That’s a question I haven’t heard before. But it’s being asked in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the Charlotte Observer:
Lilliana Redd’s daughter, who is transgender, was refused Communion during a Sunday Mass this month at St. Vincent de Paul, one of Charlotte’s more conservative Catholic churches.
Nobody disputes that it happened.
But Redd and the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte do disagree on why 15-year-old Maxine Arbelo — nicknamed Max — was turned away by a Eucharistic minister at the parish’s Spanish-language Mass on July 15.
Her mother believes it was because Max, who was wearing makeup and a pink top, identifies as a girl. She’s been transitioning since January, taking hormone pills and seeing a psychologist.
Diocese spokesman David Hains said the priest who celebrated the Mass that day told him it was because Max was chewing gum — thereby violating a Catholic rule that calls for fasting for at least one hour before receiving Communion.
…Redd, who lives with her daughter and son in Indian Land, S.C., said she was “surprised and upset” when Max was denied Communion at the Charlotte church. So much so that she went to see the priest and the Eucharistic minister after the Mass. Your daughter is living in sin, she said she was told.
“At first, they said it was because she was chewing gum,” said Redd, a lifelong Catholic who emigrated to the United States from Costa Rica 19 years ago. “But I know that is not the reason because (they) admitted that it was because they and everybody can see Max’s ‘sin’ on the outside … because of the way she dresses and everything.”
The Rev. Santiago Mariani, who celebrated the Mass that day, refused to talk with the Observer. But Hains, who did speak to Mariani, said the priest denied telling Redd that her daughter was living in sin.
On the issue of gum-chewing, here’s one priest’s perspective:
The governing canon (No. 919 in the church’s Code of Canon Law) says that “one who is to receive the most holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before holy Communion.”
I don’t think you’ll find any official rule book that details what is food and what is not. So we should simply use our heads as God and the church expect us to do in a lot of things.
…Gum, whether you chew it or swallow it, whether it has sugar or not, profanes the mouth and makes it less worthy as a receptor for the body of Christ.
So yes, gum is food, and people should not chew it during the hour before they receive Communion.
Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering the specific passage in Canon Law that describes when someone should not be admitted to communion:
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.