Friday, May 4, 2012


And this is excellent formation for today's clergy (what heresy is it when our theology places the burden on us to do it all? Let us do this, that and the other! Is this horizontal theology gone bizerk?:

O Lord, I am not worthy...

But do we actually believe this? Or should I ask, do the laity actually care about this today, or for that matter, do the clergy really believe this or care about it?

Fr. Z has a post telling us about a priest in Austria who went before the congregation at a First Holy Communion Mass and warned the congregation that only those who are in a state of grace should receive Holy Communion. He went so far as to say the following canonical truth (although we do not know if this is a direct quote)"Catholics who are divorced and remarried and Catholics who do not attend Mass every week were not worthy to receive the Eucharist."

When it came time for the children to receive Holy Communion, not one single adult came forward to receive, only the children!

Wow! Are Austrians so lacking in their faith that no one attends Mass on Sunday and that everyone is divorced and remarried? Maybe no one goes to sacramental confession anymore? Or perhaps they were angry at the priest for teaching the truth about who is eligible for Holy Communion and those who could have received joined in protesting the "unjust" laws of the Church which exclude people from the Eucharistic Banquet rather than welcoming them. I doubt that this priest allows the hymn, "All Are Welcome" in his native language!

What I read on Fr. Z's blog indicates that the pastor was chastised by his superiors for being so insensitive at a First Holy Communion Mass.

The Catholic Church does seem to be a Church of extremes. When I was a child our pastor in the late 1960's chastised our parishioners for not going to Holy Communion. He accused us of Jansenism. Of course as a stupid teenager who went to Mass every Sunday and believed at that time that I couldn't receive Holy Communion if I was in a state of mortal sin (and as a teenager, I usually was!) I along with most of our congregation didn't go to Holy Communion and none of us felt odd about kneeling while others went to Holy Communion. There were no snickers or pointing at us as unworthy sinners since we had just proclaimed that prior to Holy Communion.

At any rate, I did have to go home and look up what Jansenism is. I still wasn't convinced that I was one.

But today, everyone feels that they should have the right to go to Holy Communion no matter their state in life, no matter how many times they intentionally miss Mass, neglect their spouses and children, fornicate, adulterate
flaunt Church teachings, deny these teachings, and do all kinds of unmentionable sorts of things. Even non-Catholics feel they have a right to Holy Communion in a Catholic Church! If they are Mass, by God they are going to receive Holy Communion. If Jansenism is scrupulosity about receiving Holy Communion or extreme feelings of unworthiness, what heresy have I just described and why can't priests rail against it? Just wondering.

At funerals and weddings at St. Joseph, I will say somewhere during the Mass that only those practicing Roman Catholics who are properly prepared through sacramental confession should present themselves for Holy Communion. All others should make a "spiritual" communion and pray for the unity of the Church (usually the reason I say this is that the majority of people in the congregation are not Catholic and don't really know what to do when they see everyone else coming up for Holy Communion).

I seldom say what sins would exclude people from Holy Communion, presuming that most would know what "properly prepared to receive Holy Communion through sacramental Confession" would mean, but I know that is being presumptuous today.

Somehow I don't think that issues of receiving Holy Communion are problems in EF parishes or those who attend the EF Mass. The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief and the reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass and the Ordinary Form of catechesis since Vatican II is long overdue!


Joseph Johnson said...

This situation could he improved if confession was regularly available right before Mass rather than, say, the Saturday before. If one lives a considerable distance from his parish church, an extra trip into town for confession on the only day one doesn't have to drive in for work (Saturday) or for PRE and Sunday Mass makes it less convenient and therefore less likely that confessions will be frequent. A one-stop arrangement on Sunday mornings makes a lot more sense for peoples' busy schedules in today's world.

Many EF-only parishes have confession just before Mass and this could, in part, account for their higher rate of confessions before Communion.

ytc said...

I congratulate that priest. Who wants to bet he's under 30?

Joseph Johnson said...

Lightbulb moment!

One way to rebuild a frequent confession culture would be to incorporate a program of monthly (or even quarterly) confession on Sunday mornings for students (it could be staggered, one or two grades on a particular Sunday). That way, as it once was in Catholic schools, kids are raised up being more used to frequent confession. Teachers and parents attached to a particular grade could also avail themselves.

Anonymous said...

The Austrians, like Germans, follow instructions to a fault. But I applaud their honesty. Seriously, what is the problem? That he could have been more gracious in the way he delivered the message, but not that feelings were hurt. I bet if he was to continue this tact and work to educate, catechize, his parish in the sacrament of reconciliation, they would find a revival of faith like none other.


qwikness said...

Since college football is so big in the South and games are on Saturday afternoon, I wonder if you get less confessions during football season.

Anonymous 5 said...

The problem here is the same as the one with the federal statutes regarding illegal aliens. In both cases the elephant in the room is that something is illegal, and that the authorities don't even try to deny the illegality, but instead invite the community to flout the illegality openly, thus being grossly negligent in their duties.

I'm open to having a conversation about changes to immigration and naturalization. But I'm not going to do that until the feds either enforce or repeal the laws on illegal immigration. Either is fine with me, but one is required.

Likewise with mortal sin and presenting one's self for Communion. If one may not receive Communion, and will in fact commit an additional sin by receiving, then it's false charity (as well as a lie) to tell him it's OK to go ahead and receive. Either do what this Austrian priest had the guts to to and state the bald facts, or else have the pope or a council declare doctrinally/canonically that people in a state of mortal sin are free to receive.

As I understand it, or at least as it's been presented, the Austrian priest didn't try to police the sacrament or prevent anyone from receiving. He taught what the Church has taught for generations and thus let the parishioners make an informed decision. What was wrong with this? Isn't this what the Church is supposed to do?

Anonymous said...

I think that people need to be reminded of what constitutes a sin as often as possible, especially from the ambo. Even those people who attend Mass every week spend most of their time in the secular world. I love our priests but a lot of them are afraid to cause waves. Our priest gave a homily some time ago about the proper way to approach the Eucharist... he said, in a very nice way, that people ought to kneel or at the very least genuflect unless physically unable to and he explained why. He didn't say it's not enough to bow because that is what's allowed... but he didn't encourage it. People were more reverent that weekend... and the weekend after that.. but now we're back to where we were, I think. A friend told me that he receives the Eucharist on his knees because otherwise it would be like approaching the Lord as an equal. That stuck with me ever since. Something like that, coming from a priest might upset people, but it wouldn't be easily forgotten.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A5, I agree with your understanding of law and legality and it something needs to be changed it should be done through a process of changing the law. I should have included what the priest said after being chastized that he would have given Holy Communion to those who presented themselves to Him, which most priests do.
I do think, though, that priests have a bit too much power in following what is allowed or not allowing what is allowed and that the Church through her canonical processes and the leadership of the local bishops should make clear what is allowed and what isn't. For example the parish in Wisconsin, it is allowed to have EMC's for both Mass and for the sick or homebound--why in the world would a priest be allowed to disallow that? The same with Altar girls, it is allowed, but allowing priests to ban them is certainly a conundrum and opens up parishes to all kinds of problems as we see in Wisconsin. The bishop should say, no more EMC's and Altar girls, explain his rational and then implement it in due time and everyone follow or keep it as it is and chastise priests who do their own thing.

ytc said...

Well, the rule concerning the reception of Holy Communion cannot change. It is impossible to change it. We aren't Prots.

And Father, what do you mean? How can you say it's bad to forbid EMHC's? They are the exception to the rule in the first place. And altar girls? They are also the exception to the rule. What is wrong with using neither? It is clear in the Vatican document and subsequent clarifications that altar boys should always be maintained and that any priest can restrict service to boys and men at his Masses, period. What is the Vatican's rationale? They state it rather plainly, to promote vocations.

I agree that things have to be done with charity, but I'd love to know where that was lacking in either the Platteville or Austria case. According to one news story, a lady who absolutely abhorred the Plateville priests' decisions came out of a meeting with them about the subject and spoke glowingly about how nice and charitable they were. I think people just need to grow some cojones first of all, and secondly, they need to use their rational minds instead of their lying emotions. We are such a nonsensical and selfish society, especially in this country.

Anonymous 5 said...


I was being a bit facetious about having the Pope or a council declare that a dogmattically-defined sin isn't sinful. I'm a bit too busy today to look into what the canons may legitimately change regarding reception of communion.

I generally agree with your statements on altar girls and EMHCs. Again, I'm on the run, but my understanding is that they're allowed but not required, and that their use is therefore prudential, and that trying to get a priest "fired" over such a prudential decision is an over-reaction, to say the least. All of this puts the issue into a very different category from unworthy reception of communion, for which we have clear authority as far back as St. Paul.

Templar said...

Well, EHMCs and Female Altar Servers are "allowed" while neither is the norm. No Bishop, except the one in Rome, has the authority to legislate that what is "allowed" be a norm. He can legislate that a norm will be followed, and that what was once "allowed" be prohibited.

Any attempt to portray EHMCs or Female Servers as a right or a norm is a false comparison. They are not normative, and can be done away with at the whim of a Pope, Bishop or even Priest within their jurisdiction.

The speed or manner in which things are changed is a separate matter entirely and depends upon the local situation.

Henry said...

"The bishop should say, no more EMC's and Altar girls"

But so long as the pertinent law gives these decisions to the priest and not to the bishop, why should a priest want episcopal "cover" for his decisions? Why shouldn't he "man up" and take personal responsibility? Which, of course, includes the obligation to handle things with sufficient transparency that disaster is not the result.

Although possibly the Wisconsin situation could have been handled better, I think these decisions result from the emasculation of priests--by their bishops as well as by laity. I believe there was a time--when it was understood that the priest entered the Holy of Holies alone to offer sacrifice in propitiation for sins, and that he alone offered the Body of Christ to men--that neither bishop nor pew-sitter was so quick to criticize what he did. Of course, that was also a time when the liturgy was not plagued by so many options as to render it a creation of man rather than of God.

John Nolan said...

Re the video - if that's Gregorian chant then I'm Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

William Meyer said...

Wow! I hadn't listened to the video until I saw that comment. Whatever happened to truth in labeling?

John Nolan said...

In some ways I admire the commitment of EMHC who take Holy Communion to the sick and housebound - they have to go straight there after Mass without stopping off at the pub - but they should perform this role only if absolutely necessary, and not simply to leave the priest free to do other things like chairing a committee or playing a round of golf. Those receiving Communion from a lay person are denied the opportunity of making a sacramental confession.