Our churches in the Diocese of ___ have been allowed to have public Masses offered with 15% capacity of the fire code regulations, but with very strict restrictions from the bishop (more strict than the government’s restrictions).
This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of public Masses being suppressed, and thus the one year mark of our Latin Mass Community being able to receive communion. While we can attend Mass now (except we can’t have a Triduum with the current restrictions since we need altar servers ), we still can’t receive communion because the bishop has banned communion on the tongue…. Even the government has now given directives on how to safely distribute communion on the tongue, but it’s still banned and our priest’s attempts to contact the bishop about this go unresponded to.
With Easter just around the corner, thus the requirement to receive communion once during the Easter season, since it’s possible to receive communion by going to one of the OF Masses and receiving in the hand, does this mean that Catholics who normally attend Mass in the EF are canonically bound to receive communion in the hand at a Mass in the OF to fulfill the precept and stay out of mortal sin?
Two canons in the 1983 Code of Canon Law deal with the obligation to make a good confession and to receive Communion.
can. 920 §1. After being initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year.
§2. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year.
can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.
Catholics are obliged to receive Communion at least once a year. They are not obliged by law to receive more often. It is NOT obligatory to receive Communion at all Masses. It is obligatory to do so once a year. That will usually require making a good sacramental confession beforehand (can. 989 – “once a year”). One would not want to receive Communion in the state of mortal sin, so the annual Communion will normally be preceded by annual confession.
It is in general NOT GOOD for people to go to confession only once a year. As a matter of fact, it is in general stupid not go to confession more often. A daily examination of conscience is the key to discerning how often one should go.
Can. 920 says that this annual Communion is to be received during the “Easter season”. Easter Season lasts from Easter until Pentecost.
Moreover, take note of that “for a just cause at another time during the year”.
Easter Season is fitting and customary and mentioned in the canon. However, you can fulfill your obligation at another time of the year for a “just cause”.
It may be that your local bishop has issued addition local legislation about this.
You have a just cause right now. The lockdown orders during time of pandemic have made it virtually impossible for people to attend Mass at all, much less receive Eucharistic Communion, or receive in a way that is important to them.
There are a couple of principles in law which help us understand our obligations.
First, ultra posse nemo obligatur… no one is obliged to act beyond his powers. Put another way, nemo ad impossibilia tenetur… no one is held to the impossible.
If there is no Mass to attend, or if there is no way to make a confession or to receive Eucharistic Communion, then there is not obligation. You can’t go to Masses that are not available. You can’t receive Communion when it is not being distributed. No one is obliged to the impossible.
It seems to me that it is between you and your confessor to determine whether you should or must go to a Novus Ordo Mass and receive in on the hand. The law permits you to receive in the hand, even though it is a wretched practice that should be phased out. You are free to attend Novus Ordo Masses and receive Communion or not. You are obliged to receive Communion once a year, and that can be done, for a just cause, at another time of the year. We have to interpret the law as favorably for you as we can when it comes to that “just cause” issue. If you honestly conclude that attending a Novus Ordo Mass and the prospect of reception in the hand, even seeing reception in the hand, is perhaps morally impossible or strongly sub-optimal, or an occasion for irreverent distraction or sin for you (or someone with you), then you probably have a just cause.
Remember what you recite in your Act of Faith: “I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.”
We can’t fool God.
Work this out with the advice of your confessor, the text of the canons, self-knowledge and the application of good common sense.
Let’s pray that all of this upheaval passes while we are in the Easter season.
I invite everyone reading this to pray my prayer asking God for a miracle: the total, sudden, and lasting elimination of the Coronavirus.
And GO TO CONFESSION!
A correspondent noted to me that the canon does not say anything about the obligation to receive annual or “Easter Duty” Communion during Mass. It would be possible to fulfill the obligation by reception of Communion outside of Mass. That, perhaps, can be arranged with a helpful priest: confession and Communion.