ASK FATHER: Lesbian Communion Ministers

From a reader…


My Pastor allows 2 women who are in a public relationship (of the rainbow variety) to be Eucharistic ministers. What is the best way to approach him with my disapproval with the hopes of it stopping. (My 9 y/o daughter mentioned to me one morning at the end of Mass that she thought it was a man but when she got up close realized it was a woman.) If it does not stop and I am yelled down (as I expect, but pray not), what recourse is there?


First of all, we must be precise with terminology. A lay person who distributes Holy Communion is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a title as bulky and uncomfortable as the regular use of such creatures should be rare.

Like all ministers of the Church, ordinary and extraordinary, it is required that they live according to the dictates of the Church, strive for holiness, and avoid giving scandal. It is difficult to see how someone living in an object state of sin could fulfill these obligations. In fact, it’s quite impossible.

The faithful, of course, have the right to bring their concerns to their pastors. First, one must be certain that one has all the facts at hand, mindful that gossip and calumny are sins. The virtue of prudence also comes in to play here. Sadly, in these days, our pastors don’t always respond to our concerns as they should. In this case, we should ask – is the pastor already aware of this situation? What is his likely response? Our interlocutor seems to expect being yelled down. What then would be accomplished by raising these concerns, if the situation is not thusly rectified? One might gain the moral satisfaction of having done the right thing, and there is much to be said about those who, in the face of grave opposition, hold fast to the truth. Our Dear Lord also advised us to be as “wise as serpents and as simple as doves.”

We often speak of prayer as a sort of last resort. If we can’t “do” anything, we say, “well, at least, I’ll pray for you.” That seems to betray a bit of weakness of faith, when prayer is quite often our most powerful weapon. Storm heaven, both for this pastor, and for this couple who are, apparently, living in a state of objective sin. Pray that their hearts be turned to love and to follow the Church’s clear commands – for those commands are the stones with which the path to heaven is paved. All other paths are perilous. Pray to Our Lady, that their hearts may be softened and become docile to the commandments of the Lord. Pray to St. Clare, so diligent in defense of the Blessed Sacrament. Pray to their Guardian Angels. Pray especially to the Lord Jesus Christ, who wishes their conversion and their sanctification.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Lurker 59 says:

    in general, don’t draw red lines or make ultimatums where you cannot or won’t follow through when and if you are disappointed. Also, it is never wise to approach any priest with an attitude of “you must do what I want”. Instead, seek the path of humility.

    For this specific situation, if you find the need to say something, remember that father probably speaks the language of emotion, accompaniment, and subjective experience. Thus, speak to him after that fashion. But remember humility and don’t turn things into it being about your will, for that is how the devil gets the zealous.

    Also consider getting to Mass early so you sit in the pews that are in father’s line for Communion. That way you can ignore what the EMHCs and focus on Christ.

  2. St. Thomas Aquinas wisely wrote that one of the necessary characteristics of a Just War is that it is winnable. All fighting an unwinnable war means is that there will be damage all around with no positive result. That is, as the Angelic Doctor teaches, immoral.

    I think the same is true of a “Just Fight.” If it is not winnable, don’t fight it.

    [Would you say to the men whose city/home is being invaded by those who are after their wives and daughters, “You can’t win. Don’t fight back!”? ]

  3. DavidR says:

    Or, if Fr. switches sides, as our priest is wont to do, just don’t go up to receive.
    Or, go to a different Mass time, if 0ne is offered.
    Finally, try a different parish.

  4. Sorry, Father Z., but bad hypotheticals make bad law. All wars (and fights) should be defensive. And your hypo is that, not in point. And, simply doing nothing in your case is not proportional. Because real physical damage is threatened and one has an obligation to sacrifice one’s life for one’s family. [So, it is not a bad hypothetical. And I think that history provides examples that that is not a bad hypothetical. Real people have faced that real situation.]

    Starting a fight when one is not being personally harmed requires proportionality and ability to win. If the writer wants to start a fight, it requires proportion and to be winnable. It should also follow the terms of the Evangelical denunciation (MT 18:15). First the writer should go to the couple personally, and correct them. If they resist, the writer should get two or three others and do it again. If that does not work, then, and only then, should the writer go to the pastor. If the pastor does not respond, then get two or three others and return. If that does not work, then go to the bishop. Repeat the process. No result, go to Rome. Now this process may produces large numbers of hostile people, all the way up to the Roman Curia. And there may be retaliation.

    Is all that possible (probable?) anger is proportional? [? Is there an extra is?] And will Rome, if it ends up there, do something? I doubt it. So your writer should do what the man in your hypo should do: get out of town (or the parish) before the enemy arrives. The alternative to fight is flight, not suicide.

    I don’t think I have much more to say on this. [Okay. These are tough situations and no one answer fits ever circumstance. Solid principles, however, can guide us when the divided paths are dark and thorny.]

  5. aliceinstpaul says:

    Fr. Ferguson ,

    I don’t understand the advice. Of course we should pray. But a 9 yr old’s soul is in danger due to scandal, and the path the parish is presenting is already perilous.

    We are fighting to teach our children the faith, against our culture, and increasingly against men who are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. Prayer is a powerful weapon, but many faithful Catholics are losing their children even as they pray. There needs to be more of a response on how we teach our children. Should the letter writer not show his/her child that faith requires action?

  6. SundaySilence says:

    Um, no DavidR. If Father switches sides, then so do I. This wouldn’t be an issue at all if they’d just bring back the communion rails.

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    “what recourse is there?”

    Du your bishop the favor of apprising him of the situation. If that does not avail, look for a parish with an orthodox pastor.

  8. hwriggles4 says:

    For many years, I was an usher and nearly 30 years ago at a Catholic college (not one of the 25 in the Newman Guide) I was an EMHC. Our priest at the college gave us a warning early on that since we are liturgical ministers, we need to set an example. Therefore, our priest frowned on getting tanked on Saturday night, and well as other types of inappropriate behavior, since on Sunday we would be presenting ourselves at the altar in a position of trust.

    The parish I was an usher at for a few years happened to be (I didn’t know it then) a very progressive parish that was only able to rely on the same volunteers over and over again. I got tired of ushering every week at the same Mass (because no one else volunteered) and I was the only usher under 45 years old. That said, I found out years later that one of the most active choir members (a great singer) was a non-Catholic, and oftentimes functioned as an EMHC. I can’t believe the pastor (now deceased) allowed that to happen for years. I will say now that parish has had some turnover for the better.

    Now, about EMHC’s. The criteria that I have heard from good priests are:
    1. Must be baptized, confirmed, received first Eucharist, etc.
    2. Must be a practicing Catholic.
    3. If married, the marriage must be recognized by the Catholic Church. Therefore, a Catholic who is divorced and remarried civilly (and there are many cases of weekly Mass attendees whose second marriage was in a Protestant denomination and receive communion weekly because several priests don’t preach on this) would not qualify to be an EMHC. By the same token, those in a same-sex union should not be presenting themselves for communion, and should not be EMHC’s. Now, if a Catholic has received a decree of nullity, or the Catholic is divorced but living chastely (possibly working towards the decree of nullity) , the Catholic would qualify to be an EMHC if he or she is living chastely.

    To take this a step further: Questions I was asked when I became a Knight: Are you a Catholic in good standing? Do you follow the precepts of the Church? Are you Pro-Life? Do you attend Mass regularly (not just Christmas, Easter, or when my liturgical schedule says I have to go)?

    Over the past few years, I have had a further understanding of the Eucharist. I try to only receive communion from a priest or deacon (I am able to most of the time tactfully without running over people or being a distraction), but I do know several EMHC’s at my Novus Ordo parish that I know are practicing Catholics, true to the magesterium, and aren’t in irregular unions. I’m told at most parishes the pastor has the final say on who can be an EMHC’s, and in some dioceses names of EMHC’s have to be submitted to the bishop.

    As for other liturgical ministers, I have known some non-Catholics who sing in Catholic choirs (not as professionals, just because they like to sing, and some have converted), but they are respectful of the teaching, and refrain from receiving Communion. I also know some families where one of the spouses is not Catholic, and the non-Catholic spouse regularly attends Mass with the family, and supports the Catholic spouse. In these situations, the non-Catholic does not receive Communion.

  9. arga says:

    Shouldn’t these people have to be in a state of grace in order to perform this function? Just wondering if there isn’t a rule to that effect somewhere.

    [That is strongly encouraged. Is theres “state of grace detector”? I’d get one if one were available. In lieu of same, however, priests need to teach teach teach.]

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