QUAERITUR: Can a deacon not receive Communion?

From a priest reader:

Should (can) a Deacon assist at Mass if he does not intend to receive Holy Communion? I’m not sure.

The only person obliged to receive Holy Communion at Mass is the priest celebrant. He MUST receive.

I don’t know why it should be obligatory for a person not obliged to receive to receive.

(How often does one get to write a sentence like that.)

The role of the deacon is to serve the priest at the altar and read the Gospel.  He can do that without receiving Communion.

In the Extraordinary Form Solemn Mass more often than not the deacon and subdeacon do not receive.  Sometimes this is because they are priests and they have already said Mass.  In the old days people were not permitted to receive Communion more than once per day.

It may be that someone could be concerned that it doesn’t “look good” if the deacon doesn’t receive.  I can’t speak to that.

The most perfect form of active participation is the reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace.  It is ideal that the sacred ministers receive, if they are permitted.  Canon Law in the Latin Church says people can receive Communion twice in one day.

If a deacon doesn’t receive, I can’t see any reason to get my amice in a twist.

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  1. ContraMundum says:

    The parish I attended a few years ago had a deacon who assisted at Mass, and from time to time I noticed that he declined Communion. This actually caused me to respect him much more; he was not willing to allow foolish pride to cause him to profane the Eucharist.

  2. RichR says:

    I’m reluctant to bring this up for fear that I am side-tracking this thread, but it is the first time that a thread remotely touches on this issue.

    A priest is obliged to offer Mass every day. Many priests are in remote areas, or they are the sole priest at their parishes. Priests also run into many moral dilemmas in this age of poorly-catechized adults, and so priests may fall into sins of omission or commission that need confession.

    How are they to offer daily Mass if they cannot get to Confession? They are obliged to receive, unlike the Deacon in the OP.

    I admit, this does not affect me directly as a married layman, but it was a concern for me as a young man considering the priesthood. In the good ole days when you had 3 priests in every rectory, your spiritual support was better in terms of confessors. What would you say to a young man seriously considering a priestly vocation who asks this question?

  3. dans0622 says:

    A priest is not “obliged” to offer Mass every day–he is “earnestly recommended” to do so (c. 904). If it should happen that a priest finds himself in a state of grave sin and he can’t confess, he should not celebrate Mass unless there is a grave reason. A grave reason would be the need to offer a Sunday Mass that the faithful must attend. In that situation, he can celebrate Mass but he must make an act of perfect contrition and confess as soon as possible (c. 916).

  4. PaterAugustinus says:

    The one exception, at least in the Orthodox Church and ancient practice, is that a man who for some serious reason should NOT commune, is also discouraged from serving at altar, out of respect for the Mysteries. I.e., if a man simply hasn’t kept the fast or doesn’t feel spiritually prepared to commune, let him serve; but if he’s had an emission (nocturnal or otherwise), or has been excommunicated, or is a soldier who has recently taken a life, etc., he should stay away from both Communion and the Altar. This is including the priest, in some cases, and certainly including the deacons, subdeacons and other servers.

  5. Fr. Basil says:

    PaterAugustinus said exactly what I was going to say.

    If a Deacon is not spiritually prepared to receive the Mysteries, it is not fitting that he exercise his ministry at the Liturgy.

    BTW–in the Byzantine tradition, both Catholic and Orthodox, the rubrics assume that if a Deacon serves, he receives Communion and assists in distribution to the faithful.

  6. Random Friar says:

    Let’s say that for some reason or need, the deacon assisted at several Masses, without a stain of serious sin. Would he be allowed to act as a Minister of the Eucharist if he himself cannot receive? I do not imagine he should.

  7. Random Friar: I believe Minsters of the Eucharist can distribute Holy Communion without having received.

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