What does “manifest sin” mean when talking Communion and can. 915?

Please use the sharing buttons!  Thanks!

can. 915I received a question from a reader this morning:

Without any regard for c. 915, which is the morally correct thing for a priest to do: give the Holy Eucharist to some he knows – who in fact has admitted to the priest right before Mass – that they are committing sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion and obey a policy laid down by his ordinary saying that he must not deny anyone Holy Communion, or deny them Holy Communion and disobey the policy of his ordinary?

It depends on how well known the person’s actions/thoughts/declarations are. Can. 915 says that a person must be persevering in manifest grave sin, that is to say, it must be manifest (apparent, disclosed, public, evident, unmistakable, observable, visible, ascertainable) that a person is doing gravely sinful things.

By coincidence, today the Canonical Defender, Prof. Peters has, on his exceptional blog In The Light Of The Law (go spike his stats), a manifestly useful post about the concept of “manifest”.  My emphases, slight reformating, and comments.

A brief thought on the phrase ‘manifest sin’ in Canon 915
March 17, 2012

As I look through the continuing blogosphere commentary on the lesbian/Communion case, I see many people confusing the concept of “manifest sin” in Canon 915 with the notion of, I dunno, something like “manifestly sinful”. Those two phrases mean different things*, I suggest, and Canon 915 speaks only in terms of the former, not the latter.

In 2008 I published a CLSA advisory opinion on Canon 915 and two years later posted it on my Canon 915 resource page. I paraphrase part of that opinion for use today:

Manifest. The additional requirement that gravely sinful behavior be manifest prior to withholding the Eucharist helps distinguish Canon 915, which operates in realm of public order, from Canon 916, which informs one’s personal responsibility to receive the Eucharist worthily.  [Get that?  Can. 915 – public, can. 916 – private.]

Reception of Communion at Mass is a public action in service to rendering liturgical worship to God; it is not the place for the proclamation of another’s private behavior. [Which is why when you come up to Fr. Z for Communion wearing, I dunno, a “rainbow sash” on a day when a pro-homosexuality groups say they are going to churches wearing rainbow sashes, Fr. Z will deny you Communion.  It is a manifest, public gesture during the public distribution of Communion.]

However sinful it might be, conduct that is not already widely known in the community is not manifest [NB:] as canon law understands that term in this context. In something of a parallel to Canon 1340 § 2 (which prohibits imposing public penances for occult transgressions) and Canon 1330 (which prohibits any penalties in cases where no one has perceived the offense) the public withholding of the Eucharist for little known sins, even though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law.  [Get that?]

Some folks seem to get the canonical distinction between public and private conduct but think the Church is being too lenient in dealing with grave-but-as-yet-private sin. They’re free to make that case, though I think the Church’s wisdom is more than canon-law deep here. Anyway, though they disagree with the law, they understand it, so my job is done in their regard. + + +

* Example: I keep saying that a would-be Communion recipient’s brief disclosure to a minister a few minutes before Mass that she has a female “lover” does not suffice to verify, among other things, that the sin apparently being admitted to is canonically manifest in the community; others say, c’mon, lesbian sexual activity is manifestly sinful. See? [See?] I’m talking about what Canon 915 actually says, while they are talking about what they think Canon 915 says.

Thank you, Dr. Peters, for the manifestly useful distinctions.

Qui bene distinguit, bene docet.

Go buy can. 915 stuff now!  Click HERE.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, 1983 CIC can. 915, The Drill and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

123 Responses to What does “manifest sin” mean when talking Communion and can. 915?

  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Thank you, Dr. Peters, for the manifestly useful distinctions.”

    We live to serve. :)

  2. AGA says:

    We can all ultimately thank Gratian and several Popes Gregory for this whole mess.

  3. BillyHW says:

    Free Father Guarnizo!

  4. “Manifest” would seem to mean, “more than the priest knowing.”

    If correct, let that sink in.

    A person comes to a priest (and it would apply, would it not, to whoever distributes holy communion), and that person knows that person is sinful–but not necessarily anyone else…

    Seems like Canon 915 does not apply.

    (All this sets to one side what one can actually know, versus what one thinks he knows. I can know that Sylvester, standing in front of me, is cheating on his wife; but how can I know whether he’s been to confession in the meantime?)

  5. LionelAndrades says:

    Saturday, March 17, 2012
    CANONIST REJECTS VERITATIS SPLENDOR
    Canonist Peters thinks Fr.Guarnizo was wrong in witholding the Eucharist to the Barbara Johnson.
    http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/1733/

    Edward Peters errs in assuming that the outward action does not indicate the internal thoughts or motivation. This is the moral theology of Fr.Bernard Haring and Fr.Charles Curran.
    Homosexuality and lesbianism will always be a mortal sin.It is grave matter and the woman has admitted it in this case.She persists in receiving the Eucharist and still persists in the sin.

    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.it/2012/03/canonist-rejects-veritatis-splendor.html

    [I will let this comment remain here, but add that it is both incorrect and that it smacks of libel.]

  6. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. MF. Right. (There a bit more to it than not knowing whether the went to confession, but basically, yes, you see the external forum point.)

  7. mamajen says:

    I think it’s a difficult concept for many of us lay Catholics (and even religious) to embrace, that primary responsibility for being in the proper state to receive communion lies with the individual, that a priest may be required to distribute communion to someone who ought not receive. When we understand that the Eucharist IS Jesus, it is easy to sympathize with any priest who would strive to protect Jesus from people who we think are not worthy of receiving Him. However, this line of thinking is such a slippery slope.

    I’m not sure if I am correct in drawing this comparison, but every time I think of this situation, I think of Jesus sharing the last supper with Judas, Peter lopping off an ear, Jesus admonishing him, and then ultimately turning himself over for arrest knowing full well what was about to happen. Of course there are other examples in the bible of Jesus dealing with people who the apostles or others thought should be kept away. I’m not saying that the distribution of communion should be treated lightly by any means, or that we should encourage anyone and everyone to trot up to the altar rail, but it is ultimately a matter between Jesus and the individual. It would be a tragedy if we humans mistakenly kept Jesus from someone who He could help. I hope everyone will take the time to try to understand why Canon Law is so wise and crucial.

  8. mike cliffson says:

    Praise the lord he has NOT put me in any authority to judge! I would react to the fact that trial by press has been so unfair in so many instances in the anglosphere, howsoever responsible or even morally guilty those involved may have turned out to have been, and the church has not managed to avoid the impression, howsoever unjustified , of going along with”trial by press” in this case.
    I note that canon law mentions “the faithful”.
    Who are the faithful in canon law? it is one of the takenforgranted delights/priveliges/wholly underserved fountains of grace etc for a Catholic that one can bop about on three continents, as I have , walk into the nearest church , and receive communion, unchallenged, routine.
    Yet there are instances where I have first hand knowledge of communion being refused where you can have wholly unbaptized followers of certain religions, and even possibly-once-baptized satanists, frequenting a particular church.
    Surely such refusal should be canonical – how wide is the definition of “faithful”?

  9. Cantate says:

    I noticed that Cdl. Wuerl, Bp. Knestout, and Fr. Guarnizo all proffered their respective condolences to Barbara Johnson on the loss of her mother. I wonder if it occurred to Ms. Johnson just what she was doing to disrespect and dishonor her mother by this egregious act of sacrilege– AT her mother’s funeral Mass, of all places.

  10. ContraMundum says:

    “Manifest” obviously must mean more than “known to the priest”. For example, a priest may know that a person is obstinately persisting in a grave sin because of what he hears in the confessional; the person may be impenitent and denied absolution. This would still, as I understand it, be under the seal of the confessional, and the priest could not act in such a way as to reveal it.

    There are still grey areas, though. If all the would-be communicant’s family knows, but no one else, is that “manifest”? Or his co-workers? I would tend to think that a secret that is known to more than a few people is generally not a secret any more; would that make it manifest?

  11. ContraMundum says:

    “Manifest” obviously must mean more than “known to the priest”. For example, a priest may know that a person is obstinately persisting in a grave sin because of what he hears in the confessional; the person may be impenitent and denied absolution. This would still, as I understand it, be under the seal of the confessional, and the priest could not act in such a way as to reveal it.

    There are still grey areas, though. If all the would-be communicant’s family knows, but no one else, is that “manifest”? Or his co-workers? I would tend to think that a secret that is known to more than a few people is generally not a secret any more; would that make it manifest?

    Unrelated observation: There are now 2 “preview” buttons flanking the “post” button. The right one does not work. I’m seeing this using Firefox on Windows Vista.

  12. ContraMundum says:

    Sorry for the double-posting. I must have hit “post” when playing with the preview buttons.

  13. Perhaps what we need is to have, before each and every Mass, an announcement along the following lines:

    > Holy Communion is a union with God the Son via his sacramental body and blood–we really mean it’s Jesus.
    > It’s only for those who are Catholics, in union with Rome (and all those covered by Canon 844, see Mr. Peter’s in the vestibule for details), who are also in a state of grace.
    > ‘State of grace’ means not conscious of any mortal sin, meaning you didn’t do anything the Church defines as gravely sinful, knowingly and freely.
    > Here is a list of those things that are gravely sinful…
    > If you did any of these things, Father Z is in the confessional over there.
    > And you have to have fasted for one hour before communion.
    > And no hand-holding!
    > I’m sorry, time has run out, we will proceed to the baptism scheduled following Mass. Thank you for coming!

  14. mamajen says:

    There’s another thing that’s been gnawing at my mind a bit… we know that the sinfulness must be manifest in order to invoke 915, but what about the individual’s understanding of their actions? In order to be mortally sinning, they need to understand the seriousness of their actions and proceed anyway. In cases like Nancy Pelosi and this lesbian activist, we know they’ve learned from Church leaders that their actions are sinful and they disagree with the Church. But, in other cases, even if it seems that quite a few people know about a person’s actions, we do not always know the level of their understanding, what they have been taught along the way, etc. Does this have any bearing on the “manifest” aspect?

  15. martin.c says:

    “Can. 843 §1 Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.”

  16. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. MF, I thought you were being serious. Now I am not sure. Anyway.

    mamajen. more good sense from you. re your second post, briefly (and there are some exceptions re obstinate and de iure public), but no, we need not usually delve into one’s ‘understanding’ of XYZ before concluding that XYZ is grave, manifest, etc, for 915 purposes.

  17. ContraMundum says:

    @mamajen

    People are supposed to be catechized before they receive their first Communion. That catechesis should include a discussion of the grave sins; it should also include the necessity to inform oneself about right and wrong. Finally, if someone is truly manifestly persisting in grave sin but otherwise trying to lead a good Catholic life, his fellow parishioners and other Catholic friends have an obligation to point out, “Hey, you ought not to be doing that.”

    I think the idea that someone could be innocent due to ignorance while obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin just doesn’t work.

  18. mamajen says:

    @Dr. Peters

    Thank you!

  19. Denis says:

    This self-declared buddhist lesbian activist openly and aggressively declared to Father Guarnizo that she openly and proudly lives in a lesbian relationsip, yet Father Guarnizo was negligent to interpret that as her declaration that she was “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”. It’s almost as if Johnson read canon 915 and tried to do everything possible to make it clear that she obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin, only to have her plans thwarted by a bishop eager to throw an orthodox priest under the bus. Yet we are somehow expected to suspend common sense and agree with the Bishop and the canon lawyers that, why, yes, Ms. Johnson is the victim here and Father Guarnizo the one who deserves punishment. I’m sorry but I just cannot accept the act of an authority when it behaves illogically. Didn’t the Holy Father warn us about the dangers of blindly following religious authorities? You cannot square a circle and you cannot turn Ms. Johnson into your ordinary ‘private sinner’ no matter what letters you might have before or after your name.

  20. Clinton says:

    As usual, Dr. Peters is logical and dispassionate in his explication of canon law.
    Too often lately I read criticism of his opinions from people who disagree with
    his conclusions but cannot offer a legal counter-argument that holds water. The
    man is simply stating his informed view of what the law says, not that he
    likes where it takes the case of Fr. Guarnizo.

    Back to this term ‘manifest': just how manifest must this grave sin be? It seems
    to me (a man without legal training, mind you), that in the case of Fr. Guarnizo,
    where Communion was withheld in the context of a funeral Mass, a reasonable
    person could assume most of those present knew of the deceased’s daughter and
    her lesbian lover. In fact, until she announced her situation in the sacristy, Fr.
    Guarnizo may have been one of the few present who did not know about
    them. Would this situation then meet the criteria to be considered ‘manifest’?

  21. martin.c says:

    Can. 843 §1 Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

    May I ask to those more versed in canon law than this humble layman: Wasn’t the fact that Ms. Johnson unsolicitedly presented herself as having a female lover and that such lover prevented Fr. Guernicio from obtaining further clarifications from Ms. Johnson, constitute enough evidence for the priest to consider her as not being properly disposed?

  22. ContraMundum says:

    @Denis

    Please find and point out to me in anything that Dr. Peters has written where Johnson is called “the victim”.

    Maybe it’s time for us to stop pretending that in each and every case where two people are in conflict, one person is wrong and the other is completely right.

  23. Joseph-Mary says:

    Yes, her sin was manifest–decades of lesbian activism that surely the whole family knew about.

    The priest may not have known the whole extent of her manifest and persistant lesbian activism nor mayhe have known that she was NOT a practicing Catholic but a declared buddhist but…..

    In his shoes and if I had his courage, I would ‘offend’ man rather than God. We can split hairs over the legalism and all that but I do indeed applaud him.

    For decades folks went to their bishop (I myself did) to let him know of the liturgical and other abuses or maybe the behavior or homosexuality of a priest and the bishops for the most part did nothing. No amount of complaints brought any results. How many left the Church with broken hearts over these years because they could no longer endure? I left my hometown and moved to a new diocese because I did not wish to do what many of my friends did which was to go Greek Orthodox, protestant, or jsut drop out.

    The bishops who let people set up their priests and throw them under the bus…..well, lets put it this way…they may not be the ones who will be canonized in the future.

  24. Dr. Peters:

    I’m sorry, I do take this seriously, but I was trying to make a point in a light-hearted way: namely that the sort of announcement that is going to cover all bases, so that everyone really gets it, might be too long.

  25. poohbear says:

    This is how the average person in the pew sees the situation: So, in simple terms, no one will ever be denied communion, right?

    Most people don’t have access to canon law, and if they do, don’t have the ability to understand it. What they see is this: if in this situation communion can’t be denied, why do I have to fast, go to confession, be in a state of grace, etc, etc. So they stop going to confession, only go to Mass occasionally and still receive communion, because, well, that’s what ever one else does.

    I have been following Dr Peters’ posts, and can understand what canon law says, but I still wonder why I have to follow the rules and others don’t.

  26. Fr. Terry Donahue says:

    @mamajen

    Usually in Canon 915 situations there is some type of warning given, which, if ignored, gives evidence of “obstinate persistence”, and would educate the person that what he is doing is gravely sinful. But in any case, the decision to withhold communion is not a judgment on the persons subjective guilt:

    When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
    (Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF, Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles)

  27. Denis says:

    ContraMundum,

    The Archdiocese apologized to Ms. Johnson and publicly rebuked and suspended Father Guarnizo. That treats Ms. Johnson as the victim and Father Guarnizo as the perpetrator. I didn’t claim that Mr. Peters called Ms. Johnson a “victim.”

    As to the assertion that Mr. Peters is just talking about the law, nothing more…that claim is false. Canon 915. says what it says. The question is whether it is reasonable for a priest to view Ms. Johnson as someone who “obstinately persists in manifest grave sin.” The answer, quite obviously, is “yes”. She isn’t a mere ‘private sinner’ who confessed a private sin to a priest–she openly and proudly lives as a lesbian and is an activist for lesbian causes. [We know that now, but the priest and the congregation didn’t know it at the time.] How someone can turn such a person into a private sinner is beyond me. All of this bla bla seems to be nothing more than CYA for a cowardly bishop. [And that, sir, was a public statement. Tread carefully.]

  28. Poohbear:

    “I have been following Dr Peters’ posts, and can understand what canon law says, but I still wonder why I have to follow the rules and others don’t.”

    Because:

    > It pleases the Lord;
    > It spares you going to hell.

    Are those good enough reasons?

    There are many things that folks will always need to be taught, among which is that receiving the Eucharist while not in a state of grace doesn’t help. But then, not being in a state of grace itself doesn’t help.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  29. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    @ Fr. MF. Okay, glad to hear it. Humor is tricky in comboxes, we have only words before us, and I’ve been dealing with lots of sarcasm on this point. Best, edp.

  30. mamajen says:

    @ContraMundum

    I think Dr. Peters has rendered my question moot, at least as far as 915 is concerned, and I don’t want to veer too far off-topic with my musings, but I don’t think the scenario is impossible. Certainly hard to fathom for those of us who actively practice our faith, though! Unfortunately there are people who call themselves Catholic for whatever reason even if they have only been baptized as such and were never really raised in the faith. They often end up causing scandal and confusion, and I think that is what 915 is intended to prevent…so it makes sense that even if they’re not fully aware of what they’re doing, we need to protect the many other people who may be influenced by their actions and the Church’s response to them.

  31. ronconte says:

    Dr. Peter’s position and Fr. Z’s position on Canon 915 are substantially different. [No. They are not.] Wearing “a rainbow sash on a day when a pro-homosexuality groups says they are going to churches wearing rainbow sashes” does not fit Dr. Peter’s description of obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin. If Fr. Z. denied someone communion on that basis, would his action be licit and moral? [Yes, to both.] A woman approaching a priest in the sacristy, and introducing another woman as her lover, is more manifest, and expresses a sin that is more obstinately persistent, and more grave than wearing a rainbow sash. [Go back to the top and read the entry again, slowly.]

  32. mamajen says:

    @Fr. Terry

    I should have read through the comments before I posted just now. Thank you for enlightening me–it makes sense that there would be some kind of warning first, and in that case the scenario I presented would be virtually impossible.

  33. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    @ronconte. Please read what i expressly wrote on that very example in earlier post in this series. Fr. Z would act squarely within the law in withholding as he says on the facts alleged.

  34. HyacinthClare says:

    I think most of us here are expressing what I also think: I hear canon 915. I hear Dr. Peters. I understand what he is saying. I sure don’t like it in this situation, but I understand it. Thank you, Dr. Peters. Thank you, Fr. Z, for letting us work this out together.

  35. acardnal says:

    In the end (and I mean THE END), whenever someone is knowingly in a state of mortal sin and presents oneself to receive Holy Communion, they may get away with it in this mortal life but if they die unrepentant, they will face not only God’s mercy but his judgment, too. The Almighty is a God of justice and mercy. Many forget the “justice” part. He doesn’t like sin. [And God cannot be fooled.]

  36. Denis says:

    The important question is not ‘What is “manifest sin” as understood by can. 915.?’ The important question is: ‘Was it unreasonable for Father Guarnizo to suppose that Ms. Johnson is someone who “obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin”?’ To ask the former question is to muddy the issue. The answer to the second question is, quite obviously, ‘no’. It was perfectly reasonable to interpret Ms. Johnson’s words not as a private confession of a private sin but as a public declaration of a public lifestyle. Some priests–perhaps even the majority–might not have acted as Father Guarnizo did. But it was not unreasonable for Father Guarnizo to act as he did. The apology to Ms. Johnson and the public rebuke and punishment of Father Guarnizo are terribly unjust and send a terrible message.

  37. mamajen says:

    @poohbear

    It’s very unfortunate that you feel the way you do! We should all strive to do what we know is right and pleasing to God, even if we are the only ones doing so. Focus on yourself, and maybe go read about the prodigal son.

  38. ContraMundum says:

    Wow, Denis, so you and I get to decide this? I didn’t realize we had that kind of authority. Or maybe it’s just you?

    One thing you need to realize about anything technical — be it canon law or an engineering diagram — is that it really is technical. That’s why people have to go to college to learn to be canon lawyers or engineers; high-school literacy may be sufficient to recognize the words, but not necessarily to understand them as they are used in the document.

    You are not a bishop, so you have no authority. You pretty clearly lack the letters after your name, so you’re relying on your mastery of newspaper English to assume you understand what the law means. I’m in exactly the same situation you are. It seems to me the appropriate role for average Catholics like us is to defer to the bishop and the referendery of the Apostolic Signatura.

  39. ronconte says:

    A question for Fr. Z. then. If a man or woman approaches you before Mass, and informs you that he or she is a homosexual, living with an illicit lover, will you deny Communion as Fr. Marcel did? [Since you probably trying to set a trap, get me to make a public declaration people can flog me with, i.e., to do what Johnson did to poor Fr. G, my first inclination is to shoot back, “Come try it and find out.” Since this whole thing broke, I have thought a great deal about can. 915 and I have started to think about these scenarios. I think other priests should as well. o{]:¬) ]

  40. Denis says:

    Contra Mundum,

    You are dodging the question. Was it unreasonable for Father Guarnizo to suppose that Ms. Johnson, having proudly declared her lesbian lifestyle, is someone who “obstinately persists in manifest grave sin”? Can you honestly say that no reasonable priest would interpret Ms. Johnson’s words as a declaration of obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin? I can’t. Other priests might have acted differently, but it was neither unreasonable nor a violation of canon law for Father Guarnizo to act as he did.

  41. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z, thanks for your comment above. Obviously, I felt the same way, but coming from me, the reply would have been less effective. And now, I’m off to German class. :)

    [Viel Spaß!]

  42. Denis says:

    @ Father Z. [We know that now, but the priest and the congregation didn’t know it at the time.]

    No, at the time, Ms. Johnson introduced her ‘lover’ to the priest. It is quite reasonable to interpret that as an open declaration of a lifestyle. I don’t see how anyone can say to Father Guarnizo: ‘Well, Father, you obviously acted inappropriately; I mean, Ms. Johnson was quite obviously confessing a private sin to you.’ That just belies common sense. At most he erred on the side of caution, which is not a violation of Ms. Johnson’s rights.

  43. ContraMundum says:

    Denis,

    Yes, I am saying that a reasonable and well-trained priest would not jump to conclusions as you are doing. A reasonable and well-trained priest would probably ask, “Would you like to make a confession.” It would be worth the delay.

    To use an example I have used before, I am practically sure that OJ Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, as I was during the course of the whole trial. However, I would have voted to acquit him if I were on the jury. That is because all the real evidence against him passed through the hands of the police, and one of those crucial links was caught lying on the stand. That introduces a small but real reasonable doubt. The acquittal of someone like OJ Simpson is a price we have to be prepared to pay for the presumption of innocence and the standard of a reasonable doubt.

    Our criminal courts have a presumption of innocence that would seem totally alien to those from different cultures. Canon law also has its set of presumptions. They have been explained to you, but you just don’t want to listen. It’s “obvious” to you when someone is in obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin, just like it was “obvious” to me that Simpson was guilty when he went on that remarkable slow-speed chase in the white Ford Bronco.

  44. Clinton says:

    ronconte, I believe Dr. Peters’ article, which Fr. Z quoted in his original post,
    should answer your question. Specifically the bit about Canon 1340/2 and
    Canon 1330.

    I still have a question about what constitutes ‘manifest’. As I asked in my earlier
    post, in the context of a funeral Mass, where the people present could be reason-
    ably assumed to know the deceased’s daughter, could the criteria for considering
    the sin ‘manifest’ be thus met? I can see how, in a regular parish Mass where
    Ms. Johnson might be a stranger to everyone present, her sin would not be
    manifest to those around her, but in the case of this funeral?…

  45. poohbear says:

    There are many things that folks will always need to be taught, among which is that receiving the Eucharist while not in a state of grace doesn’t help. But then, not being in a state of grace itself doesn’t help.

    Exactly, not only does it not help, I thought it was a mortal sin, or did that change too?

    But my point is so many people have not been taught this over the last 40 years. My experience is that the majority of my Catholic friends do not read about the faith, they don’t visit good blogs like this one and the only thing they see is what’s in the paper or on the news, and this is why more and more people are receiving communion when they are not properly prepared, and trying to explain to them why its important to follow the Church’s teaching just gets me the rolly-eye look or I’m told I’m too rigid. Now they see that even church law backs the person in this situation– this is a lose-lose situation. Satan is having a field day with this and its very sad.

    I won’t post any more comments, I’m not smart enough to have an opinion, I just know what I see in my day-to-day life and how this is playing out in the real world.

  46. poohbear says:

    There are many things that folks will always need to be taught, among which is that receiving the Eucharist while not in a state of grace doesn’t help. But then, not being in a state of grace itself doesn’t help.

    Exactly, not only does it not help, I thought it was a mortal sin, or did that change too?

    But my point is so many people have not been taught this over the last 40 years. My experience is that the majority of my Catholic friends do not read about the faith, they don’t visit good blogs like this one and the only thing they see is what’s in the paper or on the news, and this is why more and more people are receiving communion when they are not properly prepared, and trying to explain to them why its important to follow the Church’s teaching just gets me the rolly-eye look or I’m told I’m too rigid. Now they see that even church law backs the person in this situation– this is a lose-lose situation. Satan is having a field day with this and its very sad.

    I know I’m not smart enough to have an opinion on this situation, but I know what I see in my day-to-day life and how this is playing out in the real world.

  47. poohbear says:

    oops, sorry for the triple post, can it be removed. I was having trouble with the preview button.

  48. ContraMundum says:

    I think it’s the “extra” preview button. That may sending up posts. I’m going to try that now; if this is a double-post, avoid the PREVIEW button.

  49. ContraMundum says:

    I think it’s the “extra” preview button. That may sending up posts. I’m going to try that now; if this is a double-post, avoid the PREVIEW button.

    Looks like that just causes “Preview error” instead.

  50. ContraMundum says:

    Nope, PREVIEW is also posting.

  51. credoinunumdeum says:

    OK, a couple questions.
    Is there any canon law that forbids a priest from withholding communion to someone like they know is A, not Catholic and B, a lesbian? Has Father G invoked 915 as a defense for his withholding of communion? It seems to me that if he was conscientiously employing 915 to withhold, then E.P. might have a point. But if he was acting prudentially for the good of a soul and without violating any Canon Law that forbids him from doing that, then I think he should be cut slack.

  52. tcreek says:

    Maybe we need a rewrite of Canon Law by non lawyers. [The Holy Father is the Legislator.]

    I read and copied this from somewhere:
    Bureaucracies tend, even in conservative dioceses and parishes, to encourage a reticence and even timidity in pressing doctrinal, moral, or liturgical claims too far or drawing out their harder and less popular implications.

    The centralized, impersonal, and bureaucratic structures of modern churches exist. The people in them want them to continue, and the people outside them do not know much about them or do not care. On the whole and over time, they deform and hinder Christian ministry.

  53. worm says:

    If you might humor me, something has been bothering me in all this discussion, and that is the good of the person making a sacriligious communion. Thanks to Dr. Peters and others, I think I understand what canon law says. But I am concerned about the law forcing a minister to cooperate in the sin of another. Allow me to stack the deck for a moment.

    A priest has a brother who is obstinately perservering in grave sin, but it is not manifest. Because he is the priests brother, they have had discussions about it. The priest has tried to get his brother to change, but the brother refuses. The brother knows the churches teaching and doesn’t care. The brother presents himself for communion. Is the priest required by canon law to help his brother, whom he loves and whom he wants to protect, to receive unworthily?

  54. shin says:

    RE: “the public withholding of the Eucharist for little known sins, even though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law. [Get that?]”

    No. Moral law trumps this kind of -interpretation- of Canon Law.

    You do not cause others to sin, you do not participate in others sins. You don’t commit sacrilege with the Eucharist by giving it to someone you know to be in such a state.

    In some places priests have continued to do things the right way. You have to meet with the priest and he has to know you and the state you’re in before you are allowed to receive. Thus the priest takes proper care of Our Lord rather than disclaiming responsibility and putting on a blindfold in regards to the state of those he is giving Our Lord to.

  55. El Padre says:

    @ Dr. Peters
    “However sinful it might be, conduct that is not already widely known in the community is not manifest [NB:] as canon law understands that term in this context. In something of a parallel to Canon 1340 § 2 (which prohibits imposing public penances for occult transgressions) and Canon 1330 (which prohibits any penalties in cases where no one has perceived the offense) the public withholding of the Eucharist for little known sins, even though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law.”
    As a priest of 15 years, I think that a good distinction here is being missed. The “context” (Dr. Peters’ word) is all wrong. I would support all of Dr. Peters’ assertions if this were a regular Sunday Mass with a large number of people present who do not know Ms. Johnson and her activities. Because, in that case, her sin would not “be widely known in the community.” However, this is not the case with Fr. Guarnizo’s refusal.
    I assure you that at the funeral Mass of Ms. Johnson’s mother THE VAST MAJORITY of the “community” present would have been aware of the deceased’s daughter’s public & persistent sinfulness. [That’s a guess. A good guess, but a guess all the same.] In the third millenium, funeral masses are relatively small affairs which mostly only bring the closest of family and friends together. They would almost all know Ms. Johnson and of her lifestyle. It is the nature of that type of gathering. Dr. Peters would not be aware of this difference from an ordinary Sunday Mass, because he, unlike Fr. Guarnizo or myself, is not in the trenches. One cannot apply the law in a vacuum, all “communities” at all Masses are not equal. The “context” changes considerably from a regular Sunday Mass, to a “School” Mass, to a Mass of Christian Burial. It takes a parish priest to realize that and not an academic from his office desk. The same may apply to those who have spent so many years in the Chancery who have very little or have forgotten their own pastoral experience.
    If this had happened at a regular Sunday Mass, I can understand the position of the Archdiocese of Washington, although I would not like it. However, as all things are not equal, my fault with those who have questioned Fr. Guarnizo’s actions is that they are not taking into account the unique nature of a funeral Mass and are not considering the actual “community” present at such a liturgy and how reasonable it is for Fr. Guanizo’s presumption of the “public” knowledge of Ms. Johnson’s sin.

  56. Denis says:

    @ContraMundum ‘Yes, I am saying that a reasonable and well-trained priest would not jump to conclusions as you are doing.’

    One doesn’t have to ‘jump’ to that conclusion. Ms. Johnson introduced the priest to her ‘lover.’ Her ‘lover’ then physically stood between Father Guarnizo and prevented him from speaking to her further. It was not at all unreasonable for Father Guarnizo to suppose that Ms. Johnson was not making a private confession, but was announcing to him her ‘lifestyle choice’, which a reasonable person most certainly can interpret as ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.’

    If priests aren’t allowed to make the judgment that someone openly declaring that they live the gay lifestyle is ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin’, then it’s hard to understand what ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin’ could mean.

    Extraordinary measures are being taken in order to explain why we should be agnostic about Ms. Johnson’s motives and actions. ‘She introduced Father Guarinizo to her “lover”. That could mean anything! Maybe she was about to repent on the way from the sacristy to the pew!’ Yet people are quite happy to make all sorts of assumptions about Father Guarnizo and his motives. I cannot see him as anything but a priest doing his best to deal with a tricky situation in good conscience.

  57. BT says:

    This is just a question for clarification, primarily for Dr. Peters if he is reading, and I apologize if it’s already been answered in a previous post. I was looking through the materials on Dr. Peter’s canonlaw.info site on canon 915, including the piece on canon 915 by Cardinal Burke. In that piece, I found that Cardinal Burke cites the Rituale Romanum of 1614 as historical background for the content of canon 915. The text he cites reads:

    “All the faithful are to be admitted to Holy Communion, except those who are prohibited for a just reason. The publicly unworthy, which are the excommunicated, those under interdict, and the manifestly infamous, such as prostitutes, those cohabiting, usurers, sorcerers, fortune-tellers, blasphemers and other sinners of the public kind, are, however, to be prevented, unless their penitence and amendment has been established and they will have repaired the public scandal.”

    Here, the meaning of “manifestly infamous” doesn’t seem to be primarily “that one’s sin is in fact known to most people,” but rather that one is guilty of a “sin of the public kind.” What seems to be at issue, then, is a judgment about the kind of act–whether that act is by its nature public–rather than a judgment about whether in fact one’s sin is known to most people. Now, two things occurred to me: on the one hand, it seems that these days someone could be a prostitute or living in cohabitation without most of his parish knowing that this is the case, but such a person could still count as “manifestly infamous” for committing a sin that is by its nature public. On the other hand, perhaps in 1614 it was much less likely that anyone could have committed any of the sins on that list without the fact becoming known to most of his parish. In any event, the language in the Rituale Romanum of 1614 seems to tie the meaning of manifest infamy to sins of a public kind rather than to the distinct issue of whether everyone knows about one’s sin.

    Now, I imagine that the Rituale Romanum of 1614 won’t be the authoritative rule for interpreting canon 915, but I’m curious if and when a change occurred in the interpretation of “manifest” in ecclesiastical law; or, if I’m misreading the Rituale Romanum, I’d be happy to be corrected.

  58. ContraMundum says:

    @El Padre

    Not necessarily. Funerals tend to bring together people with very different connections to the deceased — family, friends, co-workers, etc. It might seem likely that family members would all know about something like this, but I know that my own extended family has largely scattered and lost touch with each other; there are major surprises whenever we get together for a wedding or funeral. Likewise, many people would not open up to co-workers about their child’s “lifestyle”. With the possible exception of my mother’s funeral, at none the funerals I’ve attended over the past dozen years did I know more than half the people attending — usually much less.

    Of course, other people will have other circumstances: close-knit families that all stay in the same area and parents who are always talking about their children, for good or for bad. That may have been the case in this situation. The problem in this case is that Fr. Guarnizo was a visiting priest who did not know the daughter. If he did not know the mother, he could not judge whether she told all her family, friends, and co-workers about her daughter; if he did know the mother, but didn’t know about the daughter, it would be evidence that she did not tell everyone she knew about her daughter.

    I actually think that the presumption that “everyone here knows” would apply more to a funeral Mass a few generations ago, when people were more likely to belong to small, close-knit communities and stay close to home.

  59. ContraMundum says:

    ‘She introduced Father Guarinizo to her “lover”. That could mean anything!

    Show me once where that has been said.

    Yet people are quite happy to make all sorts of assumptions about Father Guarnizo and his motives.

    Got any examples, or are you just making stuff up?

  60. tcreek says:

    What about this? A Canon Law violation?

    It is clear that in my parish and it is no doubt typical, that 70% or so of the children attending our school never, or hardly ever attend weekend Mass. Yet at the weekday school Mass %100 receive communion. How often does this occur across the country each week, 100,000 times? A grandfather said to me – “My grandson made his first Communion last year and has not been to Sunday Mass since.”

    And what effect does this have on the kids whose parents do require them to observe church teaching? A school mom quotes her daughter — “Mom, why do I have to go to Mass, none of my classmates do.” An exaggeration but not by much.

    None of this is a secret to the pastor and teachers who distribute communion to the kids, or to the bishops. Who do we indict with a violation of Canon Law here? The kids? parents? pastors? teachers? bishops? Nobody, of course, because it would hurt the kids feelings and we need their parents’ tuition money.

  61. BT says:

    To my question, I would also add that in the case of divorced and remarried Catholics, it seems that actual awareness of their sin by the public or by the majority of the parish is irrelevant to whether or not they count as having committed a manifest grave sin. Divorce and marriage are by their nature public acts–with public records, even–whether or not most of one’s fellow parishioners know about it.

  62. AGA says:

    The main rub for a lot of lay Catholics (including myself) has to do with the apparent “black and white” assessment of this issue. Literally, we are told that Church Law instructs priests, “When in doubt, pass Him out.”

    In these matters there will always be some doubt. That’s the nature of human knowledge. We are not God. As a lawyer, Dr. Peters surely knows that “beyond a shadow of a doubt” is an impossible legal standard. What level of doubt is permitted then?

    Again, the lack of any framing of this issue as “conflicting interests” is the problem to me.

    God surely will be the final judge of Miss. Johnson, but there is the issue of public scandal from the priest giving her communion? Should the priest state in his sermon the Church’s teaching on homosexuality at a funeral Mass, just so no one within the church walks away believing that an active, unrepentant lesbian is welcome to partake in Holy Communion? Should he have said to her, “Look, I cannot deny you Holy Communion, but I will make a strong statement about sodomy before the Final Blessing, if you chose to approach for Communion”?

    Would Fr. G. then have been guilty of some other crime too?

  63. SonofMonica says:

    I am a lawyer, and perfectly capable of understanding Dr. Peters’ analysis. But let me ask this: If Dr. Peters’ analysis of Canon 915 is correct, then what the hell good is Canon 915? All it would do is keep the clergy from looking bad (I believe the PC term most often used is “creating scandal”). Canon 915 would have nothing to do with protecting the Eucharist against profanation and everything to do with the sickening type of clericalism that led to shuffling around child molesters. The “we can’t have the clergy looking bad” type. Suppose someone tells a priest before Mass that she intends, upon receiving the consecrated host, to stomp on it and urinate on it. Is the archdiocese going to apologize for its priest denying her the “right” to receive communion? I know good and well what Canon 915 says, and what Dr. Peters has to say about it, but profanation is profanation no matter if that canon applies or not.

  64. Denis says:

    @ ContraMundum: ‘Yet people are quite happy to make all sorts of assumptions about Father Guarnizo and his motives…Got any examples, or are you just making stuff up?’

    Your earlier statement: “Yes, I am saying that a reasonable and well-trained priest would not jump to conclusions as you are doing.”

    The implication is that Father Guarnizo is not acting reasonably, that he was jumping to conclusions. You are alleging that you know something about his subjective state at the time of his decision to deny Ms. Johnson communion.

    The decision to suspend Father Guarnizo, [He was not “suspended”. Also, it is a good idea not to dominate a combox, especially with something that isn’t quite on topic.] if it is to meet basic requirements of justice, must have been based on a judgment about Father Guarnizo’s motives–that they did not meet the standard of reasonableness. They didn’t just say ‘Father Guarnizo did his best in a tricky situation'; the Archdiocese apologized to Ms. Johnson and suspended Father Guarnizo. That requires a judgment about Father Guarnizo’s character.

  65. Denis says:

    @ ContraMundum: ‘She introduced Father Guarinizo to her “lover”. That could mean anything! Show me once where that has been said.

    Ms. Johnson introduces Father Guarniso to her ‘lover.’ Your claim is that Father Guarnizo was being unreasonable when he interpreted that as a declaration that she openly and unrepentantly lives the gay lifestyle. How do you justify that claim? How does anyone justify that claim?

  66. SonofMonica says:

    “Ms. Johnson introduces Father Guarniso to her ‘lover.’ Your claim is that Father Guarnizo was being unreasonable when he interpreted that as a declaration that she openly and unrepentantly lives the gay lifestyle. How do you justify that claim? How does anyone justify that claim?”

    Denis: it’s unjustifiable, to me, absent sophistry.

  67. ContraMundum says:

    Actually, my presumption is that he was not well-trained. It is more charitable to assume that this was an honest mistake rather than a willful violation of the law, and this seems likely enough given the state of so many seminaries. You are ignoring the additional qualification “well-trained” that I inserted. Being “reasonable” and well-intentioned is not enough; there is an issue of training involved.

    You’re right, though; I do not know that Fr. Guarnizo was honestly trying to do the right thing. It is possible that Fr. Guarnizo considers himself above the law, as so many in this comment thread seem to think. [I seriously doubt that. I think Fr. G was blinded-sided and was trying to do the right thing in that instance.]

  68. ContraMundum says:

    @Denis

    You really cannot find that quote, can you? That’s because it only exists in your imagination. Go ahead; use Ctrl-F to look for it. It ain’t there.

    Stop putting words into other people’s mouths if you want to be taken seriously.

  69. Denis says:

    @ContraMundum: ‘Actually, my presumption is that he was not well-trained’

    Failing to be well-trained doesn’t justify suspension.

    @COntraMundum: ‘It is possible that Fr. Guarnizo considers himself above the law…’

    It is also possible that the Archdiocese considers itself above the law, in that it suspended a priest without bothering to determine whether he really was in violation of canon law. In fact, this second possibility seems far more likely, given what has been revealed about the situation.

  70. rodin says:

    There are many fine points in Canon Law and for good reason I am sure. Dr. Peters’ explications are much appreciated. Regardless of those fine points the case boils down to what must the priest do to protect the Holy Eucharist from desecration when the communicant presents him/herself for communion and the priest KNOWS that person had no access to confession and is in a state of mortal sin–a fact manifest, at least, to him? Protection of the Holy Eucharist is prime, is it not?

  71. trad catholic mom says:

    Quote:

    Example: I keep saying that a would-be Communion recipient’s brief disclosure to a minister a few minutes before Mass that she has a female “lover” does not suffice to verify, among other things, that the sin apparently being admitted to is canonically manifest in the community

    Right, so apparently the friends and family that were in attendance for the funeral apparently are completely in the dark as to the daughters lesbian lover even though the daughter is clearly so open about her relationship as to introduce the priest to her as such.

    um sure……..

  72. AGA says:

    ContraMundum said “Actually, my presumption is that he was not well-trained.”

    Yes, we definitely need to “re-educate” these stubborn, traditional priests. Shouldn’t be too hard really. Several nice camps situated around the country, where these priests can stay for several months, or at least until they conform to the proper “training.” Shouldn’t be too hard to turn the vast majority of them into solid Magisterialists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbECxnd5ZA4

  73. Me says:

    I must say that I disagree with Dr. Peters (assuming that I have correctly understood him) on the meaning of the term “manifest”. Here I am more interested in the meaning of the term “manifest” than its actual application to Fr. Guarnizo’s case. To me it seems that the term “manifest” is an inherently relative term since one always has to ask, “manifest to whom?”. So I will give three scenarios in order to illustrate my point.

    Scenario 1: A homosexual who has been on national televsion repeatedly saying that he is a practicing homosexual and goes to church wearing a placard affirming that he is a practicing homosexual presents himself for communion. This homosexual is a national figure who is well known nationally for announcing his behavior. This seems “manifest” under anyone’s definition.

    Scenario 2: A homosexual who has told a parish priest (but not his parish priest) that he is practicing homosexual presents himself for communion at a parish where he is not known to any of the parishoners. This homosexual has not spoken of his behavior in public. This does not seem “manifest”.

    Scenario 3: A homosexual who has told a parish priest (but not his parish priest) that he is practicing homosexual presents himself for communion at a parish where he is not well known as a practicing homosexual. But when he presents himself for communion it is at a mass that is attended exclusively by his family members all of whom know that he is practicing homosexual. [Quite an assumption. I good guess at the make up of the congregation, but still a guess.] This seems “manifest”.

  74. Ray says:

    Father Z,
    Always in agreement with your viewpoint and ideas. However, Mr Peters blog which at one time I had bookmarked, is not worthy of my or other open minded/thinking folks time. He doesn’t allow comments and that is enough to make one wonder about the author. He isn’t infallible and yet, he isn’t open to what other want to say to him or think about his thoughts. Being closed like that has left me deleting him and not looking at anything he writes or thinks.

  75. Peter in Canberra says:

    RE Fr Z’s frisk on ‘ME’ above.

    I had the same thought as ME – you might characterise it as a guess but I think it would be reasonable to assume that many of those at the funeral of the mother would be aware of the situation of the daughter. [I had actually raised this question on this blog what seems like a long time ago with Dr. Peters.]

    Maybe then, prior to EVERY Requiem or nuptial Mass (where the congregation is almost always supplemented by lapsed or non-Catholics) there should be an announcement – you are supposed to be a Catholic and not conscious of unrepented grave sin/in a state of grace (maybe that even needs some embellishment for the blockheads in the congregation but then it would become unseemly) AND that if you do then you will bring even more judgement on yourself.

    Maybe the Washington diocese could make that there policy …

  76. mamajen says:

    @Ray

    I think the absence of a combox is a very silly thing to hold against Dr. Peters. In fact, I quite agree with his decision. Blogging about Catholic topics is a delicate matter to begin with. Opening up the discussion to anyone and everyone takes things to another level entirely. Father Z (God bless his patience and dedication) closely monitors his comments [Wellll… it depends on what I have going on.] and can provide guidance if people veer into a wrong or dangerous direction with their public sentiments. Not everyone is willing or able to deal with that kind of work. Dr. Peters DOES interact with readers here quite a bit. I greatly respect Dr. Peters based on both his own writings and also on the fact that Father Z deems him a reliable source. I’m sorry you feel differently.

  77. AttiaDS says:

    1. Miss Johnson came into the sacistry before Mass and introduced herself and her partner in sin to Father Guarnizo. Father G. wants clarification, but, is prohibited from doing so (because the partner in sin blocks him).

    2. Father G., from the pulpit, reminds / informs the congregation who may come up for Holy Communion as per the Church.

    3. Miss Johnson presents herself for Holy Communion and Father G. says, according to Miss Johnson, “I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the Church, that is a sin.”

    4. Miss Johnson, not heeding the priest’s advice about what the Church teaches, goes to an EMHC.

    5. Miss Johnson writes a letter to Father G. saying he will, “pay dearly,” and that he, ‘brought his politics into that Church,’ (though, she admitted, he did not give her Communion because in the eyes of the CHURCH (not him), her choice of living is a sin).

    6. Main Stream Media picks up the story.

    7. His superiors(?) write a letter to Miss Johnson apologizing for Father G.’s behaviour AND state that the funeral is a celebration of her mother’s life (how does that statement alone not create scandal!?!)
    http://catholiccartoonblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/another-good-priest-gets-hammered.html

    8. Father G. has since been removed from active ministry.

    9. Father G. has written a letter saying this was not about Canon 915 and that even before he stepped into his superiour’s office, before his superior had a chance to speak with him, the letter stating his removal was signed and sealed on the desk.

    It should be important to note that the ONLY person who HAS to receive Communion at Mass is the Celebrant (I think I learned that on this website). Miss Johnson, even if she was in a state of grace and properly fasted et al., didn’t have receive the Eucharist and most certainly didn’t have to go to an EMHC after the priest tried to save her and prevent sacriledge. She didn’t get her way and she is throwing a tantrum. The apology to her undercuts all Fathers.

    It seems like this should have been a win/win situation for Father G. and he should be backed by the Church no matter what. If he gave Communion to Miss Johnson, he should be forgiven because he couldn’t PROOVE that she was against the Church. If he withheld Him from her (not that she is OWED Him), then the Church should be behind this priest for His love of Jesus and His Bride.

    Maybe I’m just defensive because, assuming the worst, that he did violate some Canon Law, what should be the correct punishment? Is denying him to celebrate the Mass (publicly or privately) a fitting sentence for what Father G. did? What laws are there against his superiors who wrote Miss Johnson and prohibit him from active ministry?

    It seems to me that he was justified in what he did by the facts we now know.

  78. Ray says:

    @mamajen

    Sunshine is a great thing. With the sunshine we automatically get the reflection of the sun. Anyone that doesn’t want the reflection is a one way person. I love Father Z for what he does here, yet, he isn’t too busy or sanctimonious to disallow his readers the ability to comment. Like I said, he was one of my bookmarked sites for a while but his policy of blocked comments is distasteful. The descriptor BLOCKED should tell all of us something. To me that something is not a good thing. Respect your opinion but won’t budge from mine. Just a side bar— I can even write the Pope should I want to and would probably get a response.

  79. Denis says:

    @Fr. Z. ‘ [He was not “suspended”.

    He was placed on adminstrative leave–a punitive action; [Technically not. I fact, however, the non-punitive action was probably used as a punishment.] the Archdiocese, furthermore, explained that their decision in the press (!) by saying that his action of denying Communion was ‘intimidating behavior.’ Both the punishment and the explanation disparage Father Guarnizo’s character and assume culpability on his part.

    @Fr. Z. ‘Also, it is a good idea not to dominate a combox, especially with something that isn’t quite on topic.’

    I was addressing the topic of canon 915 and the notion of ‘manifest grave sin.’ I was responding to Ed Peters’ assertion that announcing that one is living the gay lifestyle (‘here is my lover…’) does not constitute ‘manifest grave sin.’ [In his explanation, Peter’s is right and you are wrong.] My contention was that it is not an obvious violation of canon 915 for a Priest to deny communion to a person who has announced that they live they gay lifestyle, and that the Archdiocese and Ed Peeters have been unjust toward Father Guarnizo to suggest that it is. [Dr. Peters has been explaining law.] All of that seemed to me to be on topic. Subsequent posts were responses to objections. But I don’t want to impose my comments, and I will refrain from commenting in the future, if necessary. [Great!]

  80. Tcreek:

    Are you saying that schoolchildren, who do not attend Mass on Sunday, should not present themselves for holy communion at the weekday Mass?

    Why not?

  81. rodin says:

    Hypothetical case (This is not a trap): A man makes a confession to a priest saying that unknown to anyone else he was the murderer of his uncle. He states he is not sorry. [This isn’t likely.] The priest refuses absolution until such time as he has turned himself in to police and is remorseful. In the meantime he is not to present himself for communion. The man presents himself for communion anyway without having reported to police, or expressed remorse and therefore not having received absolution.

    (a) the priest gives him communion because the sinner’s crime is not manifest [Yes. This is the right action. Furthermore, acting in public on information he learned in the confessional, the priest runs the risk of violating the Seal.]

    (b) the priest withholds communion though the crime is not manifest. [Wrong.]

    Which priest has performed his duty properly?

  82. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    too many comments to respond to above.

    @ rodin, that’s too easy: it’s (a).

    if you see that, you understand this issue, if you don’t well, … best, edp.

  83. El Padre says:

    It is more of a judgment based on experience than a pure guess.
    @ Contramundum- I find it hard to believe that your family, as far flung as they are, don’t know who is who and what is what. Mine is spread out across the country and even in the Middle East and we know at least the basics. Nobody would consider my extended family “close” yet the big news like this gets around.
    Besides, unless you are a priest or a funeral director, you have not been at as many funerals as I have over the last 15 years nor Fr. Guarnizo whom I know from our seminary days in the Eternal City. You exactly prove my case. Unless you are in the trenches you do not know that my point is a good one.

  84. acardnal says:

    @Rodin: FYI, I believe that a priest cannot make absolution contingent on the penitent turning himself in to the police. He can suggest it, but he cannot withhold absolution as long at the penitent is sorry.

  85. Denis says:

    @Father Z. ‘Ed Peeters have been unjust toward Father Guarnizo to suggest that it is. [Dr. Peters has been explaining law.]’

    Dr. Peters has been explaining why denying communion to Ms. Johnson wasn’t required by canon 915. He has not explained why Father Guarnizo was in obvious violation of canon 915. (Canon 915 is there to protect Priests as well as communicants.) As Phil Lawler, points out, “At worst Father Guarnizo was guilty of a minor infraction against a local policy, not a serious transgression against God’s law.” It is simply false to say that the Archdiocese was merely implementing the obvious and straightforward interpretation of canon law in its treatment of Father Guarnizo. If there had been any evidence at all that Father Guarnizo had been obstinately denying Communion to ‘private sinners’, some sanction would have been justified. But Father Guarnizo had been doing no such thing. He denied communion to someone who declared herself an adherent to a sinful and public ‘lifestyle choice’, which is hardly a confession of a private sin. Would a Priest have violated canon 915 had he given Ms. Johnson communion? No. But that Priest would have been making a judgment call, just as Father Guarnizo did. The Archdiocese turned what was, at worst, an imprecise or overzealous judgment call into a punishable violation of canon law.

  86. The Cobbler says:

    Dr. Peters,

    Why don’t you bring back for comparison one of your old posts about how Senator so-and-so, because he is publicly known to be living with a mistress and while the public doesn’t strictly know the state of his soul they do know that certain things are usually implied by certain other things (in that case an man and woman not married to each other living together) and so it meets the whole manifest condition, not until absolution of the sin but until it’s made clear to the public community at large that this situation has changed? Those posts came to mind immediately when this controversy came up and you zeroed in on manifestness — I already knew from them that you consider it to refer not merely to the external forum but to the knowledge of the public at large, or at least the relevant public involved and not merely any portion of it.

    I rather think the priest in this situation was “right” in the sense that his judgement call on the matter (it is, after all, arguable that the relationship so obviously shown off to him would at least probably be known to the majority present, though one could argue how much of that is circumstantial) isn’t so clearly egregrious as to be second-guessed even by those in authority over him (I believe someone — perhaps it was you — mentioned that canon law doesn’t exactly recommend that the bishop micromanage his pastors’ judgements on these matters, at least not if in doubt). I rather think we could use a decent discussion of how we know that “manifest” refers more to people present in general than to any one person, even the priest. I even think that it’s worth discussing whether there isn’t a better way for the law to approach these details. But it’s also, still, worth bringing in another point of comparison just to show that the law does apply and how.

  87. BT says:

    Dr. Peters: May I ask that you take a look at my two comments above, and tell me where I’ve gone wrong in what I’ve taken from the Rituale Romanum of 1614? It seems to me that what is at issue, in that text’s use of “manifest infamy,” is not whether the sin is known to many, but the public nature of particular acts. Furthermore, I think the same is true in the case of divorce and remarriage: I take it that there are grounds under canon 915 for denying divorced and remarried Catholics holy communion, even if they’ve moved to a new parish where no one but the priest knows that this is the case. This would all seem to be in tension with your claim that what is centrally at issue in the notion of “manifest sin” is whether or not the sin is “widely known in the community.”

  88. SonofMonica says:

    I find it rather strange that no one cares that the priest may have been scandalized. The idea that some unknown number of laity should have to be made aware of the situation before it’s wrong to deny communion just smacks of being two-faced and hyperclerical, to me.

  89. Nicole says:

    Raymond Cardinal Burke makes several things clear in his publication: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin. (my personal comments are in parenthesis)

    1) This is not merely a matter of Canon Law, which regulates the Church in the external forum, but also a matter of moral theology which deals with both the internal and external forum. (If Can. 915 does not completely cover Fr. Guarnizo’s actions, then correct application of moral theology may.)

    2) What is being called “pastoral action” does not have to precede (as an ought) the refusal of communion to the one who is obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin; pastoral action is, however, suggested (as a should).

    3) What is being enacted in Can. 915 is neither a penalty nor a statement that any sin has been imputed to the individual who is refused. The barring of the person is a statement of certainty that this person “obstinately persists in a sinful situation or in sinful behavior that is manifest (i.e. public) and objectively grave.” (It doesn’t take an interview to know that a prostitute is a prostitute, or that a homosexual is a homosexual, or that a usurer is a usurer, it only takes public knowledge (i.e., manifestation of the objective fact); nor does it take an admonition to apply the canon. Also, the minister does not need any knowledge as to whether this person is actually committing mortal sin which will be subjectively imputed to him, only that objectively grave sin has been committed by the person.)

    4) That the ministers of Holy Communion (whether ordinary or extraordinary) cannot be indiscriminate in who they give Our Lord to (at one place in his work this is stated that it is under pain of mortal sin). “Clearly, the burden is on the minister of Holy Communion who, by the nature of his responsibility, must prevent anything which profanes the Blessed Sacrament and endangers the salvation of the soul of the recipient and of those scandalized by his unworthy reception of Holy Communion.”

    “The United States of America is a thoroughly secularized society which canonizes radical individualism and relativism, even before the natural moral law. The application [of Can. 915], therefore, is more necessary than ever, lest the faithful, led astray by the strong cultural trends of relativism, be deceived concerning the supreme good of the Holy Eucharist and the gravity of supporting publicly the commission of intrinsically evil acts.” — Card. Burke

    Also, if we lay people cannot know Canon Law sufficiently, as Contramundum suggests (“That’s why people have to go to college to learn to be canon lawyers or engineers; high-school literacy may be sufficient to recognize the words, but not necessarily to understand them as they are used in the document.“) then we also cannot be held accountable to follow it. It would then follow, that it would be no grave sin to transgress Canon Law for any reason at all, since we lay people can’t possibly be held accountable to it.

    This is really a silly stance to take and really one that smacks of elitism (e.g., one really doesn’t know a subject until he has a degree in his hand), not catholicism.

  90. acardnal says:

    Hey, Nicole, you ought to email Cardinal Burke’s document to Cardinal Weurl and Bp. Knestout.

  91. Nicole says:

    Haha! Acardnal, good one! I’m not sure I have any good reason to doubt they already know about it, since it was written in 2007; I guess that was when Card. Burke was still Archbishop of St. Louis?

    Also, I just wanted to say in support of a statement that mamajen made above: I think the Dr. Peters is showing the right stuff about him by keeping his blog free of a comments box. He made a great exposition of his reasons behind the decision. If people want an open comments box on his site, perhaps, as he suggests, these should find some way to pay him for moderating comments.

  92. Joe in Canada says:

    I am grateful to Dr Peters (and Fr Z) for taking the time to think through this so carefully. If I have understood correctly, the canonical rights (or lack) of a person approaching Communion do not correspond exactly to the canonical rights of a person distributing Communion. In this case, the fact that Miss Johnson should not have approached to receive Communion did not “trigger” the obligation for Fr G. to deny her Communion, because of the requirement that the reasons for her inability to receive Communion be manifest.
    So far so good. I think what upsets a few people is twofold.
    First, we have the sense that Miss J “got away with something”. Subsequent revelations that she is a homosexualist activist and a self-proclaimed Buddhist add to this. As some have suggested above, we have to leave her in the hands of God for this, and pray for her. God will not be mocked. In any case she has made sure that her situation is manifest, and this won’t happen again.
    Second, we’re not quite sure that Fr G. was treated fairly (by “we” I mean “those who have a [vague] upset sense about this”). Based just on the facts of this incident as known, were the statements of the Archdiocese and its action in putting Fr G. on administrative leave justified canonically?

  93. Panterina says:

    To me, all this has been very instructive. After reading Father Guarnizo’s letter, I was totally won over by his argument. But after reading Dr. Peter’s and Father Z’s posts, I’m learning that interpreting Canon Law in a fair manner is not easy for priests–and that even canon lawyers may reach different conclusions. My takeaways for today: Observer from the sidelines, don’t engage others in the combox, and pray for Father Guarnizo and for all our holy priests.

  94. Nicole says:

    I would like to correct myself in regard to something I wrote above. I realize that cultural habit of referring to a desire and an illicit action by the same name can cause some confusion. When I used the term “homosexual” in my post, I used it to name an illicit action. I should have, however, stated instead of, “it does not take an interview to know that a…homosexual is a homosexual…” I should have stated, “it does not take an interview to know that…an illicitly cohabitating homosexual is such…”. I know it ruins the flow of the sentence, but I am trying to go for clarity in meaning here. I am sorry if anyone took me as saying that the disordered desire was a sin in itself.

  95. quamquam says:

    (Taking a step back from the details of this particular case, and of where we draw the line in interpreting what is ‘manifest’):

    For those worried that Canon Law itself is too lenient, and takes insufficient care of the honour of Christ’s Body in requiring the Eucharist to be given to sinners whose sin is not publicly known, it’s instructive to read the words of St Thomas Aquinas:

    Summa Theologiae, IIIa, 80, 6: Whether the priest ought to deny the body of Christ to the sinner seeking it?

    I answer that, A distinction must be made among sinners: some are secret; others are notorious, either from evidence of the fact, as public usurers, or public robbers, or from being denounced as evil men by some ecclesiastical or civil tribunal. Therefore Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it…
    But if they be not open sinners, but occult, the Holy Communion should not be denied them if they ask for it. For since every Christian, from the fact that he is baptized, is admitted to the Lord’s table, he may not be robbed of his right, except from some open cause. Hence on 1 Corinthians 5:11, “If he who is called a brother among you,” etc., Augustine’s gloss remarks: “We cannot inhibit any person from Communion, except he has openly confessed, or has been named and convicted by some ecclesiastical or lay tribunal.” Nevertheless a priest who has knowledge of the crime can privately warn the secret sinner, or warn all openly in public, from approaching the Lord’s table, until they have repented of their sins and have been reconciled to the Church…

    Reply to Objection 1. Holy things are forbidden to be given to dogs, that is, to notorious sinners: whereas hidden deeds may not be published, but are to be left to the Divine judgment.

    Reply to Objection 2. Although it is worse for the secret sinner to sin mortally in taking the body of Christ, rather than be defamed, nevertheless for the priest administering the body of Christ it is worse to commit mortal sin by unjustly defaming the hidden sinner than that the sinner should sin mortally; because no one ought to commit mortal sin in order to keep another out of mortal sin. Hence Augustine says (Quæst. super Gen. 42): “It is a most dangerous exchange, for us to do evil lest another perpetrate a greater evil.” But the secret sinner ought rather to prefer infamy than approach the Lord’s table unworthily.

    Summa Theologiae, IIIa, 81, 2: Whether Christ gave His body to Judas?

    I answer that, Hilary, in commenting on Matthew 26:17, held that Christ did not give His body and blood to Judas. And this would have been quite proper, if the malice of Judas be considered. But since Christ was to serve us as a pattern of justice, it was not in keeping with His teaching authority to sever Judas, a hidden sinner, from Communion with the others without an accuser and evident proof, lest the Church’s prelates might have an example for doing the like, and lest Judas himself being exasperated might take occasion of sinning. Therefore, it remains to be said that Judas received our Lord’s body and blood with the other disciples, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), and Augustine (Tract. lxii in Joan.).

  96. Wills says:

    Personally I have no desire to hear the opinion of Dr. Ed Peters. His contribution to the discussion surrounding this incident is pretty much the equivalent of tying up Fr. Guarnizo and tossing him under a train.

    As a matter of theology and religion, Fr. Guarnizo absolutely did the right thing and his persecution by the Archdiocese of Washington and by people like Ed Peters is unjust.

  97. martin.c says:

    I insist with canon 843 §1: “Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.”

    Proper disposition is the key here. Ms. Johnson actions before the funeral were a more than clear indication that she lacked proper disposition to receive the sacrament. According to canon 843 (in my humble layman opinion), she didn’t fulfill the requirements to have an undeniable right to receive communion.

    I understand that proper disposition is presumed for anyone who just participate in a Mass and shows up in the communion line. But Fr. Guernicio had strong reasons to presume otherwise. He was not obligued to deny communion (as per canon 915) but neither was he obligued to give It (as per canon 843). He made a judgement call which he was allowed to do. And guess what? He was right.

  98. Father P says:

    The one point that the questioner asked that is missed is that the Ordinary of the issued a policy regarding the distribution of Holy Communion. Agree with the policy or not the Diocesan Bishop is ultimately the guardian of the Sacraments and the chief steward of the Sacred Mysteries. Sometimes we priests think of ourselves as “little Bishops” in our parish and act with greater authority than we have.

  99. Nicole says:

    Father P – it is interesting to note that Card. Burke (then Abp. Burke) wrote in his Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin that “It must also be recalled that ‘no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.'” He was quoting a publication of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts published in L’Osservatore Romano on 12 July 2000.

  100. nj412 says:

    All of the discussion has been on can. 915. What about can. 914? This is more specific to martin.c’s comment. It may not apply to this case because Father is not the pastor. But it seems that if there are people in unnatural relationships they should be advised by the pastor not to approach Holy Communion on the basis that they are obviously not properly disposed. It is the pastor who makes the judgment in this case. Once the pastor advises, is he then able to deny them Holy Communion if they come to him?

  101. Me says:

    Wills,

    You write, “Personally I have no desire to hear the opinion of Dr. Ed Peters. His contribution to the discussion surrounding this incident is pretty much the equivalent of tying up Fr. Guarnizo and tossing him under a train.”

    It is NOT equivalent to tying up Fr. Guarnizo and tossing him under a train. Dr. Peters has merely offered a reasoned and professional interpretation of canon law. Surely you can appreciate that even you disagree with his conclusions.

    I think we should be deeply grateful to Dr. Peters. He has taken time out of his schedule in order to help us understand difficult elements in CANON LAW.

    His opinion is clearly an important one. We should remember that members of the hierarchy seek out his opinion and that he is well respected by scholars of canon law. He is not just some blogger who posting his musings on ecclesiastical matters. He is a trained academic in the area of canon law (unlike a number of bloggers who have commented on this sad affair). He is performing a service (probably unpaid) to the Church with his blog.

    Thank you Fr. Z and Dr. Peters!

  102. jflare says:

    I’ll grant that Dr Peters has done a marvelous job of explaining what canon law says, however reluctantly. However, he hasn’t uttered a peep about the typical means of enforcing the same laws. For that matter, I don’t think Fr Z has either. Interesting.

    Here’s a particular problem I see: Fr’s act still appears to me a pretty minor transgression. He felt he had just cause and acted upon it. Given what we haven’t heard or seen, there’s little cause to believe the he acted with malice. Or that he had done so previously.

    Hmm. Wonder how long it’ll be before someone else throws a fit about some little thing related to a baptism or something….

  103. Veronica says:

    I feel sorry for Fr. Guarnizo, because either way he had acted, he was going to be in the middle of a storm. We already know what happen by him withholding communion to Barbara Johnson. But doing just a mental exercise, I’m thinking what would have happened if he had given communion to her?

    I’m sure BJ’s family are aware of her active lifestyle as a lesbian. We have in my family a similar situation of a cousin who decided to come out of the closet on her mom’s and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Everything was done quietly, at the moment we didnt know what was going on, but news spread quickly after the party. It was no secret anymore.

    I’m thinking about other members in her family, friends and some of the people in the congregation present at the funeral that knew. Perhaps there were some practicing Catholics among them that we’re on edge waiting to see what Fr. G would do. I can see letters to the bishop saying how irresponsible Fr. G was, that he created scandal among the faithful giving communion to a practicing lesbian.

    As a system and process auditor I know the difference between my “gut feeling” that something might be wrong or that the audited might be hiding something, but to mark the process being audited as compliant with a standard, I must just rely on the objective evidence presented. From this point of view I understand Dr. Peters and Fr. Z’s position regarding the applicability of can. 915, but all this issue raises in my mind pastoral questions. Would have been better to give communion to BJ’s and try to engage her later in private? Maybe this would have been difficult considering how her lover blocked the way between Fr. G and BJ before the funeral mass. But again, this is just a mental exercise. We don’t know. Would have been better for the Vicar Gral. of the archdiocese to have handle this in a less public way, not giving the impression he’s yielding to the pressure of secular media? Maybe BJ and the LGBT community would have raised complaints anyhow for not publicly scolding Fr. G. We don’t know.

    In any case, it is sad that the Enemy scored one point on this one:
    1) A poor woman that is opening living a sinful relationship received communion in a “possibly” unworthy manner desecrating Our Lord’s body. Maybe she had been to confession recently and was not actively engaged with her partner in sinful behavior since her last confession and prior to the funeral mass. Still, if this is not the case, I do hope and pray she is completely ignorant of the impact and consecuences of her acts.
    3) A zealous priest has been placed on admin leave for not acting against his concience by giving communion to someone whom he perceived not to be properly prepared to do so.
    4) Mons. Knestout sends a letter that is perceived by a large portion of faithful as not courageous and yielding to the secular press and the gay lobby, the LGBT community perceived Fr. G’s as an unfair treatment of a member of their community. See their petion to remove Fr. G here: http://www.change.org/petitions/cardinal-donald-wuerl-archdoicese-of-washington-d-c-remove-fr-guarnizo-from-pastoral-work-for-refusing-communion-to-a-lesbian.
    5) The gay activists claim victory and applauded Mons. Knesrout for Fr. G’s removal. See link here: https://www.dignityusa.org/content/gay-catholic-leaders-applaud-priest’s-removal-ministry-repeat-calls-dialogue-with-church-lea.

    What a sad story. We need to offer prayers for all. For Fr Guarnizo for him to bear this cross patiently and in obedience; for wisdom for Mons. Knestout; and for a conversion from the heart for Barbara Johnson and her partner. This time of lent seems perfect to offer one little extra prayer for all.

    God bless.

  104. AGA says:

    Absolutely correct, Me!

    I, for one, welcome our new lay canonist overlords.

    http://vimeo.com/31283279

  105. LaudemGloriae says:

    Putting aside the homosexual issue, my understanding is that Ms. Jackson also identified herself to the priest as a Buddhist. Isn’t that enough grounds for witholding the Eucharist?

  106. mamajen says:

    Regarding 843 §1: “Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.”

    I am a Canon Law novice, but to me that is not the same thing as stating “Sacred ministers CAN or MUST deny the sacraments to those who are not properly disposed.” I won’t claim to understand what the wording means, but I’m certain it’s as specific as it is for a good reason.

    I hope we will learn more about this in the future.

  107. poohbear says:

    Here is the quote someone was asking for : (bolding is mine)

    Johnson initially came into the sacristy to discuss the details of the two eulogies that were supposed to be delivered, but left abruptly and returned with her brother and another woman, whom she introduced as her “lover.”

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/exclusive-inside-sources-provide-new-info-on-priest-censured-for-denying-le

  108. JT Wilson says:

    Canon 915’s directive with regard to “persons who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” is focused on SCANDAL. If a set of conditions are present, Communion is to be withheld. The conditions are: obstinate (ongoing); grave sin (agreed here); and manifest. The manifest nature is what ultimately gives rise to the threat of scandal, thus it pertains to the congregation’s awareness of the sinfulness of the Communicant.

    To understand how “manifest” the sin must be, look at the Vatican’s instruction on interpreting Canon 915: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20000706_declaration_en.html

    There you will see that the focus on avoiding scandal is GREAT. In fact, the opportunity for scandal must be removed: “remoto scandalo.” Some comment that the minister must be “practically certain” that scandal will occur. Others say the sin must be “widely known.” These types of interpretations underestimate the Canon’s concern for avoiding scandal. To appreciate this concern more fully, see the Declaration’s example wherein someone who is, in fact, spiritually disposed to receive the sacrament should still not be given Communion unless the chance of scandal is removed! The deference to avoiding scandal is also evident in the fact that one must withhold Communion in these circumstances even if the minister does not have the opportunity to counsel the person beforehand. Canon 915 is heavily weighted on the side of avoiding scandal, so “manifest” should be interpreted with that understanding.

    The Washington Post death notice listed the woman and her lover, “Ruth” as if they were a married couple. Family and close friends comprise the usual funeral congregation. It was MOST reasonable to assume that the third Canonical requirement, the element of “manifest” was met in this case.

  109. Tom Ryan says:

    Perhaps, the archdiocese is just trying to ignore a good argument for getting rid of EMHCs?

    http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/the-lesbian-priest-and-conscientious-objection/

  110. mamajen says:

    @JT Wilson

    It’s not that simple. Unfortunately I have had to attend many family funerals recently at which non-practicing relatives have presented themselves for communion. I always presume that the priest is not privy to the details of their lives, and therefore it is not scandalous for him to give them communion. I may “know” (although really there is no way I can) that a person ought not receive, but I can’t hold that against the priest. In this case we know that the priest talked to this woman prior to mass and became aware of her situation, but did the congregation at large know this? I highly doubt it. In this case the responsibility for any scandal lies squarely with the individual who presented herself for communion, knowing that other people are aware of her lifestyle which is incompatible with the Church’s teachings.

    It seems to me that the “manifest” component must mean that not only is a good portion of the public aware of the person’s actions, but so is the priest…and the congregation knows that he knows.

    In any case, people need to be responsible for themselves. They can’t look to other individuals to decide whether or not they should present themselves for communion. It shouldn’t matter what anyone else is doing.

  111. acardnal says:

    At my own father’s funeral I spoke with the priest privately, mentioned that there are family members and relatives here who are non-practicing Catholics, etc., and suggested he read or make an announcement about who is eligible to receive Holy Communion. I seem to recall suggesting he read the pertinent guidance statements from the USCCB written in the back of many missalettes used in American parishes.

  112. JT Wilson says:

    @mamajen I think you have a good point— if the congregation assumes the priest doesn’t know about her situation when he distributes Communion, there is no scandal. If a priest withholds Communion, though, you think he should make sure the congregation knows that he knows about the sin? Isn’t that implicit in the withholding?

    Anyway, though, this involved a woman who was very obvious about her lifestyle. It was even announced in the Washington Post death notice!

  113. Nicole says:

    This is really not as difficult as people seem to be making it. It’s much like mathematics, derive the fundamental equations, look up your coefficients, then plug and chug…

    Raymond Cardinal Burke makes several things clear in his publication: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin. (my personal comments are in parenthesis)

    1) This is not merely a matter of Canon Law, which regulates the Church in the external forum, but also a matter of moral theology which deals with both the internal and external forum. (If Can. 915 does not completely cover Fr. Guarnizo’s actions, then correct application of moral theology may.)

    2) What is being called “pastoral action” does not have to precede (as an ought) the refusal of communion to the one who is obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin; pastoral action is, however, suggested (as a should).

    3) What is being enacted in Can. 915 is neither a penalty nor a statement that any sin has been imputed to the individual who is refused. The barring of the person is a statement of certainty that this person “obstinately persists in a sinful situation or in sinful behavior that is manifest (i.e. public) and objectively grave.” (It doesn’t take an interview to know that a prostitute is a prostitute, or that a usurer is a usurer, or that an illicitly cohabitating homosexual is such, it only takes public knowledge (i.e., manifestation of the objective fact); nor does it take an admonition to apply the canon. Also, the minister does not need any knowledge as to whether this person is actually committing mortal sin which will be subjectively imputed to him, only that objectively grave sin has been committed by the person.)

    4) That the ministers of Holy Communion (whether ordinary or extraordinary) cannot be indiscriminate in who they give Our Lord to (at one place in his work this is stated that it is under pain of mortal sin). “Clearly, the burden is on the minister of Holy Communion who, by the nature of his responsibility, must prevent anything which profanes the Blessed Sacrament and endangers the salvation of the soul of the recipient and of those scandalized by his unworthy reception of Holy Communion.”

  114. Tom Ryan says:

    Fr. Z. has suggested the idea of three floating red hats to reward orthodoxy in the episcopacy rather than merely making cardinals out of men who head traditional sees.

    As a counterpart to that, I’m suggesting when something like this happens (maybe not this time) the bishop is removed and replaced by the priest he wrongs.

  115. mamajen says:

    @JT Wilson

    I think my wording was a bit off. What I meant was that the individual’s sinfulness must be so public that others would expect (or at least not be surprised) that the priest has heard about it as well. He does not need to make sure that he and the particular people in attendance are “on the same page”, so to speak. In fact, that alone would not be enough to warrant 915. He cannot use a private conversation (or worse, a confession) to decide “I know about this, and I bet all these relatives and friends know about this, too” in order to satisfy the manifest requirement and deny communion under 915 (I’m not accusing Fr. Guarnizo of this line of thinking). I would be surprised if a priest denied communion to my out-of-state relative who is cohabiting (making up an example) even if I and many others in attendance knew of the situation. Obviously the priest somehow found out, but does that mean it was “manifest”? Not necessarily. On the other hand, I would not feel scandalized (though I would feel sad) if I saw that relative receive communion.

    p.s. Thank you for getting me thinking with both your original comment and your latest one!

  116. rodin says:

    Thank you Fr. Z and Dr. Peters for you responses to my hypothetical case. Yes, I am aware of the Seal of the Confessional problem, and it needed saying. I also appreciate quamquam’s quotations from St. Thomas. In sum it appears that there may be times when the priest’s first duty is not the protection of the Holy Eucharist from desecration.

    Be assured the spawn of Satan will exploit this weakness.

    It is to weep.

  117. Cathy says:

    I hope this isn’t a stupid question, Ms. Johnson entered the sacristy, not by herself, but with her brother and her “lover”. I do not know if Fr. Guarnizo was in the sacristy by himself. I guess my question is this, since, by her admission, the brother and “lover” were present, what meets the definition of public and community?

  118. mamajen says:

    I may be wrong, but it doesn’t seem to me that desecration is the proper term to use if someone is properly consuming the host, whatever the state of their soul. Since desecration carries with it the penalty of automatic excommunication, why would Canon 915 be necessary?

  119. ronconte says:

    “and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin”
    The three required conditions are:
    a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability;

    b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.

    c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.

  120. Angry Russian says:

    Father Z, I have enjoyed your previous blogs on the denial of communion incident, particularly your much needed counter-point to Dr. Peters’ “exceptional blog”.
    However, in this blog, you leave me wondering where you stand. You never really answer the question from the reader who asks what a priest is supposed to do, aside from canon 915, if someone in grave sin presents himself for communion. All you say is: “It depends…” Then you go into detail on canon 915, commenting on Dr. Peters’ latest blog on “manifest sin”. [That is because “it depends” on a lot of factors.]
    In it Peters repeats his example from last week of someone approaching the altar in a rainbow sash, thereby making that person’s sin manifest. But how does the sash tell you what is in that person’s heart? [At that point, the “heart” is no longer the issue. This is a public gesture.] Perhaps he is bowing to peer-pressure and doesn’t really want to be there. Maybe he just wanted to get his picture in the papers. [Too bad.]
    Now compare that to someone who actually tells the priest that he is living in a sinful relationship, but does not wear a sash. So Peters would say that in the first case, the priest can withhold Communion, but in the second case, he could not? Peters may be a canon lawyer par excellence, but where is his common sense? [You are making this very complicated.]
    What is confusing to me is that, in your blog last week, you said that since those in attendance at the funeral were [A GUESS on my part] primarily close friends and family, they all would have known [maybe] that Barbara Johnson was living in a sinful relationship. And you said that this would have made her sin manifest. But now you seem to be backpedaling by agreeing with Dr. Peters. [And?]

  121. Angry Russian says:

    Since I am a parishioner where this incident took place, I know that your “GUESS is more accurate than Dr. Peters’ academic exercise. Instead of pontificating on canon 915, it would be great if Dr. Peters would answer a direct question regarding the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to allow Communion to active homosexuals. Is this policy in accord with Vatican policy?

  122. Brian1951 says:

    In February 21, 2011 as reported in CNSNews.com
    “[Dr]Peters specifically cited New York state’s governor Cuomo’s cohabiting with Food Network hostess Sandra Lee as “publicly acting in violation of a fundamental moral expectation of the Church,” and that “as long as he persists in such conduct, he should refrain from taking Holy Communion” and “if he approaches for Holy Communion, he should be denied the august sacrament in accord with Canon 915.” ( persons “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.)

    I take that in this case this sin is public knowledge and to take communion would cause scandal (CC2284) and he should be refused communion, then Cuomo has no ‘rights’ under Canon 18 and or Canon 843 § 1. In contrast Rev. Marcel Guarnizo situation with Barbara Johnson the position Dr Peters takes is that her lesbian relationship was not public enough to be scandelous and therefore her rights to communion under the above codes was protected.
    However Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, issued in April 2003:states
    “..However, in cases of outward conduct (which she publicly declared to Fr Guarnizo she was in a lesbian relationship with the introduction of her lover) which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved.”
    The point is, if the Catholic faithful see that a priest gives the Eucharist to someone whom they know is living in a gravely sinful manner, they might naturally—and wrongly—conclude that such a sinful lifestyle must be morally acceptable. In such a situation, the need to avoid public scandal is crucial. Rev. Marcel Guarnizo decision to refuse to give communion in this case would on the balance of probability avoid it. Furthermore In the case of a divorced and civilly re-married couple in 1994 The CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH wrote “ If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law(same as a homosexual relationship). Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists. The wording “cannot receive” is in the nature of prohibition rather than an advisory “should not present themselves” That is they have no ‘rights’ under Canon 18 and or Canon 843 § 1.
    P
    The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifestly grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion”, seems justify Rev. Marcel Guarnizo actions.
    In addition, the Catechism, section 2390,  states that “in a so-called free union, a man and a woman refuse to give juridical and public form to a liaison involving sexual intimacy. … The expression covers a number of different situations: concubinage, rejection of marriage as such, or inability to make long-term commitments. All these situations offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law. The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion.”(of course this applies to a homosexual relationship as well)