ASK FATHER: Boss threatens to fire me if I don’t receive Communion.

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I have worked for a USA based Catholic non-profit for 5 years. I am a Catholic in good standing and am attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and am a lay member of the Confraternity of St. Peter. The CEO of my non-profit employer recently changed. The new CEO has threatened to terminate my employment if I do not receive Communion regularly at Novus Ordo Masses. This is in contradiction to my understanding of Dignitatis humanae. I have demonstrated my attachment to the Church and to her hierarchy by receiving Communion from bishops and priests whenever they celebrate the EF and I attend the Novus Ordo when I must in order to fulfill my canonical obligation. Nor am I attached to any non-canonical or “schismatic” groups.

To whom do I have recourse? What, if anything, can I do? If I need to hire a lawyer, how does one hire a canon lawyer?

Wow.

Not that this is the case here, but I’m reminded of what my old pastor used to say, “Scratch a liberal, and find a fascist.”

This sounds like a job for the St. Joseph Foundation – the website has some broken links, but the basic info is there.

If this Catholic agency is under the aegis of a diocese (and we allllll know how strict dioceses are about letting groups use the title “Catholic” these days. Certain groups, that is), then this would be a tough policy for them to try and enforce.

Depending on how the parameters of employment are written, an employer could include some pretty strict requirements. For example, “All employees of St. Philemon Catholic School will be registered at St. Philemon Catholic Parish and attend Mass there each Sunday unless excused.”

Civil law could be in play here. That’s where the St. Joseph Foundation would also provide good connections. They are canonists, but some have backgrounds in civil law. They have worked on cases that require the input of civil attorneys.

Some people are nearly maniacal about forcing uniformity when it comes to Mass.  Everyone has to go to Communion, no matter how many millions of people are in the park or field.  Everyone must NOT kneel.  Everyone is to sing every word of every verse.  Everyone must shake hands or hug or offer self-conscious waves. Some priests practically force other priests to concelebrate.  We will have UNITY!  It is as if the beatings will continue until moral improves.  “CELEBRATE DAMN IT! WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE!”

None of this is Catholic.

It is NOT obligatory to receive Holy Communion at Mass.

Alas, we are living in an age when the meaning of reception of the Eucharist has become twisted in several ways.  I have in mind a range of weird positions from, on the one side, “I won’t receive a host consecrated at a Novus Ordo Mass” to the very common “Mass?  Oh, you mean liturgy! That’s when they put the white thing on your hand and then we sing the song together!”

Okay… I’m done ranting.

Please share!
Share

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liberals, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to ASK FATHER: Boss threatens to fire me if I don’t receive Communion.

  1. govmatt says:

    Civil law most certainly comes into play here if you are terminated.

    Unless your contract (if you have one) defines (for some inexplicable reason) that you must receive Holy Communion in a particular way, you would have recourse in civil court.

    However, this has tinges of both “not quite the full story as to the way you may present yourself around the office” and “the CEO doesn’t understand what the Extraordinary Form is.”

  2. jacobi says:

    Father,

    When I was at school, not telling you when, I was taught that we had to receive Holy Communion a minimum of once a year and that at Easter or thereabouts (and also to be in a state of grace and otherwise suitably disposed).

    That has not changed. [Of course it hasn’t changed, but that has nothing to do with this discussion.]

    I would make one further observation. Anyone knowingly receiving Holy Communion in a state of Mortal Sin, is committing a further Mortal Sin. Should anyone force a person who is knowingly in a state of Mortal Sin to receive, then that second person is also committing a Mortal Sin and possibly also Sacrilege? [As always, the necessary conditions for mortal sin must apply.]

  3. Eric says:

    I certainly hope if this person is fired, he let us know which non profit employer this is so we can respond accordingly.

  4. Traductora says:

    First of all, I don’t understand why this person “won’t receive Communion at a Novus Ordo mass.” It’s valid and receiving Communion at such a mass is not a sacrilege. So if he’s making a statement about how much he dislikes the NO (as I do too), that was not the time to make it.

    That said, I don’t see how an employer or anybody else can criticize or even ostracize somebody else for not receiving Communion. The problem is that thinking on the NO makes Communion a communal activity and does not take into consideration the individual and his circumstances in any way.

    When I was a child in pre-VII NYC, most people didn’t receive Communion. They may have eaten something outside of the time, they may have felt they needed to go to Confession for one reason or another, or they may simply have felt that they weren’t recollected enough. That may sound silly, especially since paying attention at Mass is now no longer important, but people actually did accuse themselves of not being recollected enough at Mass (that is, not paying attention) and did not go to Communion for that reason. But they came in.

    I still remember one Midnight Mass at my parish when I heard the door opening repeatedly and looked behind me and saw what looked like the entire NYPD standing or kneeling in the back of the church. They had come in off their patrols for that moment and they left almost immediately after the Consecration. No Communion except a spiritual one.

    So what’s wrong with that?

  5. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Some people are nearly maniacal about forcing uniformity when it comes to Mass. Everyone has to go to Communion, no matter how many millions of people are in the park or field. Everyone must NOT kneel. Everyone is to sing every word of every verse. Everyone must shake hands or hug or offer self-conscious waves.”

    I am writing a computer game about this very scenario. It’s a, “What if,” story…what if the Catholic Church had developed like Islam and politics and religion were the same thing? It has liturgical police, secret societies, the whole thing. Code is passed by means of Gregorian Chant, in Latin (which has become a forbidden language). You can play and experience the story at three different age levels: a seven-year old, a twenty-year old, and a seventy-year old, male or female. Maybe, it takes place in the distant future in this reality. In any case, I call the story, Novus Ordo – New Order (no connection to the Mass form of the same name :)) Of course, I’ll need some beta-tester…

    The Chicken

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Unless your contract (if you have one) defines (for some inexplicable reason) that you must receive Holy Communion in a particular way, you would have recourse in civil court.”

    Not if your state has a Fire-at-Will law and you have no contract :(

    The Chicken

  7. gramma10 says:

    Control Freaks!
    God gives us our freedom. Lord have mercy!
    And this is not even the government speaking!

  8. mhazell says:

    Well, if it were me, I would politely point the CEO in the direction of Canon 920, then tell them where they can shove their own ridiculous notion of what actuosa participatio means. The second part of that might not be the most diplomatic thing to do, though. :-)

  9. ppb says:

    While I certainly think it is wrong for the CEO to do this, and suspect he/she needs to be educated about the Extraordinary Form (among other things), I also have to wonder…what is the inquirer’s reason for not wanting to receive Communion at a NO Mass? One always has the option to receive on the tongue and kneeling.

  10. Boniface says:

    jacobi,

    As far as Church teaching goes, of course what you were taught, as you described, was and remains part of the seven laws of the Church. One is obliged to confess sins at least once a year to a priest, and receive Holy Communion during the Easter season.

    I think Fr. Z meant under ordinary circumstances, nobody is or can lawfully be compelled.

  11. The Cobbler says:

    Chicken, will this be point and click adventure (with or without visual puzzles), text adventure, stealth espionage action…?

  12. Muv says:

    Employee can hint darkly to employer that he can only give his best at work if he is secure in the knowledge that employer goes to confession at least once a fortnight. That should solve it.

  13. jacobi says:

    @Boniface

    That is what I meant too. But also that anyone trying to compel, whether they succeed or not, is also guilty of a Mortal Sin, whoever they are, objectively speaking of course.

    I mean, who am I to judge?

    But thanks for your concern, Boniface!

  14. Imrahil says:

    As those who gave me the undeserved honor to read some of my comments know, I’m all in favor for receiving Communion (in the not spiritual-only way) as much as lawfully possible.

    But.

    No employer, however ecclesial, has any business to require a layman to receive Holy Communion in any way and any place whatsoever (beyond maybe requiring a proof of fulfilment of the Easter duty – and I can’t see that practically happening, either). The position’s called “employer”, not “spiritual director”.

    Holy Communion is not about proving to others that one is in state of grace. And if you see some not receiving Communion, you’d be quiet about it. It is not by law protected the way the Seal of the Confessional is, but doesn’t it have slight similarities?

  15. iamlucky13 says:

    “Not if your state has a Fire-at-Will law and you have no contract :(“

    Perhaps in theory. However, I live and work in an at-will employment state, and I know for a fact that my employer has had to defend against multiple unjust termination lawsuits, and simply saying “he didn’t perform his duties as expected” didn’t cut it. From the documents I’ve seen, the lawyers were picking apart the employee handbook for anything that sounded like a promise of a certain procedure for termination that might not have been followed, and wanting justification of exactly how expectations were set and measured against, and how they could be sure that they weren’t fired for being part of a protected class, etc.

    Furthermore, this doesn’t seem to me a mere matter of whether the minimal at-will conditions or even more strict conditions were met, but as a Title VII of the Civil Rights Act case. They’re being threatened with termination for their religious practices. Where I’m fuzzy, however, is religious organizations are granted some leeway in so-called “reasonable accommodation.” Nonetheless, one of a few sources I’ve found reliably and consistently corroborated describes the law as follows:

    “Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to allow employees to practice their religion, unless doing so would create an undue hardship.”

    So, for example, it seems obvious why have a proponent of gay marriage running a Catholic school, with its mission to promote Catholic teaching, creates undue hardship for the school (I’m actually referencing a local case where a vice principal was fired after announcing that he had married his partner at a local Episcopalian church, to the extreme outrage of the local liberal majority). It is not obvious why a Catholic charity that requires its employees to be actively participating Catholics would face undue hardship in employing somebody plainly living out the major tenants of their faith, including attending an approved rite of the Mass.

    I pray the bishop gets involved and brings this under control quickly and firmly. I think this person has a decent civil case, but it seems scandalous to me that we should have to rely on a civil court to protect a Catholic’s right to examine their own conscience and make their own decision when to receive Communion, and it would be terrible to put this person through the anxiety of protecting their job in court when there’s no good reason for them to have to worry about more than their day-to-day job duties.

  16. Mary Jane says:

    Uh, folks, I don’t read anywhere that the OP said she/he won’t receive communion at a NO Mass. Why are some making this assumption? The OP said they were threatened with loosing their job unless she/he “receives Communion *regularly* at Novus Ordo Masses”. The OP also said, “I attend the Novus Ordo when I must in order to fulfill my canonical obligation.” I don’t see how either of these things can or should be interpreted that the OP won’t receive communion at a NO Mass.

    And, okay so say the OP doesn’t receive communion at NO Masses…what business is that of anyone?

  17. Athelstan says:

    Traductora,

    First of all, I don’t understand why this person “won’t receive Communion at a Novus Ordo mass.”

    The problem is that you don’t know that; you are assuming that. All the writer said is that he (I am assuming that it is a “he”) is “attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass” and that he is “a lay member of the Confraternity of St. Peter.” He states that he even attends the Ordinary Form from time to time. He has not said that he refuses to receive Communion in the OF.

    I think that what this is really about is not making him regularly receive Communion in the Ordinary Form, but to stop him from attending the Extraordinary Form, at least with any regularity. I suspect that if he tried a moderate accommodation by receiving Communion once per week (with an appropriate recourse to Confession as needed) at a weekday Mass nearby but still attended his EF for his holy days of obligation, his boss would make that painfully clear.

    I support any effort he makes to fight this canonically, but since it’s his livelihood at stake, to say nothing of his peace of mind (the boss probably has it in for him now no matter what he does), I could not blame him from seeking other employment as quickly as possible.

  18. Athelstan says:

    P.S. I wonder if the employer here imposes the same requirement on Eastern Rite or Ordinariate Catholics in their employ ? (No need to answer that; we all can guess the answer.)

  19. MarylandBill says:

    I think the writer’s objection is not that they are required to receive at an Ordinary Form mass (they state that they attend one when necessary to fulfill their canonical obligation and though they don’t say it, presumably they might at least occasionally receive at those masses. I believe they are objecting to the requirement to receive regularly at an ordinary form mass. I would interpret that to mean their boss wants them to attend an ordinary form mass and receive there at least weekly. Now, not that we can’t all do with more time at mass, but it essentially doubles their canonical obligation if they want to also continue to regularly attend Extraordinary Form masses.

  20. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I get the impression that the employer requires this person to faithfully attend Mass at the local parish, and does not see the employee there (perhaps the employer is a priest, which would explain the rule about going to Communion, so that the employee’s presence can actually be noted).

    The employee might be saying, “Oh, I do attend Mass at the Novus Ordo parish, but I like the packed morning Mass, sitting in the second to the last pew at the end of the pew, which is why my presence is not noticed.” The employer can then say, “I attend that Mass, and never see you there” to which the employee can further respond, “Yes, but when the Extraordinary Form is available, I attend the EF parish for Mass.”

    Could there possibly be a suspicion on the part of the employer that this person is getting out of Mass as often as they can, and therefore in so many words the employee is being told that their faithful attendance is being doubted? Beyond Mass attendance, I sense that the employer thinks that the employee is being sneaky and not always up front.

  21. Geoffrey says:

    This is ludicrous. When will people finally understand that, for better or for worse, there are currently two forms of the one Roman Rite? Like it or not, both are equal.

  22. Charles E Flynn says:

    I recall that in the early 1970s when I filed a grievance under my union contract, my lawyer looked at me and said, “You got your legitimate beefs, and your bum beefs. You got a legitimate beef.”

    If an allegedly Catholic employer made such a demand on me, I would contact a good Catholic third-party organization, as Father Z has suggested, and have them contact the relevant bishop, who I am sure would be happy to straighten out this unfortunate misunderstanding.

    Other labor-management news.

  23. iPadre says:

    This is the rigid arrogance that the Holy Father is always talking about. She should let him fire her and sue him for everything he has.

    There is such a double standard. Let’s imagine a traditional priest forcing people to receive on the tongue. The liberals have no tolerance!

  24. Gail F says:

    “CELEBRATE DAMN IT! WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE!” — ha ha Father, that one cracked me up.

    I don’t understand this person’s question. Is his boss saying that he has to go to OF Masses only? Is he refusing to get communion at OF Masses he does attend, just because he doesn’t like them? I don’t like some of them either but it’s JESUS. That sounds like nitpicking to me, if (as might be the case) his whole office goes to Mass together in the building and he is making a point of not going to communion because it’s not good enough for him. Or it could be that the boss is ordering him to go to NO Masses outside of work, which is nutty and autocratic. Or it could be that … all kinds of things. There isn’t enough information for me to figure this one out.

    I went to a wacky NO Mass recently and didn’t go up for communion because I need to go to confession for missing Mass, and haven’t been yet. But if I had been able to go, I still wouldn’t have gone because it was truly wacky and I was feeling angry and would not have been correctly prepared. Should my boss be able to tell me to get up there with everyone else? NO!

  25. ppb says: While I certainly think it is wrong for the CEO to do this, and suspect he/she needs to be educated about the Extraordinary Form (among other things), I also have to wonder…what is the inquirer’s reason for not wanting to receive Communion at a NO Mass? One always has the option to receive on the tongue and kneeling.

    I don’t think the inquirer said he didn’t want to receive Communion at a Novus Ordo Mass. But even if he did, how is that anyone’s business?

    What this is about is an employer trespassing on someone’s freedom of conscience. There are all kinds of reasons not to receive Holy Communion on a given occasion that are strictly between the individual and God and his confessor. It is not for an employer to inquire into those reasons. For example, I refrained from receiving Holy Communion a couple of weeks ago because I had a cold sore on my lip, and I do not receive Communion on the hand. Why should that be anyone’s concern? This is like telling someone he must go to confession only to a particular priest, or receive Communion on the hand, or receive under both kinds.

    We have turned into a nation of hall monitors. Such is not congruent with the freedom of the sons of God.

  26. iamlucky13 says:

    “he should let him fire her and sue him for everything he has.”

    I’d think it far preferable for all involved for this to be fixed within the hierarchy of the church than to fiscally destroy a charity the person involves seems to believe is worth working for with a civil lawsuit.

  27. jflare says:

    Wow! I never thought I’d say this, but this seems to me a case to take to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) if the employee cannot work it out with the employer.

    Even in a Right-to-Work state, an employee who can prove wrongful termination would be able to require being returned to work, repayment for the loss of income, repayment for the hassle of losing the job, all three, or something else that might be a benefit to both employer and employee.

    Wrongful termination would refer to being terminated for reasons that bore no relation to the employee’s ability to fill the assigned role. I am very hard pressed to explain why refusing to receive communion would hinder any employee’s ability to fill any role in any way. Unless, perhaps, a contract related to providing wine or hosts between the employer and a particular parish might be involved. Even then, such a contract would have debatable merit in requiring anyone to receive or not to receive.

    For what it’s worth, given the typical offering of the sacrifice of the Mass at the typical Novus Ordo parish, and given the same for a TLM, I can understand the preference for the latter.

    Even so, if the employer is a Catholic non-profit, I can’t imagine why receiving communion would be a sticking point.
    Taking a super wild swing at this situation, could there be some difficulty related either to the Confraternity of St Peter or to the employee’s filling a super-time sensitive role? Maybe something about a desperate need for Latin- or Spanish-speaking translators being present for 20 minutes, but the employee wishing to attend an EF Mass that’s located 30 minutes away?
    Something??

    PS. By the Confraternity of St Peter, do I understand the person to refer to FSSP? (Fraternidad Socieded de St. Pietro?)

  28. jflare says:

    “P.S. I wonder if the employer here imposes the same requirement on Eastern Rite or Ordinariate Catholics in their employ ? (No need to answer that; we all can guess the answer.)”

    Hmm. Not quite so fast, OK? Given how many Eastern Rite or Ordinariate Catholics I have come across in my lifetime, extremely few, I’m not sure that’s at all relevant.

    I’d be quite interested in hearing what happens and why!

  29. tzard says:

    I hope you find a solution to this injustice – however, from a practical standpoint – you can cope with the solution by doing something that should not be unnecessarily burdensome: Go to confession regularly (weekly?) to solve the issue of requirements of regular reception. Next, go to Mass under both forms.

    Go to a daily mass weekly somewhere (during lunch time?) with a good “do the red, say the black” priest.

    This could keep you going until the unjustness is dealt with. It’s not ostensibly more burdensome than being required to work through lunch, or stay late at work.

    Your life situation may not allow this, but my point is that it’s MASS and Communion. While the church and common sense doesn’t require you to jump through these hoops, to go to mass twice in a week, to go to confession often, your crazy boss does. Make a good showing – many of us have dealt with unreasonable expectations at work, but what you’re being asked to do is not a bad thing, it’s the asking that’s bad.

  30. Charlie Cahill says:

    In my question about yearly confession I was thinking of canon 989

  31. Federico says:

    Some of us are civil lawyers and canon lawyers.

    If the original person who contacted Fr. Z reads this, suggest you drop me an email at:
    magister
    (at)
    canonist
    .
    us

    Hopefully you can figure that address out and the spam robots won’t.

  32. ck says:

    ” Make a good showing – many of us have dealt with unreasonable expectations at work, but what you’re being asked to do is not a bad thing, it’s the asking that’s bad.”

    While I agree that the employer looks unreasonable based on the facts as presented, tzard makes a good point. Here it is wise to remember the great Sermon on the Mount where Christ teaches us:

    “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” – Matthew 5:41

  33. Athelstan says:

    Hmm. Not quite so fast, OK? Given how many Eastern Rite or Ordinariate Catholics I have come across in my lifetime, extremely few, I’m not sure that’s at all relevant.

    Obviously, yes, there are very few of those in the U.S. (outside a few pockets).

    But the point is that were this non-profit to employ such a Catholic, we all have reasonable grounds to believe that such a condition would never be imposed upon them.

  34. Athelstan says:

    I’d think it far preferable for all involved for this to be fixed within the hierarchy of the church than to fiscally destroy a charity the person involves seems to believe is worth working for with a civil lawsuit.

    Amen to that.

  35. SaintJude6 says:

    ck and tzard
    If the employer demanded that a female employee wear a veil at Mass, would your response be the same?

  36. Ed the Roman says:

    It might be interesting to ask the chancery who has the authority to command lay persons to receive regularly. No background, just the minimal question. Then when a very short list is returned, request clarification that that list is exhaustive.

  37. iamlucky13 says:

    “Hmm. Not quite so fast, OK? Given how many Eastern Rite or Ordinariate Catholics I have come across in my lifetime, extremely few, I’m not sure that’s at all relevant.”

    Just trying to make a half-educated guess based on how many I’ve met, I’d think several hundred thousand at least. I’ve seen estimates that the number of Chaldeans in the Detroit area alone top 100,000 (as it was an affordable place to move as they fled persecution in Iraq), making them a significant fraction of the Catholic population there, and I think there’s another sizable population of that rite in California.

    Basically, there’s a lot more than most people realize, and it’s important for other Catholics to be aware that they’re in full communion with those of us in the Latin church.

  38. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Cobbler,

    You wrote:

    “Chicken, will this be point and click adventure (with or without visual puzzles), text adventure, stealth espionage action…?”

    It will be text-based, so I can include snippets from Church documents, although, I could do graphics.

    The Chicken

  39. Alice says:

    “I have demonstrated my attachment to the Church and to her hierarchy by receiving Communion from bishops and priests whenever they celebrate the EF and I attend the Novus Ordo when I must in order to fulfill my canonical obligation.”

    I read that as the employee will receive Communion from bishops and priests at the EF, but apparently won’t receive Communion if he attends Mass in the OF. While I have been to some Masses in the OF that were so full of abuse that I chose to avoid Communion, making a rule of only receiving in the EF seems problematic to me. Also, I find myself wondering if the Catholic non-profit has a regular Mass in the Ordinary Form. If the problem is that the employee acts as if he is not “in communion” with his company, I can see the CEO’s point.

    That said, as someone who has worked for the Church, I’d really hate to have regular communicant as part of my job description. I usually am, but I can rarely go to Communion in early pregnancy. Plus, sometimes I need to go to confession or haven’t fasted. Asking for “regular” Communion (unless one means once a year or the employee in question is a priest whose duties include Mass) as a condition for employment seems like a great way to encourage sacrilege.

  40. ck says:

    “ck and tzard
    If the employer demanded that a female employee wear a veil at Mass, would your response be the same?”

    Most definitely, perhaps more so.

  41. C. says:

    This is in contradiction to my understanding of Dignitatis humanae.

    ^^^ This.

  42. Suburbanbanshee says:

    This would also be a grave injustice against, say, Catholics trying to live as brother and sister because of a weird marriage situation.

    But basically, another situation where grave injustice is taking place, on a canon law subject that was supposed to be settled back in the seventh century. What the heck are we doing? Do we want to make tyrannical half-pagan Merovingian Frankish kings look like model employers and family men?

  43. The Cobbler says:

    Well, Chicken, if you’re serious about beta testers, I am fairly sure Fr. Z has my email through the magic of WordPress. ;^)

    Back to the topic at hand… well, a particularly interesting tangent to it, anyway — I have heard enough horror stories about Americanism within living memory from my Byzantine friends that I would (sadly) not be in the least surprised if I ever heard a Byzantine had been given the same sort of treatment under discussion here.

  44. Dutchman says:

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of this nonsense going on. The Church seems to be full of people who are attracted to what they see are the compulsory aspects of it. I suppose it’s the same as people drawn to being police officers because they want the power of compelling others to do their will. And it also attracts those who are liberals who want to rebel against that structure. And God help you if those people are one and the same person. Poor Mother Church. Pray for her !