Canonist Ed Peters on can. 915 and the denial of Holy Communion to sinners

If a priest has sure and reliable knowledge that a person ought not receive Communion, is he not obliged to deny it?  Tough call.

The great Canonical Defender, Dr. Ed Peters, might not have an open combox on his fine blog In The Light Of The Law, but he does have this interesting post about the denial of Holy Communion according to can. 915, vis a vis the story I posted the other day about the priest in the D.C. area who denied Communion to a woman at her mother’s funeral because he had been reliably informed that she was an active and unrepented lesbian.

With my emphases, take it away Dr. Peters:

A thought exercise occasioned by the lesbian/Communion controversy
March 1, 2012
Perhaps this thought exercise might help folks to think through the lesbian/Communion controversy better. Imagine we’re looking at the line of those approaching for holy Communion one Sunday morning at Mass.

I see ten men approaching. One of them is dressed in Neo-Nazi gear. Quick, which one (in my view) is ineligible for holy Communion per c. 915? Would pretty much everyone there know why I turned him away?

I see ten people approaching. It’s Gay Pride Week and two of them are wearing Rainbow Sashes. Quick, which two (in my view) are ineligible for holy Communion per c. 915? Would pretty much everyone there know why I turned them away?

I see ten people approaching. One of them is Nancy Pelosi. Quick, which one (in my view) is ineligible for holy Communion per c. 915? Would pretty much everyone there know why I turned her away (even if they disagreed with my decision)?

Okay, now, I see ten women approaching. One of them is a lesbian. Quick, which one (according to some) is ineligible for holy Communion per c. 915? And how would anyone there know why I turned her away?

See the problem? Everyone knows what Neo-Nazis, and Rainbow Sashers, and Nancy Pelosi look like, but what does a lesbian look like?

Canon 915 (unlike Canon 916!) is about public consequences for public behavior. But “public” must be taken here as understood by canon law, and not necessarily as assumed from casual parlance.

Some evil conduct is so open, protracted, and well-known in the community (whether locally or nationally) that consequences at Communion time should (in a well-ordered body ecclesiastic) come as no surprise to the faith community. But other conduct, even though it is gravely wrong (one element of Canon 915) is not so open, protracted, or well-known (another element of Canon 915) so as to allow the community in question to understand what is happening to the individual in question.

If Nancy Pelosi is turned away from Communion, no one is going to wonder whether it is because she is, say, carrying on a torrid affair against her husband; if Rainbow Sashers are turned away from Communion, no one is going to suspect that, I dunno, they’ve embezzled money from their employers; and if a Neo-Nazi is turned away from Communion, no one is really going to wonder why. But if a some normal-looking woman in line for holy Communion is tuned away from the Sacrament, even politely, how are people supposed to know why? Did she kill maybe someone? Is she a porno queen or a prostitute? Maybe she runs that abortion clinic. Is she cheating on her husband or taking bribes at work? What?

Unless a substantial majority of the community in question (I assuming them to be adults, reasonably aware of Catholic life around them, etc.) knows at the time why a given individual is being denied holy Communion , that’s a pretty good sign that Canon 915 has not been satisfied, and that Canon 912 (and some others norms) has been violated.

Now, sure, over time, and under certain circumstances, any of the behaviors described above can become so well-known in the community that those involved in such activities should be denied holy Communion, provided the other elements of c. 915—like, say, “obstinacy”— are also satisfied.

A few years ago, Bp. Ricken made exactly this kind of determination about, in fact, two Catholic lesbians who had repeatedly proclaimed their aberrant lifestyle in the local media. He contacted them and told them they were not permitted to approach for holy Communion. He acted entirely appropriately, in accord with canon law (and sound sacramental theology), and his action won support from neutral observers. But, notice, his conduct was a far cry from a quick decision regarding ALL elements of c. 915 (not just one or two of them) made a few minutes before Mass one day.

And the fallout from the two cases has been night-and-day different.

At this point I have a question.

First, since the case that provoked this was not a Sunday Mass, but rather a funeral, and since funerals are generally attended by a much more closely knit group of people, and since it is likely that many of the “community” in that church for that funeral probably (that’s an assumption, I know) knew about this woman’s proclivities, could that adequate for considering denial?  Most of the people at that particular funeral would have understood why the priest denied the woman communion.  Iffy, I know.

UPDATE 2055 GMT:

The Washington Post has an essay about this issue written by an official of the Archdiocese of Washington DC, Fr.. William Byrne is Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and pastor of St. Peter Church on Capitol Hill.  This is about, of course, the denial of Communion to Ms. Johnson by a priest of that diocese.

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40 Responses to Canonist Ed Peters on can. 915 and the denial of Holy Communion to sinners

  1. smmclaug says:

    You know, we can debate whether the good pastor had sufficient reason to believe she was in a state of mortal sin–I believe that he did, but whatever–but the bottom line is that in all her behavior since that time she has proved the priest in the case exactly correct in every particular. That being the case isn’t HE the one who deserves the benefit of the doubt here?

  2. trad catholic mom says:

    And here I was taught that I should keep my eyes to myself when going up to receive and when making my way back to the pew.

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    This is third hand, but apparently a “witness” saw the woman go into the sacristy before Mass with her “partner,” and introduced themselves and their relationship. They quickly left. Father tried to follow but was blocked by the “partner.” If this is true, could this have been a set-up? The woman now wants the priest relieved of his ministry.

  4. dans0622 says:

    Father: Yes, I think that would help to satisfy the “manifest” condition. Yet, the minister must also be sure of the “obstinate persistence” of the sinner.

  5. jbas says:

    Smmclaug,
    I think the point the Defender is trying to make is that a communion minister may deny Holy Communion only in cases of public scandal. Canon law does not permit denial of Holy Communion based only on the communicant’s publicly unknown unworthiness to receive. Even if the lady’s later behavior demonstrates her unworthiness to receive, it still doesn’t justify denial of communion if there was no immediate public scandal to be avoided during the Mass.
    But, as Fr. Z mentions, a wedding or funeral usually gathers people mostly known to each other. Surely the whole family knew this lady was openly defying clear Church teaching.

  6. Sissy says:

    trad catholic mom,

    I think you’re right about that….ideally, we shouldn’t be paying any attention to what others are doing or speculating about their circumstances. But there seems to be some tension between that ideal and the reality that the Church says there is such a thing as “scandal”. If we’re all ignoring what everyone else is up to, how would we ever be scandalized? I think there are some situations, like the one here, where it appears possible that a political protest was planned and executed during a funeral Mass precisely for the purpose of causing scandal. There isn’t even any evidence that the priest actually refused her communion – just her claim. All else aside, I have to admit I’ve increased my meager understanding of Canon 915 as a result of this sad story.

  7. See the problem? Everyone knows what Neo-Nazis, and Rainbow Sashers, and Nancy Pelosi look like, but what does a lesbian look like?

    Had Ed seen a picture of Barbara Johnson? I’m not saying everyone who looks like her is a Lesbian–just that the judgment is at least as safer as the one he makes about the neonazi’s from their dress.

    Anyway in a normal mass situation, maybe Nancy Pelosi is only one who should be refused out of all his examples. But in a funeral situation if pretty well everyone there knows she’s the “out” (way out) lesbian daughter of the deceased, I think the requirement of notariety is satisfied.

  8. gloriainexcelsis,

    This account supports what you said. An early blog entry from the same person was quoted in the front-page story in the Washington Post about it.

    From http://awashingtondccatholic.blogspot.com/2012/02/update-on-fr-marcel-guarnizo.html

    [I] just wanted to let you know that there is a lot more to this story than has been published? I was in a meeting with Fr Marcel and heard the whole story? The woman in question brought her lesbian partner into the vesting sacristy just before the funeral Mass and made sure to introduce her partner to Fr Marcel, introducing her as her ‘lover’. He told her then that she should not present herself for Communion. I have been to many Masses said by Father Marcel and he is a good and holy priest. He speaks very softly when giving out Holy Communion, almost whispering “Corpus Christi” — and did not publicly denounce her but rather said in a whisper that he could not give her Holy Communion. He did feel sick at the end of Mass and made sure to have a replacement priest accompany the body and family to the cemetery.

    Father Marcel has a very active role in the very public and weekly vigils at Carhart’s late term abortion clinic in Germantown. He has been a staunch and vociferous defender of life. It is my belief that this is a calculated attempt to discredit him. (Remember – same sex marriage will be signed into law this week in Maryland.) ‘Catholics for Equality’ and other gay groups are feeling pretty strong right now. Fr Marcel is their enemy because he speaks the truth and does not back down…

    I am telling you all this because Fr Marcel cannot speak for himself right now.

  9. Mike says:

    The Archdiocese about an hour ago released a statement re this decision. It’s on the POST website.

  10. I very appreciate the bravery of Fr. Guarnizo. Frankly, I have been preparing for this day for some time. My timetable began by no longer offering the cup, and then no longer using extraordinary ministers. It is near to impossible to enforce 915 while still using EMHCs.

    In 1957, just two years before the call for the Second Vatican Council and the crisis of faith that followed, and just before the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, Sister Lucia (the primary seer at Fatima) said: “The devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, as he knows what it is that offends God the most, and in a short space of time will gain for him the greatest number of souls. Thus the devil does everything to overcome the souls consecrated to God, because in this way he will succeed in leaving the souls of the faithful abandoned by their leaders, thereby the more easily will he seize them.”

    “Strike the shepherd and the sheep scatter” (Zechariah 13:7). There’s no doubt that the devil has focused his assault on the religious leaders of our day. While these leaders may have had noble intentions of charity and pastoral sensitivity, the results have been devastating. Decades of lenient, non-confrontational leadership have left the faithful feeble and prone to be “conformed to the pattern of this world” (Rom. 12:2). St. Augustine once said, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

    As a result, the modern trend among those who believe and teach falsehoods that directly contradict the Church’s teaching, is to consider these pockets of dissent as merely “differing tribes” within the Catholic Church. The unfortunate laxity of discipline has permitted confusion and strife where there should be clarity and harmony, an authentic unity based on the truth.
    Right or wrong, religious leadership seemed to calculate that it is better to refrain from “charged issues,” for fear of offending some or even losing members. However, St. Peter Canisius cautioned: “Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.”

  11. teomatteo says:

    I understand Dr. Peter’s interpretation of cn915 and why it doesn’t apply to this circumstance. But as a veteran football official I have an anology (that probably has no similarity with 915 but hey…) Out of the almost 250 rules/articles that govern the game there is one final rule. That rule which is almost never invoked (as rare as a safety on a two point conversion try, think about it) it is this: The referee (the man with the white hat) is the final arbritrator for the integrity of the game. If a team or player is doing something that makes a travesty of the sport then the referee can make a penalty (including taking away points scored) that restores the balance. Even if the infraction is not spelled out in the rules. The only time I have seen an official do this is many years ago when a quarterback (High School) rigged up his helmet with a microphone and speaker and his wide receiver as well. They scored a touchdown and the opposing team asked the crew to investigate. The rule book at the time did not say it was impermissable but the referee took the points away and penalized the coach for unsportsmanlike conduct. What i am trying to say is this: is there a canon that allows someone to use or that can be invoked when the rules change in our culture (like the advent of electronic gear in the above example)? I say the priest did right with this in mind.

  12. wmeyer says:

    “…Some evil conduct is so open, protracted, and well-known in the community (whether locally or nationally) that consequences at Communion time should (in a well-ordered body ecclesiastic) come as no surprise to the faith community.”

    Perhaps as evidenced by this article?

  13. trad catholic mom says:

    Quote from Sissy:

    trad catholic mom,

    I think you’re right about that….ideally, we shouldn’t be paying any attention to what others are doing or speculating about their circumstances. But there seems to be some tension between that ideal and the reality that the Church says there is such a thing as “scandal”. If we’re all ignoring what everyone else is up to, how would we ever be scandalized? I think there are some situations, like the one here, where it appears possible that a political protest was planned and executed during a funeral Mass precisely for the purpose of causing scandal. There isn’t even any evidence that the priest actually refused her communion – just her claim. All else aside, I have to admit I’ve increased my meager understanding of Canon 915 as a result of this sad story.

    I wasn’t implying that she should have be allowed to receive. In fact I think the priest did the right thing. I was really commenting on the idea that the laity need to know why someone is denied before they are, and the idea that those in the pews should be spending time speculating on why someone was denied.

  14. louder says:

    As a fellow priest, I truly feel for Fr Marcel, especially if it is true that the daughter announced herself to him before mass. His stomach must have been in knots the whole time during the mass. The whole situation reeks of Fr Marcel being “set-up” for something like the publicity that followed. I support him fully because he found himself in a no-win situation, and no priest likes being in the center of something like that (believe it or not, most priests do not like being the center of attention). My prayers and best wishes with Father.

  15. Sissy says:

    wmeyer, that article you linked seems to provide some evidence as to how public, obstinate, and persistent Ms. Johnson’s behavior has been.

  16. Sissy says:

    trad catholic mom,
    responding to your statement “I was really commenting on the idea that the laity need to know why someone is denied before they are, and the idea that those in the pews should be spending time speculating on why someone was denied.”

    I’m not sure I’m understanding you, but I think you’re saying that, contrary to Dr. Peter’s concern, you really don’t feel the need to know why a priest might be denying someone. If that is your position, I’m inclined to agree with you. I’d be happy to leave that in the realm of “that’s between Father and Ms. Johnson”.

  17. wmeyer says:

    I agree, Sissy, which is why I offered it. And it is entirely possible that the priest knew of her public pronouncements. As she declares in that article, they had been in love for 30 years, so now 36. They seem pretty intent on “advancing the cause.”

  18. pm125 says:

    Respect of and by the Priest for the Eucharist, woman, and souls of deceased and others there v. Disrespect of and by the woman for the Priest, the Eucharist, and souls of deceased and others there.
    Holiness v. Malevolence
    Truth v. Lies
    Fortitude v. Insult
    2012 times are coming in like a lion – we have to keep the Lamb in sight.

  19. Jonathan says:

    OK, but now what’s going to happen this Sunday, since we all know she’s a lesbian, and she is now very publicly and obstinately living in mortal sin? If for whatever reason Can 915 didn’t apply before, doesn’t it definitely apply now?

  20. chantgirl says:

    wmeyer, that clarifies things a bit. Sounds like this was a priest drive-by.

  21. Bender says:

    I see ten men approaching. One of them is dressed in Neo-Nazi gear. Quick, which one (in my view) is ineligible . . .

    Thanks for the qualifier there. Because whatever your “view” is, it is not your call. It is the call of the priest under his exercise of prudential judgment, as guided by the voice of God in his conscience, acting in the capacity of one in persona Christi. We can have as many academic what-ifs that people want, but it is not the province of us or canon lawyers to dictate to the celebrating priest (especially when arbitarily restricting the issue to any particular provision of canon law).

    Rather, it is within the province and competence of the priest, as guided by the Lord, and under the direction and governence of the bishop. If he decides to withhold Communion on any particular occasion, the action of the priest is entitled to respect and deference. And if the priest decides to give Communion, then again, the action of the priest is entitled to respect and deference. It is not our place to judge.

  22. anilwang says:

    The key problem that I see is that Canon 915 says nothing about public versus private visibility.

    I really don’t like the examples. The so called person in Neo-Nazi gear might just be a punk whose only true sin is extreme anger and extreme self mutilation. The rainbow was originally a sign given to Noah long before it was co-oped by the velvet gestapo, so a rainbow slash does not automatically imply persisting in a grave sin. The woman caught in adultery was a known sinner, but she was forgiven by Jesus *after* all the crowd left so they wouldn’t know it. Canon 915 doesn’t apply to *any* of these, even if people in the parish imagine otherwise.

    On the flip side, if no-one else knows that a Catholic has fallen away and becomes Anglican, can they receive communion since no-one else knows? No. Of course not. Public knowledge of sins has nothing to do with reception of communion.

    I don’t know if canon 915 applies in this case since we don’t have enough information to know if the priest knew if she obstinately persisted in grave sin (we simply do not have his private conversation with her), but it is clear that the her response is way out of proportion to the priest’s actions even if he was wrong to apply canon 915, and IMO a public reprimand by the bishops is not appropriate for a private denial of communion. Yes, it is private. The priest did not go to the front of the mass and yell out “Hey everyone, this lesbian wants to receive communion…. Nah nah nah nah nah, you can’t have it”. He said no, likely in a low voice, in the communion line where no-one would even know he denied her communion if she didn’t raise a stink to the press.

  23. lh says:

    Praying for Father. These women (instruments of satan) set him up. Their relationship seems to be very public. God bless him for his courage. We need more like him. The faithful are tired of the mockery and sacrileges being made of the Holy Eucharist.

  24. Peggy R says:

    The more I read, the more I think this is a set-up. Also, why should the media care about an internal Catholic matter as who receives communion? Ms. Johnson set up the priest and ran to the media when he did the right thing. This is not a debate for the public, except where it may result in greater education to the public. But it’s not going that constructively, it looks.

  25. Joseph-Mary says:

    This woman has lived outside the Church for years!~ They are militant homosexuals if you believe the article and very public about it. They did this deliberately; she is not a practicing Catholic. That alone is enough for someone not to present themselves for Communion. She was disobedient and in her PRIDE she presented herself and then ran to the press.

    There was sin that day but not on the part of the priest who chose not to profane the Body of Christ and had already asked this woman not to come to Communion. No one has the right to Communion; it is a privilege.

  26. Denis says:

    With all due respect to Ed Peters…what a terrible argument! What does an unrepentant adulterer look like? Yet, a priest would be right to deny such a person communion. THe purpose of denying communion isn’t just to avoid scandal; it can also be done for the benefit the sinner being deprived of the sacrament.

    [Priests are obliged to follow Canon Law. They can't just do what they want.]

  27. Peggy R says:

    Receiving Our Lord at Mass is not like getting a piece of cake at a wedding or treat bags at a birthday party. Not every one has to get one.

  28. Well, to make one point applicable to several above, sure, if you change the facts of a case enough, you’ll get a different result. If, say, Father read and remembered and recognized the lady from the article 6 years (rank speculation, that), and if almost everyone at the funeral knew her well (unknown guess), and if the funeral gathering sufficed to count as the pertinent “community” (canonically doubtful), and if all of the other elements of c. 915 were satisfied (more conjecture), then yes, Father would probably have acted rightly. But what’s that prove (except, maybe, to underscore that c. 915 is, as I have said all along, the go-to norm here, and not c. 916, etc.)?

    By the way, her picture and identity and public position on lesbianism are very well-known now, at least in that area. Concluding, too, to her obstinacy would not be such a leap now. In other words, the benefit of the doubt to which she was entitled on the most likely facts the first time around is much less applicable to her now. Or so it seems to me.

  29. anilwang, you wrote, The key problem that I see is that Canon 915 says nothing about public versus private visibility.

    But Canon 915 does say something about the sin being public, here’s the text (my emphasis):

    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.

    “Manifest” here means that it’s publicly known (as Ed Peters points out). Furthermore, that the sin be mortal is not a requirement. A sin’s being mortal requires not just gravity, but also full knowledge and deliberate consent:

    “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also
    committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”(CCC 1857)

    That sin can be grave without being mortal is why (for the avoidance of scandal) the law allows people to be denied Communion even if some kind of mitigation might apply in their case that allows them to not be guilty of the sin (like in your discussion of the angry punk.)

    Denis, if the unrepentant adulterer’s sin isn’t public, the priest can’t deny them Communion unless it can be done without injuring the good name which they have a right to enjoy.

  30. mamajen says:

    Thank you Dr. Peters for explaining Canon Law in a way that is easy to understand.

    What I have gathered from Dr. Peters and Father Z (somebody please correct me if I am wrong) is that a priest cannot deny someone the Eucharist unless their offenses are manifest and obstinate–they are obviously and willfully disobeying church teachings, and to let them partake could lead others astray. Otherwise, it is the responsibility of the individual to determine whether he or she is in an acceptable state to receive communion, and I don’t mean that the rules are subjective, just that it is the individual’s responsibility to learn and apply them. I did not know this before. I had thought that it was up to the priest’s discretion and that if he was “pretty sure” someone was in a state of sin he could refuse communion. I was mistaken.

    At first this kind of flies in the face of what I have always thought about communion because I take it so seriously, but now it makes complete sense (assuming I am understanding correctly). Priests are only human and not capable of seeing into a person’s soul. As Father Z has emphasized, things are not always as they seem. Without Canon Law, even a well-meaning and holy priest could inadvertently do more harm than good. The complexity and wisdom of our Church’s laws are fascinating!

    As for the particular example we have been discussing, I’m still not 100% sure whether the priest was right or wrong, but that’s alright–it’s not up to me! I do believe the priest tried to do what he thought was right despite being placed in an awkward situation, and therefore I support him and hope the storm passes soon.

  31. mamajen. Someone who reads, thinks, and comes to understand.

  32. trad catholic mom says:

    Sissy, yes I also believe it should left between father and Ms Johnson.

  33. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Father Z,

    “[Priests are obliged to follow Canon Law. They can't just do what they want.]”

    Tell that to our bishops over the last few decades.

    Fr. Marcel here was trying to do the right thing here, at least. Perhap the author of “Once Upon a Dyke” can start presenting herself to Cardinal Wuerl or one of his Eucharistic Ministers for communion from now on—I’m sure he’d be happy to give It to her.

  34. Sword40 says:

    Its a sad situation, but I’d support the priest on this issue. I know its a “fine line” but I think the priest needs the support of his Bishop.

  35. Denis says:

    It’s not clear to me why “manifest” should mean “known by the whole community” rather than just “obvious” or “not secret”. It is also not clear to me that can. 915 permits denial of communion only for the benefit of everyone but the obstinate sinner. Let’s suppose that Bob spends all of his money collecting pornography. He doesn’t make a big show of it, so it’s not known to the whole community, but he don’t hide it, either–he’s not embarassed about it, nor is he afraid that others will find out about it. When his priest warns Bob that the consumption of pornography is gravely sinful, Bob tells the priest that the Church is wrong about pornography and that Father should mind his own business. Would it be a violation of canon law for that priest, for the good of that sinner to deny communion? It’s hard to believe that Bob isn’t “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”.

  36. JKnott says:

    Aside from all this “thinking” about the letter of the law, just imagine how the Lord would have been pleased if the woman involved bowed humbly and quietly to the wishes of the priest. How old fashioned.
    St. Therese’s sister Celine took for her motto: “Who loses, wins.” This dear priest who thought about the good of a soul and the sacrilege to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior…..wins.
    That is my thinking and understanding.
    We have lost a deep , consistent and prayerful sense of the supernatural these days.

  37. filioque says:

    Is c. 915 the only canon under which Communion may be denied? And are we making a logical error and misreading 915? The canon say that if a person persists in manifest grave sin, then he is not to be admitted. That is not the same as saying he is not to be admitted only if he persists in manifest grave sin. I think that is essentially the argument that some are making here. They are finding that some element of 915 might not have been satisfied and therefore Communion had to be given. It doesn’t necessarily follow.

  38. filioque says:

    Fr. Z alerted us that on Thursday the Archdiocese of Washington put out another statement. I think it is somewhat encouraging, from Fr. G’s point of view. After recounting Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist and citing c. 915, it says (my emphases):

    Ideally, the priest will handle such a situation pastorally by discussing the consequences of such sin with the person privately before actually denying them Communion.

    “The Archdiocese of Washington recognizes that the prime obligation to determine one’s preparedness to receive Communion falls to the persons who are presenting themselves for Communion. In extreme cases where someone has been formally excommunicated or is trying to use the Eucharist to make a political statement it is appropriate to consider denying Communion. The reception of the Eucharist is a blessing and a grace. We should receive Jesus with the intention of becoming more like him. No one is entitled to the Eucharist. It is a free gift and should be received with humility and reverence.

    “The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. As such it is a sign of unity, but it must be a unity that is based on authentic Church teaching and mutual respect in charity.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/barbara-johnson-and-the-importance-of-communion-a-statement-from-the-washington-archdiocese/2012/03/01/gIQAWeiikR_story.html?hpid=z5

    This is a welcome if belated balance to the unqualified apology that was issued on Wednesday. I hope it means that the Archdiocese is creating some space to say that ideally Father would have had a conversation with her before Mass, but since that was precluded by her own actions, he acted with good intent in a difficult situation. Above all, it was Ms. Johnson’s prime obligation not to present herself for Communion as she evidently knew that she was not prepared in the eyes of the Church.
    Well, we can hope.

  39. Random Friar says:

    I got this elsewhere, from EWTN Answers, as answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL.

    Finally, canon 1007 excludes the giving of the sacrament [Anointing of the Sick] to those who are manifestly unrepentant. If the person is still conscious the way to the state of grace is through the Sacrament of Penance, not through Anointing of the Sick. Having repented, they can then be anointed. If the sick person is unconscious and is known to have obstinately persisted in grave sin up to the point of losing consciousness, with no sign of repentance, they cannot be anointed. However, this is a high bar for denying the sacrament. Such a person who showed even an implicit sign of repentance (e.g. “please call the priest”), could be anointed. Another person who while not an obstinate sinner was nonetheless in the state of grave sin, but who had manifested an habitual desire to die a Catholic, could be anointed, even if he became unconscious in the very act of sinning. The basis of the different treatment is a prudent judgment that given their habitual frame of mind the person would repent if he could.

    This is a more extreme circumstance, but I wonder if this analogously applies: if Ms. Johnson were to call the priest for Viaticum for herself, then the bar would be much lower. However, in good health, in a known relationship that is sinful and scandalous (I have a feeling the family and many guests would have known), with no apparent repentance, then it would seem that Ms. Johnson would or should be denied any sacrament. No?

    I am not a priest trying to freelance the law; I am a priest trying to understand it better.

  40. Random Friar: I think you have a good approach.