From a reader…
There’s a family who attends and is members at an Ordinary Form parish, who would like their child to do first communion in the Extraordinary Form. The EF is held monthly at a different parish. The pastor at the OF parish told them no. [ooops! FAIL.] So…
I’ve not before thought about it, but does one have to have permission for one to do first communion *at all*, or simply wait until kids are seven? Everyone does the first communion prep as a matter of course, but this situation has me thinking about canonical requirements.
And so, could the parents simply have their child receive in a TLM quietly, or would that violate something legal? It would of course be a sort of disobedience towards their OF pastor.
First, let’s for now leave aside the muddy issue of parish boundaries and registration in parishes outside one’s parish boundaries, and personal parishes, etc. Let’s also put aside the issue of First Penance, Confession before First Communion, though the two are usually closely connected. You are asking about Communion.
It seems that the priest is trying to be diligent about his role as pastor and about a First Communion. That’s a plus. Some pastors don’t seem to care one way or another and think that everyone, Catholics or not, manifest public sinner or not, in the state of mortal sin or not, should go to Communion because we are all “welcome”. Pastors, parish priests, have the obligation of protecting the faithful from error and correcting them when they stray (can. 529). This priest seems to want to do that, though perhaps he is overly zealous. He would be hard pressed to explain why going to Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form is somehow going astray.
Next, it could be that the pastor doesn’t quite understand his limitations. Reception of First Communion is not a juridic act. A person is under no obligation to receive the Eucharist the first time, or any time, from his territorial or personal pastor. Nor does a pastor, a parish priest, have any authority to forbid his parishioners from receiving First Communion, or any Communion, outside of his parish.
So, it would not be “disobedience toward the OF pastor” to go somewhere else.
BTW… the cynic in me would want to know if the priest objected to 1st Communion only because it was at a TLM or if it was at another place. Also, would that same priest allow an infamous pro-abortion politician to receive Communion who was recently in the news spouting the same? I would like to know that, too, but I’ll probably never know.
The obligation of preparing children for the Eucharist is primarily with the parents, not with the pastor. Can. 914 begins with the word “Parentum…” just to drive this point home before anyone get’s bored as they read the rest of the canon.
That said, the pastor of a parish does have the right, under can. 914, to “exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach holy communion”.
That applies to what happens at his own parish, not at another pastor’s parish.
Moving along, can. 912 says that “any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion”. That probably applies to a 7 year old since can. 1323 says that a child under the age of 16 cannot be subject to a canonical penalty and it is unlikely that the pastor could invoke can. 915 because the child is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”.
I’d make a crack about bishops admitting pro-abortion politicians to Communion at this point, but that might take us off track. Forget I wrote that.
And can. 914 says that once they deemed ready, children should be admitted to Communion “as soon as possible”. In other words, a pastor better have a really good reason not to admit a child to Communion at his own parish. He does not have the right to oblige anyone to receive at any time at his own parish. He does not have the right to forbid anyone from going to Communion at another parish, in this or that legitimate Catholic rite, etc.
Does this suggest that the parish priest, the pastor, has zero role in the issue of First Communion? No.
It is reasonable for parents to give the pastor – if he desires (and he should) – a chance to assess the child’s readiness (cf can. 914). The parents have the primary duty, but the pastor also has a duty.
Ideally and normally, parents and pastors work together well and cordially in this path of discernment. The primary say rests with the parents but the the pastor has the duty to double-check and make sure that the parents are right. If he assesses that the parents are not right about little Stupor Mundi then he would have to explain why. This is entirely reasonable, especially in this day when we find that more and more and more nominal Catholics haven’t the slightest clue about what the Church teaches. Also, many catechetical programs for First Communion prep are abysmal. More on that below.
If the pastor of the parish where Extraordinary Form Mass takes place assesses that little Stupor Mundi is ready, then he can be admitted to First Communion there with as much or as little hoopla as desired.
After that, it would be good inform the pastor of the home parish.
Could parents simply take their children to church and have them receive without consulting their parish priest or anyone at all?
I guess so. Once they’ve been admitted, they’ve been admitted. I’d want to know why parents did it that way, however.
I don’t think that sneaking about for sacraments is a good idea.
All of these decisions should be done in the light of day with open and cordial cooperation. And, this is where I bring up the issue of the child making his confession for the first time before First Communion. Everything the child does for first sacraments should be up front and should also be of note and special. Unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary, it seems to me that first sacraments and sacraments of initiation should come with a measure of solemnity.
Anyway, the canons covering most of this are HERE.
Above, I promised more.
ANECDOTE: At a parish where I was assigned many moons ago I was asked to take the First Communion kids through the church and explain all the elements to them. Great! That should be fun.
It was fun until I saw that not a single one used the Holy Water coming in, made the Sign of the Cross even poorly, or attempted a genuflection anywhere even after I myself did so as we approached the sanctuary and the tabernacle. Any kids who had been to church even minimally with minimally practicing parents would try these things, even ineptly. It’s what they saw adults do, right?
Seeing this, I started to explain a few things.
When talking – in the simplest terms – about the tabernacle and Eucharist within, I saw blank faces. I asked some basic questions along the lines of “Who can tell me what Communion is?” Blank. “Who can tell me what the Eucharist is?” Blank. I wasn’t looking for technical or memorized answers. Just some notion of what they were there for. One little boy eventually offered “You mean that piece of bread thing?”
This was the week before they were to receive, mind you.
My head did not explode.
We moved the children along. I then asked the teachers the same questions with hardly better results.
I told the pastor what I found out. He got mad at ME because I had learned that these kids under HIS charge were in no way shape or form ready for Communion. And that was at a parish considered to be conservative.
You can see why some families opt for traditional communities, homeschool and the SSPX.
You can see why some priests, even some thought to be conservative, are nervous about the TLM and all that goes with it, including strong catechesis and personal fulfillment of obligations, duties.
“Conservative” can be a relative term, as faithful young priests rapidly find out.
The whole understanding of cura animarum really needs to be revived, my friends, along with remedial… everything.