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SPECIAL: Denying Holy Communion

9/28/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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By Most Reverend Rene Henry Gracida, DD
©Catholic Online 2004

A CASE HISTORY

“So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: ‘Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome.’ Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: ‘You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this’ For the One whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider His words of reproach: ‘The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought.’
Shall I fear you rather than Him? ‘Remember we must all present ourselves before the judgment seat of Christ’ I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it.”

(St. Augustine, Sermo46, 1-2: CCL 41, 529-530)

The controversy over denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians has generated a lot of heat and very little light. Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church have spoken clearly on the subject, but some either do not understand what has been said, or worse, have chosen to ignore it.

Saint Paul said: “This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A Man should examine himself first, only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) The prohibition found in the declarations of the Magisterium is based on this divine revelation. The Church is not free to enact positive ecclesiastical laws which would oppose this revealed doctrine.

“Therefore it is the shepherd’s task not to keep silent, and it is your task, even if we the shepherds are silent, to hear the words of The Shepherd from the Scriptures.” (St. Augustine, Sermo 46, 20-21)

The Magisterium repeats the injunction of Saint Paul in Canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law: “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.” The Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches has a parallel canon: “Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist” (can. 712).

According to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in that Council’s June 24, 2000 Declaration on the question: “Should a priest deny Communion to a Catholic who is an obstinate public sinner?” The answer is “yes.” The reason cited by the Pontifical Council is: “In effect, the reception of the body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion” (No. 1).

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Code of Canon Law clearly states that “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (can. 915). Significantly, in the light of the current controversy in the United States, the Pontifical Council further stated:

Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, are clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (cfr. Can. 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance.

Relativism is a philosophical term describing a theory that conceptions of truth and moral values are not based on objectivity and the absolute, but instead are baseless and grounded on that which is relative and subjective to the persons or groups holding them.

I suggest that those who maintain that they cannot support the refusing of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians because the time of the distribution of Holy Communion is a time of unity in the Body of Christ are indeed relativizers of the objectively established precepts. Further, their belief that it would therefore be wrong to make it a time of confrontation and discord by refusing Holy Communion to anyone is indeed relativizing the precepts, but moreover, emptying them of their substance as well.

Those who relativize the belief that it would be wrong to make the time of ...

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