To all bishops and priests about Communion for manifest sinners from St. John Chrysostom

My emphases:

“I speak not only to the communicant, but also I say to the priest who ministers the Sacrament: Distribute this gift with much care. There is no small punishment for you, if being conscious of any wickedness in any man, you allow him to partake of the banquet of the table: ‘Shall I not now require his blood at your hand?’ (2 Sam. 4:11). If some public figure, or some wealthy person who is unworthy, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, forbid him. The authority that you have is greater than his. Consider if your task were to guard a clean spring of water for a flock, and you saw a sheep approach with mire on its mouth–you would not allow it to stoop down and pollute the stream. You are now entrusted with a spring, not of water, but of blood and of spirit. If you see someone having sin in his heart (which is far more grievous than earth and mire), coming to receive the Eucharist, are you not concerned? Do you try to prevent him? What excuse can you have, if you do not?

“God has honored you with the dignity of priesthood, that you might discern these things. This is not to say that you should go about clothed in a white and shining vestment; but this is your office; this, your safety; this your whole crown.

“You ask how you should know which individual is unworthy to receive? I am speaking here not of some unknown sinner, but of a notorious one.

[This part was left out of the translation I originally posted:

Shall I say something more fearful. It is not so grievous a thing for the energumens [demon possessed] to be within, as for such as these, whom Paul affirms to trample Christ under foot, and to account the blood of the covenant unclean, and to do despite to the grace of the Spirit. For he that has fallen into sin and draws near, is worse than one possessed with a devil. For they, because they are possessed are not punished, but those, when they draw near unworthily, are delivered over to undying punishment. Let us not therefore drive away these only, but all without exception, whomsoever we may see coming unworthily.

Let no one communicate who is not of the disciples. Let no Judas receive, lest he suffer the fate of Judas. This multitude also is Christ’s body. Take heed, therefore, you that ministerest at the mysteries, lest you provoke the Lord, not purging this body. Give not a sword instead of meat.


If someone who is not a disciple, through ignorance, comes to Communion, do not be afraid to forbid him. Fear God, not man. If you fear man, you will be scorned and laughed at even by him; but if you fear God, you will be an object of respect even to men. But if you cannot do it, bring that sinner to me, for I will not allow anyone to dare do these things. I would give up my life rather than give the Lord’s Blood to the unworthy.

“If, however, a sinful person receives Communion, and you did not know his character, you are not to blame, however. I say the things above concerning only those who sin openly. For if we amend these, God will speedily reveal to us the unknown also; but if we let these flagrant abuses continue, how can we expect Him to make manifest those that are hidden? I say these things, not to repel sinners or cut them off, but I say it in order that we may bring them to repentance, and bring them back, so that we may take care of them. For thus we shall both please God and lead many to receive worthily. And for our own diligence, and  for our care for others, we will receive a great reward. May we attain that reward by the grace and love that God gives to man through Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, world without end. Amen.”

St. John Chrysostom, Sermon 82.6

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: To all bishops and priests about Communion for manifest sinners from St. John Chrysostom | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  2. Excellent citation.
    A very “woke” liberal family member insists that Biden is a good devout Catholic. This family member indignantly cites the frequent reception of Communion as proof in spite of his “inconsequential” support of abortion, contraception, and other public crimes.

    Not only does denying Communion to a public sinner support the conversion of the recipient, but this teaches those that observe the action.

    The added benefit to charitable denial is the lessened risk of damnation for both distributor and recipient.

    When one considers that France, Ireland, and other countries suffered famine, crop failure, and heavy childhood death tolls for the sin of working on Sundays [according to the weeping Our Lady of La Salette and proved by history], imagine the punishment due mankind for open desecration of the Holy Eucharist. Reparation for sins is needed day and night. Our Lady of Akita begs us to wear ashes and do penance to mitigate what we are enduring. Are we listening?

  3. Coincidentally, Dr. Randall Smith knocks it out of the park today on this topic at The Catholic Thing.

  4. michele421 says:

    St. John’s words, in his own time, were largely correct. But who is truly worthy to receive such a great gift as the Body and Blood of Our Lord? Also in St. John’s time the Catholic Church was the only Christian worship group available. This is no longer true. I have known a number of people who were, for one reason or another, unable to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Some joined another faith group. The rest became “nones” or abandoned public worship entirely. Does anyone know of someone in recent times who was actually brought to repentance by denial of the Eucharist? Not many, I’ll bet. While the intention remains to bring the subject to repentance, in modern times it really is more of a punishment – and an exit door from the Catholic Church.

  5. Ages says:

    The Golden Mouth should be consulted first on any question. A true treasury of wisdom and the Spirit.

  6. Ages says:

    michele421: How one receives the truth is up to them. The priests role is to save the reckless from themselves. If anyone would leave the Church rather than repent, then the Eucharist would do him no good anyway.

  7. This passage is from St. John Chrysostom’s “Sermo in Matthaeum” 82 (83), available at the following link in Greek and Latin in columns 744-6: HERE

  8. Lurker 59 says:


    There were plenty of other quazi Christian or schismatic groups around. Also, there was a plethora of non-Christian temples that one could attend that don’t exist today. The sad truth is that those who abandon the Church because they are denied the Eucharist lack Faith, for if they had Faith they would stay and correct that which prevents them from receiving — even if it would take a 1000 years.

    If one cannot receive, stay, do penance, beg for the grace for the fault to be corrected.

  9. michele421 says:

    Lurker 59, I have known many people who have left the Catholic Church for another faith community. [“faith community”? The Church is not just a “faith community”.] Some have plenty of Faith – but in God, not in the Catholic Church. The two are not the same, nor interchangable

  10. Francisco12 says:

    “St. John’s words, in his own time, were largely correct. But who is truly worthy to receive such a great gift as the Body and Blood of Our Lord?”

    No one is worthy, Michele. We say that every time before we receive Communion. But there is a difference between being spiritually dead (in a state of mortal sin), and being spiritually weak (in a state of venial sin, which Holy Communion wipes away). The spiritually dead cannot eat, and must first be revived in the Sacrament of Confession. Your comment is very troubling, especially your first sentence. St. John’s words were relevant and correct in the 4th century, but are not correct in the 21st century. That is preposterous.

    “I have known a number of people who were, for one reason or another, unable to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Some joined another faith group.”

    I do not know your background, Michele, but is the Catholic Church just “another faith group” to you? If the Church is the Pillar of Truth, then these people you know didn’t leave because a priest denied them Communion. They left because they would rather subscribe to a faith of their own fancy, a faith that was not received from Christ and His apostles, but rather a faith of their own making. Truly, it is a faith where they submit only to their own desires, and not the commands of Christ. And I’ll take you up on that bet: I believe (and have herd of) many that have come to repentance after not being able to receive, because it makes them do some actual soul searching into WHY the Church teaches what it does.

    “While the intention remains to bring the subject to repentance, in modern times it really is more of a punishment – and an exit door from the Catholic Church.”

    This is ridiculous, and twists St. John’s words completely around. You’re saying that in the 4th century, St. John’s actions show care for souls as he plainly says, but that if we try to apply his exact methodology in the 21st century, it’s a punishment? It is absolutely absurd if you believe that to be the case.

    Again, if someone exits the Church, it is of their own choosing. Basically, what you seem to be saying is that you are fine with someone eating and drinking further condemnation on themselves (if said people are in a state of manifest, public and grave sin as St. John said), rather than having care for their soul because we are scared they may leave entirely. As we have seen with politicians in the current day, such people have already become schismatics in their heart, putting their own judgement above the clear commands of God through His Church. And as our Lord tells us, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14;21). I ask you, Michele, what kind of “friend” leaves their Lord and His Church for “another faith community”, merely because his brother in the Faith showed more care for the man’s soul than the man himself did?

  11. michele421 says:

    For one thing, there are still far too many reports of abuse, both sexual and financial. Perhaps allowing abortion to be legal is a much greater sin than to ruin the life, and faith, of an innocent child. But as we all know, the Church’s long inattention to this problem and unwillingness to take effective action is still a tremendous cause of scandal. Perhaps the bishops need to make certain that this log in the eye of the Church is quite gone before they try to correct others.

    [In another comment you condone Communion for manifestly pro-abortion politicians. And now you dump on the Church, the Church rather than those individual miscreants who did the harm. You have soul searching to do.]

  12. albinus1 says:

    We are told in the Gospels that when Jesus was preaching tvst He wasthe Bread ofife, many found His teaching hard and stopped following Him. What did Jesus do? *He let them walk away.*

  13. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Father Z, I just noticed that you’re VERY close to 100,000,000 site visits. Congrats!

  14. LeeGilbert says:

    From some high ranking prelate in the United States I would love to see publicly addressed to Cdl Wilton Gregory a thunderous message that contains the episcopal equivalent of “What the hell!”

    I cannot get over the abject puerility, pusillanimity, and silence of our bishops in the face of this test, and practically any other test.

    Oh, eventually we will have a statement to add to the pile of other statements. Surely some theology grad student would have a rich topic for his dissertation in “The Bishop as an Issuer of Statements.”

    Like the Holy See, we Catholics of the USA want and need unity in the episcopate, but when Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna struck Bishop Arius in the mouth, was not that a blow for unity?

    I read where Irenaeus was the scourge of heretics, but here we have a President who gives himself out as a devout, practicing Catholic, who has become the scourge of bishops, in fact of the Church.

    But, “Shhh, they’ll banish us you know.”

  15. GregB says:

    @michele421: Many of Christ’s followers found His teaching on the Eucharist to be a hard teaching. Many of them stopped following Him because of it. Christ didn’t change or weaken His teaching to try to win them back.
    In Acts 9:3-6 it says:
    3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

    5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
    Christ didn’t say why do you persecute My churches. Christ the Bridegroom has a radical self-identification with His Bride the Church. As the Bread of Life He also has a radical self-identification with the Eucharist in the Real Presence.
    Poor leadership in the Church is what has allowed the flaunting of her teaching by both clerical and lay Catholics. Both groups are in need of prophetic correction. In Ezekiel 3:17-21 God makes clear that there is such a thing as prophetic responsibility. One group’s wrongdoing doesn’t excuse another group’s wrongdoing. Unrepentant sinners can be just as evangelistic as any preacher by providing bad example and witness.

  16. JustaSinner says:

    So the Bishops that let Xiden and San Fran Nan receive the Body of Christ are placing their own souls in mortal peril? Can’t say I feel too badly…but will add them to the Official “only The Blessed Virgin Mary” Cares Rosary List.

    [It is hard to fathom how anyone with the slightest notion of what Hell is would ever be complacent about any soul in mortal peril. There are such people, I suppose. And their souls could be in mortal peril.]

  17. Lurker 59 says:


    Indeed, those that leave the Church because they are denied the Eucharist have no Faith. If they had Faith, they would remain with Christ and correct their ways. Being obstinate in their sins and leaving Him manifests externally the inner condition of their lack of Faith.

    May I recommend Faith from “Faith Hope Love” by Josef Pieper? You can get it on Amazon.

    Also “Dominus Iesus

  18. Markus says:

    In the early days of the Church, there was a form of “abortion” (innocent child killing) that was practiced. If newborn were not wanted, or it was felt that they would be a burden, they were killed by abandonment, usually on a rocky outcropping. They would die from exposure or being prey.
    It was a common, Roman practice, acceptable at the time. Herbologists also aborted using plant concoctions., into the Middle Ages and beyond.
    So, there are no new sins, today’s just modified by technology.
    The 10 Commandments still stand.

  19. Ave Maria says:

    We must pray for the conversion of these prelates who allow or condone the reception of the most Holy Sacrament to grave public sinners which leads many to perdition by the scandal as if there is no sin. And the sacrilege is on the part of both the prelate and the recipient.

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  22. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Gosh this post has produced some bad comments. Michele421 other have responded to well, but JustaSinner truly takes the biscuit. The whole idea of not caring if a soul goes to Hell, the very thing that Holy Mother Church exists for – to try to stop ANY soul going to hell, be that soul bishop or layman, is profoundly abhorrent and shocking. You may laugh if you wish, but I shall not go and make an act of reparation on your behalf.

  23. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Apologies. “Now go”. (I did proof it!)

  24. Giana Rose says:

    “So the Bishops that let Xiden and San Fran Nan receive the Body of Christ are placing their own souls in mortal peril? Can’t say I feel too badly…but will add them to the Official “only The Blessed Virgin Mary” Cares Rosary List.”

    @Justasinner, I certainly hope that more than “only the Blessed Virgin Mary” cares for the souls of any lost or struggling priest or bishop. If any of them were to be so casually discarded when they fall prey to temptation and sin, then what does that say for the rest of us, who do not typically face near the temptations they may face? Would all but the Blessed Virgin abandon us as well? I certainly hope not!

  25. Ages says:

    Josephus Muris Saliensis: no one is hoping for bishops to go to hell. But admitting the reality? Look no further than the words of St. John himself.

    “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of priests, and bishops are the lampposts.”

    [St. John Chyrsostom did not, to our knowledge, say or write that. It is not in any of his extant works. Bishops need prayer. If they situation or “reality” for them is dire, as you point out, they need your prayers earnestly and continuously.]

  26. Gaetano says:

    The following prayer is recited by the faithful at the Byzantine Divine Liturgy prior to reception of Holy Communion:

    O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ,
    The Son of the living God, who came into the world
    To save sinners of whom I am the first.

    Accept me today as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God,
    For I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies,
    Nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas,
    But like the thief I profess to you:

    Remember me, O Lord, when you come in your kingdom.
    Remember me, O Master, when you come in your kingdom.
    Remember me, O Holy One, when you come in your kingdom.

    May the partaking of your Holy mysteries, O Lord,
    Be not for my judgment or condemnation,
    But for the healing of my soul and body.

    O Lord, I also believe and profess, that this,
    Which I am about to receive,
    Is truly your most precious Body, and your life-giving Blood,
    Which, I pray, make me worthy to receive
    For the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen

    O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
    O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
    O Lord, forgive me for I have sinned without number.

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    Here’s what JustaSinner wrote:

    “So the Bishops that let Xiden and San Fran Nan receive the Body of Christ are placing their own souls in mortal peril? Can’t say I feel too badly…but will add them to the Official “only The Blessed Virgin Mary” Cares Rosary List.”

    Giana Rose: Thank you, but your “casually discarded” is out of place here.

    Josephus Muris Saliensis: Thank you, but your “The whole idea of not caring if a soul goes to Hell” and “You may laugh if you wish” is out of place here.

    Ages: Good point, this is not about “hoping for bishops to go to hell” but “admitting reality.”

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