“Would it really be totally impossible to admit her to Communion?”

Some of the mistakes we make in life can’t be fixed.

These days we expect everything to be fixable, to have a solution.  There must be some way to get around problems, some cure, some repair, some slight-of-hand.

No.  Not everything can be fixed.  Some of the mistakes we make in life can’t be fixed.  We must deal with the consequences of our choices, seeing them clearly for what they are and not living in a state of denial, or in some fantasy realm in which there are no true consequences for our actions.

Don’t get me wrong.  If there are good solutions to the problems that some couples get into that are consistent with what Christ and the Apostles taught and handed down, and which have been constantly reaffirmed in the whole course of the Church’s history, GREAT!  Let’s use them.  However, the life of grace, even in suffering, for the sake of happiness in heaven by far outweighs the short-term “fixes” of this life that could actually be spiritually dangerous.

It is not “sentimentality” to be concerned about the well-being of people who are in tough situations.  It is, however, a really bad plan to create “fixes” out of sentimentality that will, in the long run, do harm.

At The Catholic Thing my friend Fr. Gerald Murray, a canonist, has some observations:

Hard Cases Make Bad Doctrine

Cardinal Walter Kasper’s efforts to change the Church’s discipline of refusing Holy Communion to those who have contracted an invalid second marriage has been joined by another member of the Sacred College, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

He gave an interview after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to Inside the Vatican magazine (November 2014) in which he argued: “Let’s take this case: A husband is abandoned by his wife. There are also three children. A woman goes to live with this man; she helps him, raises his three kids. Ten years go by, their union is solid. If this woman were to come to me for Communion, say, during her father’s funeral Mass, or the day of one of the children’s Confirmation, what should I do? Deny it to her, since she is in an illicit situation and in letting her go to Communion I would also be committing an illicit act, as I would be indirectly recognizing that that man’s marriage wasn’t indissoluble?”

This is already quite a bit, but he continued: “Or, while recognizing the non-legitimate nature of that situation, how could I ask that woman – in admitting her to Communion – to abandon the man and his three children? What would become of that man? What would become of those kids? In that case, realistically, it wouldn’t be possible to manage an (sic) non-legitimate situation without causing even more suffering and pain. So, would it really be totally impossible to admit her to Communion? In admitting her to Communion, would I be going against the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage? I really don’t think so: in fact, this has to do with a case of exception.” [That loud sound you heard was the massive cave in.]

The cardinal’s conclusion is particularly disturbing because his job is to issue authentic and binding interpretations of the Code of Canon Law. [But Father!  But Father! This is the new era of ‘mercy’!] Here, he plainly contradicts the “Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried” of June 24, 2000 by his predecessor at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz. [2000?!?  That’s outdated.]

That Declaration says: “Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. [Sure.  Don’t make a huge scene.  But people need to know what the Church’s teaching and discipline is.] Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that require the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.” The Declaration concludes: “no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.[“no ecclesiastical authority…”]

Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s approach displays no “firmness” and is not a “sign of strength” but rather is refusal to call the hypothetical woman to conversion. [One might say, therefore, no true ‘charity’.  Lot’s of ‘feelings’, but not much ‘charity’, which is rooted in truth.] A Catholic woman living with a Catholic man (who is in fact married to someone else) is ordinarily aware that her behavior is seriously sinful. If she is not, it is the duty of a diligent pastor of souls to inform her of why this is so.

Whatever laudable good that woman may be doing for the children of the man with whom she is cohabiting does not change the nature of her obligation to the Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. A Catholic’s desire to receive Holy Communion must be guided by the doctrine of the Church. In the theoretical case posed by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, he displays a well informed knowledge of the woman’s situation, which implies that he has had and continues to have the opportunity to catechize her about the sinfulness of adultery, and about the Church’s encouragement of people in her situation of avoid sin by living as brother and sister when the good of the children is best served by not separating from each other. (Asking her to “abandon the man and his three children” is not the only alternative available).

Instead, he posits a non-existent “exception” to the moral law concerning the grave sinfulness of adultery. This amounts to an appeal to emotion, [There it is!  As I said, above.] which caricatures the call to fidelity to the Sixth Commandment and the Church’s discipline regarding the reception of Holy Communion, depicting it as uncharitable rigorism. The unstated presumption in the Cardinal’s scenario is that the woman deserves to receive Holy Communion because she is a good person, and her adulterous behavior should not be taken seriously.

The stunning conceit here is that God is not offended, so why should the Church “exclude” her. This presumption is detrimental to Catholic doctrine and life. No matter what anyone claims about “exceptions,” the truth of the Faith remains: adultery is a mortal sin, and those in the state of mortal sin must refrain from receiving Holy Communion because the sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion does offend God, and may lead others into the same sin.

What does this approach reveal? That for some Churchmen, the primary mission of the Church is to provide consolation. [Rather than help them attain heaven, the road to which is steep and rocky.] Uncomfortable doctrines and derivative Church discipline must be cast aside. But the Gospel call to conversion often involves upsetting a sinner in the hope that he will see that it is not God’s law that wounds us, but our sins. True consolation lies in rediscovering the joy of living in God’s grace by rejecting sin. Therein lies the path to both peace of soul now, and salvation[salvation] in the world to come.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to hear a great deal about “hard” cases between now and next October’s Synod, which is only going to confuse things further.

Fr. Z kudos to Fr. M.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. iPadre says:

    Two solutions. For those with no children, separation. For those with children, live as brother and sister. Today, we worry more about the body and what people think than the soul, especially those entrusted with the care of souls. Our Lord expects more from us who have been entrusted this sacred trust.

  2. JTH says:

    How long before Cardinal Kaspar and his cohorts decide non-Catholics should also be permitted to receive communion quoting some nonexistent ‘exception’? Non-Catholics have feelings too that can be easily offended.

  3. MGL says:

    Father, the article is at The Catholic Thing, not Crisis.

    And thank you for continuing to stand firm on this issue.

  4. Pat says:

    This Cardinal has been for many years the arch-rival of Card. Burke. He and the Signatura would not have been able to “work out these cases” and thus, the Pope told Card. Burke that some dicasteries involved with canonical issues had to be reorganized.

  5. anilwang says:

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s approach is beyond cruel willful negligence.

    If a foster child had been placed in your care that was dangerously obese and addicted to computers to the point that he didn’t want to go to school and did not have the energy to play active games, it is clear what a good foster parent must do.

    It doesn’t matter if the child is the sweetest child in the world and uses all his time on the computer to build web sites for struggling charities and volunteers to help teens on a suicide hot-line and has helped over a 1000 teens turn back from the brink and find hope in Christ through the sacraments. It doesn’t matter that child is in torment if he doesn’t have Bacon wrapped High Fructose Corn Syrup Double Cheeseburgers every few hours. It doesn’t matter if even playing golf places him in agony. You know what you need to do and although it would be inhuman not to have great compassion on this potential saint, his addictions are literally killing him. Unless you do something you will be an accomplice to murder.

    A spiritual father is no less culpable for aiding spiritual suicide.

  6. KaTeKu says:

    Well, God grants us a free will and he absolutely respects our free choices, doesn´t He? So if a catholic woman chooses to cohabitate with a married man, it is her free will and she must be full aware of it. Sinful cohabitation (as any other grave sin) means no communion. I have a free will to choose this possibility but in that case I have to be prepared to the consequences (no communion). In such case it is I who depart not the Church who expells me. I am sad any bishop might even suggest such a novel approach.
    Maybe it would not be in way to read once again Evelyn Waugh´s Brideshead Revisited..
    And btw. I have a friend who several years ago met a guy who was just perfect for her. She was very glad with him and he with her. But not long after she met him he told her that in fact he is divorced and that marriage had been sacramental. Well, they drifted appart for for her he was a married man. She was very sorrowful. And yet she overcame it and this autumn she´s stopped fighting with the Lord and joined one trapist community. And she has found peace and is content. No, feelings and emotions are nots arguments.

  7. Michael_Thoma says:

    The more I see these stories, and the hierarchs making these ridiculous “examples”, as if these situations are new or unheard of, the less I believe we belong to the same faith, the same Church. Let these folks – whether Fr.UniversalLove, BishopChuckles, CardinalTheresNoHell – either create their own community or join the myriad of other groups that already do this and a lot more – UnitarianUniversalists, UnityChurch, MetropolitanCommunity, Anglican Communion, they can even incorporate the word “catholic”, like Ecumenical Catholic Church, and Liberal Catholic Church.. have at it..

    somewhere else.

  8. anilwang says:

    As I wrote the above I realized something.

    Emotive “compassionate” examples like the one given by Cardinal Coccopalmerio that prove exactly the opposite are not difficult to create. Why have we not heard them by faith Catholic cardinals to neutralize this attack? Of course, those examples must be followed up with the true mercy of God’s truth, but we must understand that although humans are rational beings, classically rationality has always been understood as being beyond intellectualism. It’s only since the “Enlightenment” that rationality has been reduced to Intellectualism and Truth to either a set of scientific facts or doctrinal facts and modernism and postmodernism are merely (disastrously failed) attempts to recover the original meaning of rationality.

    According to Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas, rational activity encompasses not only thinking in the narrow sense of calculating, but also reasoning, including practical reasoning and planning, and producing including creating art, literature, and works of engineering, maintaining and enhancing friendships, and communion with God. We are incomplete unless our rationality embodies all these aspects which is why our defense of the sacred deposit that Christ handed to us must include the use of full rationality. The Confessions of St Augustine are a great example of what I mean. It’s saturated with doctrine, prayer, hymns, emotion, and apologetics in a very personal and rational way.

  9. chantgirl says:

    Why is the option of living as brother and sister never even mentioned in these cases? Why would prelates, who have themselves promised celibacy, see continence as such an impossibility for others? Do priests themselves find chastity impossible, or do they just think that the laity are incapable of it?

  10. texsain says:

    A lot of this mentality makes me think of the third graders I teach. I have one who, whenever he makes a poor choice that results in me marking his folder, says, “I hate this school! It’s so unfair! I’m always getting in trouble.” As I remind him, it’s not my fault that he made a bad choice.

    Likewise, these adult children make bad choices, then complain about the Church or God and say that it’s unfair, unmerciful, etc.

    We have a maturity problem in the Church.

  11. jhartne says:

    The Catholic in this situation really doesn’t have any choice. They cannot receive Communion. I commend our neighbor in this situation who faithfully went to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days but did not receive Communion during that period. She waited for 40 years and then her first husband died. She is now back in good standing with the Church. I am sure that this was difficult for her but well worth the wait.

  12. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    I think that sooner or later, Benedict XVI’s prediction of the Church becoming “smaller” is going to come to pass.

    Although I wouldn’t call it “smaller”, I’d call it getting “back into shape”. The Church has been a couch potato for the last 30+ years, and now it’s time to dust off the weight set, warm up the treadmill, put on a heavy rucksack, and get to work shedding the excess fat (And even practice its marksmanship. . .)

    I think that people who do not want To Be Catholic, should be invited/strongly encouraged to leave the Church. End of discussion.

    “Christmas and Easter Onlys” (CEOs), who are nowhere to be seen the other 50 Sundays out of the year, and stumble into Mass smelling of alcohol (Remind anyone of the Ancient Church at Corinth. . . ?), should be discouraged from attending on those Holy Days.

    If you’re going to Church only because “that’s what you do on Easter/Christmas. . .” or because “That’s what my family has always done. . .” then you should stop wasting your time.

    Be Catholic. Or Don’t. There really shouldn’t be any “middle-ground”.

  13. That Guy says:

    Am I missing something here? If. The gentleman had truly been “abandoned,” would that not have been legitimate grounds for an annulment anyway? [No. A declaration of nullity is not a divorce. It is a determination that there was no valid bond in the first place.]While I agree that there are some knots that can’t be untied here in Earth, sometimes folks just don’t want to swallow the medicine.

  14. That Guy says:

    Good Father, I do recognize the difference between a divorce and an annulment. My point is that (and I may be in error) the fact of abandonment may be the grounds for determining that a marriage is, in fact, null. If abandonment would not normally be grounds for a Church annulment (not a civil divorce) then I am in error, but I have observed that annulments have been granted for lesser reasons than abandonment.

  15. Dialogos says:

    Here’s an honest, naive question: Don’t these cardinals, bishops, and priests risk their own salvation as well as that of those they lead astray on these questions? Don’t those entrusted with the Holy priesthood sin more culpably since they do so in full knowledge of Church teaching and thus in defiance of it? While part of me is angered and flabbergasted that they would teach contrary to the Magisterium, part of me is also heartbroken that those who should know better would throw it all away.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    Last night we were at a Sacrament of Reconciliation service conducted in both Spanish and English. There were about eight priests there to hear confessions in various languages. It was a “quasi-Mass”, using prayer, hymns, and a homily, but no Holy Eucharist. There was a gentleman playing guitar for responses, and a sweet little choir, to the side of the altar. Their singing was very pretty and reverent. This is a primarily Spanish speaking church.
    The celebrant priest informed us during his homily that Cardinal Walter Kasper is a “great thinker”, a “great theologian”. He went on to tell us that in Cardinal KASPER’S opinion “We do not likely go to Hell over sins of commission, adultery, etc., but rather, sins of omission, the times we “do not allow for MERCY when we could have”. “Are we kind? Are we merciful?”. These are the questions we need ask ourselves.
    I have the feeling he has situations in mind where our mercy will be called upon in the future. Hell will surely yawn before us if any situations come up, say, next October, and we don’t find it in our hearts to show “mercy”. I have to wonder at these comments with so many other priests in attendance as well. I wonder if an invisible flag was lifted and saluted for purpose last night.

    As a side note, this priest said a swear word while at the lectern. I have never heard this before. He was talking about confession, and that we should go to confession even if it is to confess “the same damn thing over and over and over.” I would love to know if anyone else has experienced that.

  17. Cantor says:

    In fairness, why is the remarried divorcee the single category on which we want to pounce? We presume that they are living in sin. What about everybody else?

    The CARA survey cited on this very blog 5 years ago showed that 75% of all American Catholics fail to go to confession annually, as required by Church law. Should not the priest refuse Communion to all but the first 25% who approach the altar? On April 16th, should the priest withhold from another 17%, the number estimated by the IRS to improperly declare their income?

    There are 10 Commandments. What is it about #6 that gets our particular hackles up?

  18. tcreek says:

    Granting mercy to those who sin is the purview of God only. He alone knows the heart of the sinner. A person involved in “impossible” situations and who truly searches for God will receive all the grace necessary for salvation, communion or not.

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m sorry, Fr. Z. you may consider this tangential, but on EWTN, on The World Over Live, Raymond Arroyo said that in selecting the program’s Person of the Year they were torn between Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Walter Kasper. (??) Last year the honor was split between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.
    They decided instead to consider the Christians of the Middle East their Person(s) of the Year.

  20. tcreek says:

    Cantor, Church law only requires confession if in a state of mortal sin.

  21. A priest friend, canonist, apparently tech-challenged, wrote by email with a comment:

    “Would it really be totally impossible to admit her to Communion?”


    Because it is impossible be “fully united” with God (ie when you receive Holy Communion) if you simultaneously choose to be “fully disunited” with God (ie when you have committed a serious sin).

    That is the reason why the Law of the Church states that children must make their First Confession before they can make their First Holy Communion – precisely to teach them that you must be in a state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion.

    This is the Doctrine of the Church.

    Did these Princes of the Church ever learn any logic – or study any theology?

    The Council of Trent taught that if you have committed a mortal sin, you must go to confession before you can receive Holy Communion again – and it also states:

    “If anyone presumes to teach, or preach, or obstinately maintain, or defend in public disputation the opposite of this, he shall by the very fact be excommunicated.” [Council of Trent 13th Session on the Most Holy Eucharist October 11, 1551 – Canon 11 Denzinger 1661]



  22. govmatt says:

    The situation presented here is not unlike the “rape and incest” argument for abortion. While the statistics show that upwards of 90% of abortions are committed for population control or convenience, the promoters of the practice repeatedly hammer those opposed with the extreme example.

    This is what, in my humble opinion, is going on here. By playing ball in His Eminence’s scenario, we are acknowledging its validity as commonplace. Thus, we would begin to make policy based on outliers rather than the common.

    Let’s be abundantly clear, with some exceptions, no one is turned away from communion these days. It is purely self-selecting. “I don’t think I’m a sinner because…” or “I’m going to go up ‘cuz everyone else is.” That’s the painful reality of our Church today. Once His Eminence remembers that he is holding the same One who made the rule about marriage that he flagrantly disobeys, he may think twice about his actions. The decision to contravene Our Lord’s direct words while distributing Him to the faithful shows an utter incomprehension about the magnitude of the undertaking.

    Until we restore reverence, this heterodox nonsense will spread. His Eminence is not only wrong, what he is promoting will cause souls to be lost. On top of all that, this man is a Prince of the Church. What a great shame he brings on the faithful, and what a terrible risk he takes with the souls meant for his care.

  23. Sonshine135 says:

    Barabbas is chosen over Jesus yet again. Do any of these Cardinals realize the gravity of what they do? The shepherds of the church are surrendering souls to Satan.

  24. Pat says:

    Be aware that both Cardinals, Kasper and Coccopalmeiro, belong to this group “The Friends of Pope Francis” http://www.rossoporpora.org/rubriche/vaticano/437-prima-uscita-pubblica-per-gli-amici-di-papa-francesco.html

    So they may be just insisting on the changes that Francis himself agrees with (when they talk privately with him) and that he will not affirm publicly till the end of next Synod when he writes the Apostolic Constitution.

    In sum, the more bishops and laity voice concerns, the better chance they will have to be heard (since they do not belong to this “inner circle” of Pope Francis’ friends).

  25. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    It is axiomatic in Common, Civil, and Canon Law:

    “Hard cases make bad law.”

  26. MGL says:


    In fairness, why is the remarried divorcee the single category on which we want to pounce?

    It isn’t. Two years ago, this issue wasn’t even on the radar. Civilly remarried Catholics weren’t beating down the doors to be allowed to Holy Communion, and given the depth and severity of the challenges facing the Church, no-one would have nominated this issue as the highest priority. Since there really is no legitimate controversy over the Church’s discipline on this question (addressed most recently in Familiaris Consortio), we’d all be happy never to discuss it again.

    The only reason we’re talking about it now is that several prelates at the very highest levels of the Church have forced it into our consciousness and made it the central topic of discussion at the Synod on the Family. Yes, a long-settled teaching, affecting only that small fraction of remarried Catholics who will resume Mass attendance if they are allowed to receive Communion, has been imposed on us as the litmus test of “mercy”. This isn’t about “pouncing” laity; it’s literally a concession which cannot be granted, to paraphrase the words of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich.

    Finally, many thinking Catholics have realized that this is about far more than just this one seemingly minor “6th commandment” issue. If Kasper’s proposal is adopted, it will immediately have several entirely predictable effects:

    – It will throw every other previously “settled” teaching into question.
    – It will remove the requirement to receive sacramental absolution before receiving the Eucharist.
    – It will nullify Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

    If people living in one type of objective grave sin can receive Communion without absolution, how could we justify withholding it from other grave sinners? If we can reopen this teaching on “merciful” grounds, why not a thousand others? If the Church has been wrong for almost 2,000 years about what Christ himself taught, what grounds do we have for believing anything else she teaches?

    Does that help answer your question?

  27. JBS says:

    “Some of the mistakes we make in life can’t be fixed.” Another example of this may be frozen embryos. If they cannot be implanted, then they certainly cannot be killed. Therefore, the moral obligation is to maintain them in the frozen state, with their unmarried parents having no morally acceptable means of fixing the situation.

  28. sisu says:

    One gets the feeling (from the Kasper, Coccopalmerio, etc. crew) that they believe that which is difficult to do is too much to ask of people, because they do not believe that supernatural grace is available. If one cannot aim high and rely on grace to supply what we lack, then happiness must be attained by purely human methods and actions. By offering community, and social acceptance, and removal of any discomfit, we provide the maximum happiness attainable by purely human hands, a psycho-social therapeutic solution.
    I’ve heard it said that the divide in the Church is not so much between conservatives and liberals, but rather between those who believe in the supernatural/miraculous, and those who don’t. Seems to ring true.

  29. Latin Mass Type says:

    All this talk (not here on this blog of course) of reception of the Eucharist giving grace and healing to those in a state of mortal sin, and helping them get better…

    In our study group, our priest reminded us that a soul in a state of mortal sin is like a dead person. Reception of communion without confession, repentance and absolution is like giving food to someone who is dead. Not gonna help.

  30. Orphrey says:

    Similar to Dr. William Oddie, I have been disturbed by some of the things said and left unsaid by Pope Francis, including with regard to the synod on the family. But maybe by calling for discussion “without taboos” Pope Francis is doing a big favor for the Church: the dividing line between those who are faithful to the Magisterium and those who are not is getting clearer. At least we are learning more about who is and is not faithful in the hierarchy, and getting a better understanding of the state of the Church. (Wouldn’t it be a shock if, when the synod concludes next October, the Pope were to announce: “Thank you all for your thoughtful input. I am sorry to say that those who ‘teach, or preach, or obstinately maintain, or defend in public’ that those in a state of mortal sin, such as the divorced and ‘remarried,’ should receive Communion, are excommunicated.”)

  31. jacobi says:

    So much of the trouble in the Church today can be traced to the now established practise of treating the Holy Sacrifice of Mass as a communion service at which everyone has the right to receive and expects to enforce that right. It is no longer seen as the reception, as a privilege and channel of Grace, of the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ under the outward appearance of bread and wine.

    This cannot be emphasised too much.

    There is always a solution to problems by people of good will. The Catechism makes it quite clear that those for instance, who are divorced and remarried, that is in a state of Adultery and of Mortal Sin, should be welcomed into the Church and into parish activities, “ so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church”, CCC 1650, 1651.

    That is the solution.

    That also applies to defrauders of labourers, the envious, the proud, the slothful, the greedy, contraceptors, “bidie ins”, casual Mass attenders, abortionists and so on.

    The Church requires us to attend Mass circa 55 times a year. It requires us to receive Holy Communion once a year, as far as I know, and I have asked that many times now without being contradicted.

    The quicker we all get back to attending Mass, instead of “communion”, the better!

  32. jhayes says:

    Perhaps we jump too quickly to equate objective wrong to subjective sin. The Church teaches that adultery and other forms of sex outside of marriage are objectively wrong. It also teaches (in 1735 of the Catechism) that “1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”

    I assume that is why the material just sent out for the 2015 Synod asks bishops to consider how 1735 bears on the issue of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

    Sounds as if Cardinal Coccopalmerio has already thought about it and come to a conclusion. [Indeed.]

  33. jhayes says:

    Regarding the frequency of receiving the Eucharist, see “Sacra Tridentina” of Pope St. Pius X. It starts:

    The Holy Council of Trent, having in view the ineffable riches of grace which are offered to the faithful who receive the Most Holy Eucharist, makes the following declaration: “The Holy Council wishes indeed that at each Mass the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but sacramentally, by the actual reception of the Eucharist.” These words declare plainly enough the wish of the Church that all Christians should be daily nourished by this heavenly banquet and should derive therefrom more abundant fruit for their sanctification….

    9. Finally, after the publication of this Decree, all ecclesiastical writers are to cease from contentious controversy concerning the dispositions requisite for frequent and daily Communion.

  34. Cantor says:


    Your point is quite clear, yes. We would be in bad shape if we “give in” to any particular grave sin and ignore the consequences. (And thanks for the correction tcreek. I’m old school BC – Baltimore Catechism – where it just says all sins; Canon Law is more specific.) But therein lies my point.

    A week ago Monday, there were 8 of us at Mass at my rural church. Between Saturday evening and Sunday, there are generally close to 80 people total. Do we assume that the absent 72 committed a grave sin by missing Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation? Or do we, and our priest, leave it between them and God?

  35. Patti Day says:

    The more I read of these “impossible” solutions, the more I worry that the Pope will allow one of these radical ideas to carry the ordinary synod in 2015. Then what? At least we will have no doubt who our enemies are.

  36. MGL says:


    As things stand right now, priests are not to refuse Communion to those in line except when the sin in question is manifest and grave, and even then I believe they’re required to offer private counsel before the situation arises. No-one that I know of is advocating a change to this status quo. We also suspect, as you point out, that some who currently receive are doing so unworthily. They may (or may not) be condemning themselves by doing so, but no-one is suggesting that we prevent them from receiving. In the vast majority of cases, it’s between them and God, as you say.

    The argument taking place is about whether the Church should revoke its discipline that states that people in a state of objective grave sin should refrain from presenting themselves for communion, with the likely consequences I gave above.

    As an analogy: we have laws against theft, even though we know that some people will break those laws and get away with it. The Kasper proposal is akin to arguing that theft isn’t a crime so we shouldn’t have the laws in the first place.

  37. MrsMacD says:

    I have a story. A mother of eleven children abandoned her husband. The eldest was 17 the youngest 6 months. The individuals were both Catholic and held fast to the Church’s teaching, not visibly admitting an adulterous affair. Some 13 years later there was a reconciliation, something that would have been completely impossible had either of them admitted a third party.

    If the marriage is valid, then the spouses that will sanctify each other are the ones who are married, all other relationships are a lie, and should never be admitted.

  38. Martlet says:

    As an EMOHC, I assume at all times that those coming to receive are in a state of grace. I have no way of knowing whether someone, no matter how public their sin, confessed just two minutes before Mass began. It also seems to me that if what priests say about Confession is true, that they do indeed “forget” what they have heard, and if they cannot mention outside the Confessional what was said during it, nor even acknowledge that a given person has or has not confessed, I don’t see how a pastor can assume anything other than that those coming to receive are in a state of grace. Therefore, it seems to me, the only time to refuse Holy Communion is if someone announces their sin or wears a rainbow sash, or has a tee-shirt extolling adultery, or something else which leaves no room for doubt. Otherwise, I don’t see how anyone can know.

  39. rafferju says:

    at a funeral mass recently I saw a man going up to receive that wasn’t a catholic. An EMOHC mentioned it to me, that at another funeral a similar situation occurred and a protestant presented themselves at the alter for communion to him. I think the best way is to focus all your attention on the Eucharist and so never look at the person your giving the Eucharist to.

  40. acardnal says:

    jhayes quoted some of “Sacra Tridentina” by Pope Pius X above. I recommend it be read in its entirety. It is very short. In the document, the Pope more than once reminds everyone of the necessity of being in a state of grace (free from mortal sin) before receiving holy communion.


    1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.

    3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.

    5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor’s advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.

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