each norm. See my http://canonlawblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/some-brief-reactions-to-fr-reeses.html.

    This case is about public admittance to holy Communion, not about private disposition to receive. So long as people ignore the differences between the two issues, they will continue to opine away pointlessly. I’m just sorry so many are being confused along the way, and by some people who really should know better.

  • http://awashingtondccatholic.blogspot.com/ awashingtondccatholic

    But is this case really all about public admittance? This case, as I see it (and more importantly), is also about the person, her understanding of her faith (she says by all that we have read, that she is a lifelong catholic), and was she really in the state of grace to receive Holy Communion.

    As I see it, it is the responsibility of the person receiving communion to know that she could or could not receive. From everything I have seen, she has claimed to be a lifelong Catholic and a teacher at a Catholic High School (Eliz. Ann Seton — for those interested). She has not denied either. (In fact, she has taken down the references to her “buddhist” lifestyle on her blog.)

    As far as I can tell, she has not said, that her relationship with her partner was simply a matter of saving on the rent, and there is nothing sexual about it. In fact, she has remained very silent on the issue. She could easily clarify the whole matter by saying yes or no.

    Living in the DC/MD area, the issue of gay marriage, gay relationships, etc. and the teachings of the Church, is not something that is relegated to some obscure journal on Canon Law. This is the stuff of local news on a fairly regular basis.

    Now, back to less important tasks…like work.

  • http://catholiclane.com Mary Kochan

    Doesn’t public scandal aggravate the sin? If I were sneaking around committing adultery, wouldn’t my very “sneaking” reveal that I still had some sense of shame about the matter, some proddings of conscience? But if I left my husband and started publicly living with another man, wouldn’t that show a very different disposition toward God’s law and toward my responsibility to both the congregation and the wider common good?

    Just askin’…

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    “But is this case really all about public admittance?”

    Yes, it is. Everything else flows from that. To miss that, or to ignore it, is to miss, or ignore, the central issue. Best, edp.

  • http://communitarian-perspective.blogspot.com M.Z.

    I think the more accurate operating principle of Cdl Wuerl’s thoughts are that ministers should respect the pastor’s discernment of fitness for communion. When speaking of denial of communion in the present context, we are almost always speaking of situations where the pastor’s thoughts on the matter can be sought or situations where the pastor has already given consideration of the matter. The pastor would seem to be the proper person to bring these disputes rather than each minister of communion thinking they have been given jurisdiction over the care of the sole as opposed to the temporary ministerial function they have been given.

  • http://catholiclane.com Mary Kochan

    More ruminations on the sneaking…

    If I were sneaking around, I would be trying for people not to know about my sin. Although I would be objectively committing a mortal sin, I wouldn’t be trying to influence others — I wouldn’t even want them to know. I would be aware of course, that God knew what I was doing and if I cared enough about that, I could and should refrain from communion. but I would not have made it anyone else’s business.

    If however, I started to publicly live with another man, I would have made this the business of other people by letting them know about it. How could I then make the claim that this was only my own personal business and no one else’s? How could I claim that it was merely between “me and God”? It seems that to make that claim would require us to really have a very different understanding of the Church, community, and communion, than what we traditionally have had. The entire reason for the Sacrament of Reconciliation being provided by and through the Church is that our personal (even secret and private) sins DO damage the entire congregation. We don’t merely damage our communion with God by sin, we damage our communion with the Church. It seems to me (no expert, admittedly) that we are being slowly led (pushed), not merely toward new definition of sexuality, but to a new definition of “Church”.

  • http://quantumtheology.blogspot.com Michelle

    Well, the sneaking around might simply be a desire to escape the consequences of sin and not a sense of shame. To have one’s cake and eat it, too.

    But that brings me to my point. That generally the person standing up there distributing communion does not have a complete picture of what is going on, either internally or even, dare I say it, even of the objective reality.

    I understand the various canonical nuances, but personally I can’t manage to be scandalized by sinners coming into church, or even desiring to receive communion, to come close to Jesus (something I don’t believe you can actually desire when you are in an unrepentant state of mortal sin). When Jesus came face to face with a scandalously public sinner, the thief on the cross, he did not turn away his face, but said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He didn’t worry that it would further scandalize the faithful. Frankly, I’m hoping that’s how I’ll be received, too, because I know that I’m a sinner.

  • Scout

    I’m sick to death of this. The Pharisees and Scribes, wherever they may be, are rejoicing. I’m sure the Lord is loving the fact that we’re debating how and when to keep people from the table and trying to figure when we’re going to deny people access to the grace and love found in the Eucharist. Jesus was always into worthiness-tests and separation and rule enforcement, so I’m sure this is exactly what He had in mind when He instituted the Eucharist.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Given the state of catechesis today, and moral relativism and all that, I have to wonder how many people in a state of sin even realize it.

    As the Church teaches, for one to commit a mortal sin, three things must occur together: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” While it may seem unlikely, I suspect a lot of people think as long as they’re doing it for the right reasons, and their conscience tells them it’s acceptable, they’re fine. “God understands,” etc.

    A priest can only discern if someone is aware of what’s wrong, and consciously making the choice to sin, by having a more thoughtful and serious conversation; 30 seconds in the sacristy before Mass, or a quick glance down the aisle from the communion rail won’t do it.

  • ron chandonia

    Living in the DC/MD area, the issue of gay marriage, gay relationships, etc. and the teachings of the Church, is not something that is relegated to some obscure journal on Canon Law. This is the stuff of local news on a fairly regular basis.

    I would hate to see this thread lead into another “Comments Closed” dead end because the point raised by “awashingtondccatholic” is a very important one for serious American Catholics today. As the so-called social issues come to the fore again at election time, we are daily being bombarded with stories of self-described devout Catholics who are taking very public stands against the moral teachings of the Church. While interpretations of Church law may be the only way to address individual situations–like the funeral confrontation–the wider problem intensifies, and it is really an issue of public scandal. When these private chats with priest and bishop have no evident effect on public displays of contempt for Catholic moral teachings, has the Church today no other recourse than to back down or even apologize to the dissenters in her midst? So it too often seems.

    [Re closing comments: I elected to do that because the conversation was deteriorating to the point where a post about sin was becoming an occasion for sin. -- Dcn. G.]

  • kevin

    I agree with Deacon Greg on most of this and love seeing the three conditions laid out. I’ve related before that our young, very orthodox priest is inclined to state that x or y is a “mortal sin” without any explication of the conditions necessary for it. I guess they left that out of his seminary training.

    This specific case though to me does not present a clear violation of 915.

  • Joanc57

    This has to be my last comment on this overblown scandal. There is no sense of proportion. If the person denied communion was not a public lesbian all this sound and fury would not have occurred, in my opinion. I am not competent to sound off on canon law so I have learned from this experience to keep my mouth shut. I need to go to confession, I don’t like my anger.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    BEING a lesbian is NOT a sin. The orientation is one which is gravely disordered, so teaches the Church. It is the sexual activity outside of sacramental marriage which is sinful. Even if the woman were fornicating, the Church teaches that subjective guilt imputed to the individual may be attenuated (greatly, even entirely) by factors such as habit and compulsion. Aquinas taught us that.

    Many lesbians are women who have been treated horribly, even violently, by the most significant men in their lives. It falls to the priest, Alter Christus, to go the extra mile to ensure that he does not add Jesus to that list. This is one reason why Deacon Greg’s and Ed Peters’ admonitions for authentic discernment on the part of the priest be taken to heart.

    Homosexuality and Lesbianism do indeed present several occasions of grave sin intrinsic to the lifestyle, not the least of which are the sins of anger, lust, and fornication. I could say the same for the state of many marriages not being lived sacramentally.

    The bottom line is that this woman was denied Communion at her mother’s funeral by a priest whose Eucharistic zeal evidently clouded his Eucharistic/Priestly responsibility for genuine discernment. He then walked off the altar during mass for the duration of the eulogy. My understanding is that the priest is not permitted to do such a thing during mass. {Deacons and Ed Peters, feel free to jump in here}

    In the best case scenario, Father erred on the side of Eucharistic integrity by denying communion to this woman. However, walking off the altar for the eulogy was a violent act of aggression leveled at this woman solely for being a lesbian. She was held up to public ridicule, at mass. In the best case scenario for Father, denying her communion was enough. Walking off the altar was vicious, petty, and cruel.

    [Unless I missed it, I'm not aware of the priest ever explaining why he left the altar. Maybe he was seriously ill. It would be helpful if that were clarified. -- Dcn. G.]

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    Umm, strictly speaking, a violation of c. 915 is not alleged here (by me, anyway), but rather, a misapplication of it, resulting in a violation of c. 912 (and a couple of other norms).

  • http://themightyambivalentcatholic.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Thank you, Michelle, for what you’ve written here. Could not agree more strongly with you. Especially about the mercy I will need from Christ if I am to enter Paradise someday. I know I’m a sinner, and I pray that we manage to remember that fact about ourselves when we discuss others’ sinfulness.

  • friscoeddie

    I get the impression that the critics here who want to judge the worthiness of those receiving communion, live in all white suburbs where the sinning Catholics look well dressed,washed and ready for country club membership… Just like Jesus wanted… NOT.
    My parish in SF Tenderloin has a communion line these critics would sneer at,, so what? .. go complain to the country club president . the communion line ain’t going away

  • friscoeddie

    Mary K. read again the Woman at the Well John 4 your modification of the story would have the villagers all streaming out of their houses yelling at Jesus who dared talk to a woman who was at the well at noon time because they had already chased the ‘tramp’ from the early morning gathering of those seeking water

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    I believe Mrs. Johnson was well dressed enough to look fresh.

    The whole issue is, it is extremely confusing for normal Catholics because they are thinking now why must we confess before going to communion, it has no meaning at all for the Archdiocese Washington it seems, so any Catholic in any status can go to the communion whenever he feels likes to and the priest is obliged to minister the sacrament to him, per Canon Law, as Dr. Peters tells us. But, is Canon Law such kind of Law like civil law which defines the “right”. The passage of CC quoted above doesn’t mention the right of receiving communion! So a sinner doesn’t have the right to receive it and so she can’t go to the Canonical Court to claim her right for it.

    I find it outrageous because this reaction of the Archediocese Washington is bringing more confusion into laity, as if there is not enough already. In the end, we would end up like the liberal Anglicans who don’t care any more, what is important is to be mainstream politically correct, the Lord is not important for our cafeteria catholicism of so many Catholics of today, main issue is to appear nice before the world and not to be called a bigot by liberals who are giving the main tune to the society. You don’t want to lose face don’t you so forget the Moral and Social teaching and dance to the tune of the dictatorship of political correctness.

  • deaconjohn

    I agree with you scout.
    It certainly seems that Jesus was more welcoming of sinners than many of us are.
    I have to wonder….are we looking at the sacraments as rewards for the already holy, or as a source of grace for those who so badly need it.

  • Byzcat

    Denying the Sacred Species to this woman was an act of charity. She was in a lifelong, committed, homosexual relationship, an objectively gravely sinful condition. By denying her the Eucharist he was demonstrating to her that she must repent of her serious sins. In addition, she is most likely in denial that her true state is seriously jeopardizing her eternal salvation. However, instead of praise for his act of charity, this priest is being pilloried in public. Poor Jesus. His followers don’t protect Him, then excoriate anyone who seeks to protect Him.

  • cathyf

    The following situation happened in my parish last year…

    Some back story. We are a small, old parish in a rural area. We have several large families who have been members of the parish for generations. One such family, of six children. The eldest, who passed away two years ago, has a 15-year-old granddaughter who has down syndrome. The youngest, in his 60′s, has a wife who is a convert, and the wife has a sister who has down syndrome. So we have two women with down syndrome. One is 15 years old, baptized in the parish, attended the parish school in kindergarten and first grade, made her first confession and first communion in 3rd grade — a year behind because of her disabilities. She’s pretty high functioning, and well-known to the whole parish. The other woman is in her 50′s, and since her mother died a few years ago she moved into a group home in our community, and has some modest independence. She spends many weekends with her sister and brother-in-law, and on those weekends she comes to mass with them. Most people in the parish know her, and she is a very sweet woman.

    Ok, so we have a relatively new pastor who one day asked the one brother who the woman was who came to mass sometimes with him and his wife, who never received communion. He explained that this is his wife’s sister, and that none of his wife’s family was Catholic, and that since his mother-in-law had died his sister-in-law spent many weekends with them and accompanied them to mass when she was with them.

    You can see where this is going, right? A few Sundays later the 15-year-old was at mass with her parents and grandmother and brothers and sisters. And the pastor refused her communion because “I talked to Dave, and Dave told me that she’s not Catholic.” The family immediately went to “Dave” (who is the girl’s mother’s uncle) to find out what the heck he said, and he puzzled for awhile, and then the family realized that the pastor had confused the 50-some-year-old woman with down syndrome with the 15-year-old girl with down syndrome.

    THIS is why we don’t want to go denying people communion in the communion line!

    Raising hand here… Occasionally when receiving communion, the minister will address me by name. (“The Body of Christ, Cathy,” as opposed to “The Body of Christ.”) Of those of you who have also experienced this, how many other people have been called by the wrong name when receiving communion?

    You know this is a consistent philosophical position that the Church has about confronting sinners. Which is that this is done with the absolute least amount in public that is possible. What is more centrally Catholic than the Seal of Confession? This is a terrible disappointment to the busybodies and nosy parkers, of course. But, as anyone who has ever read the gospels knows, busybodies really torqued Jesus off, so we when confronted by those “greatly scandalized” that some bishop didn’t go dressing down some politician in public and then post it on YouTube, well “What Would Jesus Do?” seems particularly apt!

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    It was a misunderstanding, what you described, from the part of the pastor. But it is correct not to give Protestants communion as it is wrong.
    I think the real busy bodies are those who make a big alarm out of a personal misunderstanding which could have been resolved if talked kindly from face to face.
    Busy bodies go to Washington Post and tell all the world how much their “feelings” are hurt and ask for the removal of anyone who dares to hurt their precious feeling.

  • Irish Spectre

    Is my inference correct that you’re stating that where you attend Mass, people who are regularly engaged in homosexual conduct regularly receive Communion, and that you support that?

    If so, then I’d like to pose the question which follows: How does one reconcile one’s belief in the Church’s teaching concerning the Real Presence, which is extraordinarily supernatural and thoroughly unique, while simultaneously rejecting the Church’s teaching on homosexual conduct, which is entirely consistent with the historical, overwhelming majority (if not all) of the other organized world religions and cultural norms, and rudimentary, obvious human biology??

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    You misread me, I am astonished that you distorted everything I wrote above.
    I am only pointing out that if the Archdiocese apologizes to someone whose feeling is hurt because the priest said she committed sin and thus should refrain from communion, then it shows that the Archdiocese doesn’t seem to care whether a sinner should confess before communion or not. If the Archdiocese doesn’t care, a layman would say to himself why should he care, he can go to communion whatever he has done before without going to confession, and he can brings his non-Catholics to partake the communion. Really, if the Authority says that a priest must distribute the host to anybody who goes into the confession line, even if he knows that a certain person is not in the status of grace, it will have a catastrophic consequences for the moral of the faithful.
    Hope you will now understand, if not, I won’t explain a second time.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    Sorry for the typo, it should be “into the communion line”, and “his non-Catholic friends”.
    Btw. in my place, people are very good Catholics, most of the Church attendees are family with children. Homosexuals must be in a very small minority among us.

    And no, I am against the receiving of communion of homosexual in a gay relationship.

    Now understand?

  • kevin

    Scout, you have a fundamentally protestant conception of the Church. Jesus and the Church are inextricably intertwined. “He who hears you hears me,” “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” “Feed my sheep.” Do I need to add the verse about receiving unworthily and the consequences of that?

    No one is “trying” to keep anyone “away from the table” as you disingenously put it.

  • Bob

    Ms. Johnson wasn’t even from the parish and she introduced her partner as her lover (who prevented Fr. Guarnizo from continuing the conversation with her) – what more proof do you need that this was all a sick set-up? Canon 915 might be nothing to Cardinal Wuerl (“there’s a question whether this canon (915) was ever intended to be used.”) and so many of the other bishops, but there remains the Sins that Cry to Heaven for Vengeance (which remains in the Catechism) and it tends to prove that so many of the senior members of the clergy ignore their teaching responsiblities. They have let the politicians run amok, now it’s time for the gays – good job (arch-)bishops!

  • cathyf

    The only Protestant in this story is the 50-some-year-old woman with downs syndrome. Who is more than smart enough to understand that she’s not Catholic and she never presents herself for communion.

    The pastor, on the other hand, well let’s just say that if you are going to go down the road of refusing communion to “notorious sinners” or Protestants, or whatever, you better be able to figure out who is who.

    A competency which, from a purely practical point of view, turns out to be not so easy to achieve.

  • FrMichael

    Oh, a 30 second conversation is plenty enough for some folks, as brazenly and boastfully sinful as some people are. OTOH most people would take some more time as the deacon states. I fault the priest for not taking the additional time prior to the Mass, but that is a misdemeanor compared with the lesbian presenting herself for Communion.

  • friscoeddie

    How come the communion deniers don’t deny communion to any married couple that dosn’t have 6 + children [like me]. {we all know how NFP doesn’t work]

  • Deacon Steve

    Are you removing God from the reasons that married couples don’t have more than 6+ children? There are many couples that don’t avoid having children that do not and your comment seems misplaced. The marriage vow ask the couple to be open to lovingly accept children from God, it doesn’t say however how many children God will bless them with.

  • Scout

    I agree that the Church and Jesus are inextricably intertwined…which is why this sort of discussion is so distressing to me. I simply cannot believe that Jesus would be happy with this. Also, I don’t think it’s the Church that’s primarily into denying Communion…I was referring to all the people on this blog who were so into quoting rules/regulations, while apparently, in my opinion, showing little interest in the very real people being affected.

    However, to your other point, disagreeing with the Church doesn’t make me a Protestant. I follow it’s tenets and live by the “rules”…yet the Lord gave me a mind and a voice, I’m part of the Body of Christ, I share in the Priesthood of Christ through my baptism, and I’m going to express myself when I see what I perceive to be injustice or lack of charity. Otherwise, we’re all just trained poodles that the Bishops and Hierarchy are taking out for walks every day.

  • CLD

    Deacon,
    That characterization is not fair. I know many of the parishioners at St. John Neumann Church and the supporters of Fr. Marcal, and they are humble people who frequent the sacraments, generously stock up the local Catholic food pantry, and adore the Blessed Sacrament perpetually because they WANT and PRAY to be holy, not because they believe they already are. They are sincerely protective of the sacraments and are glad that they have a pastor who takes seriously his duty to be a guardian of the sacraments as well as to prevent scandal to the People of God. Of course, you are right that Jesus is infinitely more merciful and welcoming than even the most pious Catholic, but that does not mean that those who sympathize with Father (even if they don’t condone his decision) are strictly self-righteous, Pharasaic people on a power trip to put other sinners in their place. I just wish people would stop ascribing motives in this situation – whether to the woman, the priest, or the supporters/opponents of either.

  • Irish Spectre

    teresa, the question was intended to be directed to friscoeddie, even though it was placed in a manner appearing to be directed to you (just as this one itself is out of place, but I don’t see a “Reply” link following your comments.)

  • http://quantumtheology.blogspot.com Michelle

    It wasn’t resolved kindly in a face to face way with the 15 year old, she was denied communion in a very public forum. Think about it, how would you feel to be turned away at the altar? Even it were a misunderstanding. Perhaps especially if it were a misunderstanding.

  • Survivor

    False, false, false. Got back and read 1st Corinthians on the issue of how one should be prepared to receive the Eucharist. The fact that said citation has been conspicuously absent from nearly all commentary on this subject speaks to the enormous, seemingly intentional, biblical illiteracy on this subject.

    As for the combox grenade accusations that we are Pharisees for seeking to observe the teachings of Scripture (shocking, I’m sure), I have often absented myself from receiving Communion because I have been in the state of grave sin and have not sought the recourse of Reconciliation. It is regrettable that I am often the only one in the congregation to do so.

  • Survivor

    One of the more disturbing aspects of this incident was the willingness of the family to go to the media (print & TV) to air the issue before speaking with the Archdiocese. That maximized the scandal.
    While Deacon Greg could speak better on this, I find it remarkable that the story hit as quickly as it did. Ordinary people do not get press coverage like this. I strongly suspect that it was marketed through an interest organization.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    Irish sceptre, I am really sorry, I realized it later.
    Have a nice day.

  • michigancatholic

    No mystery here. If it’s a grave sin, it’s sin enough. Catholic teaching on grave sins is, has always been and will always be go to confession before receiving Holy Communion. To receive in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege.
    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    CCC 1457 According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

  • michigancatholic

    We need to screen cases like this before we get surprised by them. Was her mother a practicing Catholic? Why was a funeral mass selected if this had any possibility of happening?

  • michigancatholic

    Christ himself said, ““Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

  • deacon john

    The fact of the matter remains that we DO NOT know the state of another person’s soul. It is not up to the person distributing the body and blood of Christ to decide on that.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, and I was thirsty and you gave me no water”

  • friscoeddie

    Hey Irish S,
    where does it say homosexual in my post? you think SF is just all gay? Fox news is wrong again..
    My parish has what James Joyce called ‘ here comes everybody’. straight. gay, poor , welloff, muti-cultural & we have Mass in four languages.
    The people like you and Teresa are welcome too but most who talk and post like you, self select not to join.. sad sad sad. We have Catholic tourists who drop in from the downtown hotels who say… ‘this is what Jesus wanted’
    Hint prediction… heaven won’t look like middleclass suburban white America..
    Take a video look at my parish
    http://thegubbioproject.org/video
    Post your parish video please..

  • friscoeddie

    The priet saying “body of Christ, Cathy’ needs catachisis . Leave out Cathy, Buster, Pal, Sport .. someone should tell the priest he is not a bartender….do it gently though. (-:

  • naturgesetz

    So it’s clear, when one is aware in one’s conscience that one is in a state of grave sin, one must not receive Communion. Canon 916 simply reiterates this. When one’s grave sin is “manifest” and one persists in it in an “obstinate” way, such as by continuing even after being counseled about a it and being warned that continuing in it would mean exclusion from Communion, Canon 915 comes into play.

  • WJ

    The Body of Christ.
    A gift, not a right.
    He gives it freely
    to be received worthily.
    “Holy for the holy”
    or at least to those who strive
    to follow the will of him who gave his life
    If in sin I persist
    receive communion I should not insist
    until I receive his forgiveness
    and be restored to wholeness.
    It is not about me.
    It is about him who gave his life for me.

  • Ken

    To Nadal,

    That’s an idiotic statement. You are a doctor? I wouldn’t want to go to you for a check-up. How do you know that this was “a violent act of aggression leveled at this woman solely for being a lesbian”? You are extremely judgmental. Perhaps Father truly was sick. Does he or does he not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    Incidentally, it’s hard to say if a priest is allowed to walk out during a eulogy–especially since eulogies are not part of the Mass. Thanks to our buddy Ted Kennedy eulogizing his brother Bobby, every single person wants to give a talk at the end of Mass, where there is no place for it. It is not included in the Rite, from what I understand. Dioceses simply allow it now to be “pastoral,” and because they don’t have the courage to tell people the correct thing–that a talk should be given at the funeral home.

    I hope you don’t feel that this email is a “violent act of aggression” against you. If you do, then you have a pretty thin skin, doctor.

    God bless the courage of that true priest.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Actually, Ken, the Order for Christian Funerals does permit words of remembrance by a family member or friend at the end of Mass, just before the final commendation.

    And, why do you think this started in 1968 at Bobby Kennedy’s funeral? I think it’s been going on longer than that.

    FWIW: most of Ted Kennedy’s remarks consisted of quoting his brother, from other speeches. You can read it here. In that regard, he followed the example set by the remarks given at President Kennedy’s funeral, when Bishop Philip Hannan read excerpts from the late president’s writings and speeches, including his entire inaugural address.

  • cathyf

    The distinction is whose obligation is it to prevent communion in those cases where the person is not allowed to receive. The Church says that it is the individual Catholic’s responsibility to refrain from receiving communion when the individual is not eligible to do so. The only cases where the minister of communion is allowed to make the decision at the communion rail are in cases of excommunication & interdict, and those of grave, manifest & obstinate sin.

    All three of those words — grave, manifest and obstinate — have specific meanings. They are not just some high-falutin way to say “really really really bad.”

  • http://www.uwakwereflections.com Chima

    This story is quite interesting. But if the lady is guilty of lesbianism and has not been absolved at the confessional, she knows she would not approach the communion rail. In any case, let them resolve their differences amicably.

  • michigancatholic

    Correct. If the person in question at the funeral actually did introduce her “partner” to the priest ahead of time, the funeral should have been rescheduled right then and there to be a funeral service and not a funeral mass.
    Even better would have been conversations at the original contact to ascertain what the family situation was.
    The parish has a right to know these things BEFORE scheduling services.

  • michigancatholic

    This is just ordinary prudence, the type a teacher uses with students. Why let people find themselves in situations you know they have a high probability of screwing up when it’s so easy to avoid?

  • michigancatholic

    Well, yes, that’s fine to say, but that’s apparently not what the lady wanted. She wanted to flount her living arrangements and then rub it in the priest’s face when he did what he is supposed to be allowed to do. Homosexual persons, who not only live in homosexual relationships, but take the unusual step of introducing their partners to the priest, can be classified as unpenitent persistent public sinners.

  • HeavyGuy51

    Jesus, despite meeting and dining with grave Pulbic Sinners, would NOT have welcomed “everyone” to the compassion and grace of the communion table.
    He dined with public sinners NOT to approve their lifestyle but to teach them to do better, as he said, “it is the sick man who needs the Physician.” The Pharisees were assuming he condoned the scandalous wickedness of those public sinners, and he called them on it. His teachings are full of warnings about flouting God’s laws. He never mentioned homosexuality (those the rest of the equally-inspired New Testament DID and condemned the behavior unequivocally over and over again) because it, in 1st century Israel, had always been considered SO FAR OUT in left field that to bring IT up in particular would have been superfluous. Communion, receving Christ’s body and blood, is not, not, not the same as just Dining With Jesus. It is receiving him literally, whole and entire, body, blood, soul, and divinity, and the inspired apostle warned us in inspired, infallible scripture that to receive Him in this way in a state of unworthiness could, and it was happening back then a lot, cause you to get sick and even die — at God’s own hands. This was a discipline from God himself as the scriptures state, so that the Christians wouldn’t be condemned with the unrepentant worldly. It still happens today, but we don’t usually have the knowledge or wisdom to discern it. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. If we continually flout his laws, on purpose, and then demand to or receive Communion, claiming it, as we arrogant pipsqueaks do, as a “right,” he **will** visit those severe disciplines on **us** personally. We need to be careful. He loves us immensely, but he is not some teen pal or worse, some pushover for us to mouth-off to.


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