Tuesday, April 28, 2015


There is an unnecessary brouhaha about Archbishop Cupich giving Holy Communion to the non-Catholic governor of Illinois.

I've given Holy Communion to non-Catholics, not on purpose, but because they approached me and I thought they were Catholic or I didn't want to cause a scene in public by taking the Host back once the person received.

I know that President Bill Clinton received Holy Communion in Africa once.

I also know that Cardinal Ratzinger at Pope St. John Paul's funeral Mass  gave Holy Communion to the non-Catholic founder and  religious head of the Taize Community.  This was no accident it was planned and with permission of the then cardinal.

Baptized non-Catholics may be given Holy Communion is the following three criteria are scrupulously followed:

1. The non-Catholic believes what the Catholic Church believes about the Eucharist (to include the broader implications of being in communion with other Catholics, to include the pope and bishops). While they may not grasp the meaning of transubstantiation, in reality this is what they believe.

2. The non-Catholic is unable to attend their own church for the Eucharist (maybe there isn't that particular denomination in town). Or the non-Catholic has a particular spiritual need that they feel they need to receive Holy Communion.

3. The bishop has to give permission when presented with the case and the above criteria are present.

The third point makes it clear that the bishop is the final arbiter of the is decision not local priests.

I think it would be appropriate for Archbishop Cupich to explain what happened to the lay faithful especially since he is being vilified in some quarters for having given Holy Communion to the non Catholic governor.  Who knows? It might have simply been an awkward moment and the Archbishop didn't want to make the governor uncomfortable by refusing hims on national TV or the Archbishop had given him permission ahead of time based on the criteria above. An explanation would go a long way in this case.

Our Emeritus bishop gave me permission to allow an Episcopalian nun in her late 80's to receive Holy Communion at my parish in Augusta. She attended our Saturday vigil Mass each week and was more Catholic than most Catholics in my parish. Eventually she became a Catholic about three years before her death (and remained a member of her Episcopal convent!).  She opposed women's ordination which was truly a stumbling block for her and a number of other issues that evolved in the Episcopal Church.

At weddings and funerals, I always state that only those Roman Catholics in a state of grace or having made use of sacramental confession may receive Holy Communion. All others should make a spiritual communion at their place in the pew as their faith allows. If you wish, you may come forward for a blessing by crossing your arms over your chest to indicate this (or wording close to this).

Even when I say this, though, I still have some non-Catholics who weren't listening or simply think they have a right come forward and receive. If they know how to receive as a Catholic how am I suppose to know they aren't?


Lefebvrian said...

That you believe it is more important to "not make people uncomfortable" than it is to prevent sacrilege speaks volumes. That mentality pretty much sums up why there is a crisis in the Church today - it is a crisis of Faith. If you truly believed in the Real Presence, how could you not be outraged at this sacrilege?

Rood Screen said...

The Communion minister is really not the one who should discern who should receive Holy Communion. The communicant should examine his conscience in light of Church teaching, and then discern whether or not to receive the sacrament. As for non-Catholics, if they want what we have to offer, then why don't they come into full communion with the one, true Church?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There is no sacrilege if sacrilege is not intended. For someone who doesn't know they shouldn't receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church there is no sin as for someone to sin one must know they are doing so and I would say the same for sacrilege.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Many people who believe as Catholics don't become Catholic in a formal way for a number of reasons.

I know with the Episcopal nun in her late 80's that we weren't sure if she could remain in the convent if she came into the full communion of the Catholic Church. We worried that she would be asked to leave a convent that she had been living for more than 35 years at the time.

Ultimately, the convent allowed her to remain as a life-long resident until she died and it was then that she was receive into the full communion of the Church.

When she died about 8 years ago or so, I was asked to go back and celebrate her Requiem. All 15 Episcopal nuns were at the Mass in their white Dominican-like habits (without veil. None of the nuns came forward to receive Holy Communion or a blessing.

I told the true story of when we moved to Augusta in 1960 that we lived close to this Protestant convent. At that time they wore a modified shorter dress habit and modified veil (long before our sisters went to such and then abandoned habits).

My friends and I tresspassed on their large property to play and were run off by them (and perhaps the one I was funeralizing) for being there.

I told the congregation that we Catholics called them Protestant nuns and when I was 6 or 7 that terms really sent chills down my spine because as bad and mean as Catholic nuns were, I couldn't imagine how horrible Protestant nuns could be!

Anonymous said...

1. As I understand it, it was a communion minister and not Ab. Cupich who actually gave the governor holy communion.

2. I understand that Brother Roger received holy communion daily at the Mass celebrated at Taize every morning by a Catholic priest. He had previously received H.C. also from Pope John Paul II, and it was understood that he shared Catholic belief regarding the Eucharist (your criterion #1) if he was not (as persistently rumored) an actual if not public Catholic convert at the time of his holy communion from Card. Ratzinger. For what it's worth:

"In a highly unusual move, the funeral of this Protestant monk was presided over by a Catholic cardinal, Walter Kasper, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who celebrated the Mass with four priest-brothers of Taizé concelebrating." (Wikipedia)

Lefebvrian said...

There is no subjectivity requirement for sin, including sacrilege. All actions are either morally good or morally bad in themselves. There is a subjectivity requirement that determines the culpability for sin.

In this instance, it is possible the priest did not know at the time that sacrilege was occurring. That doesn't mean that is was not evil or sinful. Now, though, we all know that sacrilege did occur. With that knowledge, we should not become apologists for the sacrilege, as this blog is doing. The appropriate response is to acknowledge sacrilege occurred and to make reparation for it.

Cletus Ordo said...

The fact that we are even discussing this issue reveals a deeper problem: Just about everything that defines what it means to be Catholic is being called into question and creating an atmosphere of confusion and ambiguity. I believe (and maybe I'm wrong) that instead of influencing the culture, the culture has influenced us to the point where we have succumbed to a wishy-washy ideal of "inclusiveness". Is Communion is strictly for Catholics in a state of grace or can ANYONE receive? Can you be pro-choose-kiiling-an-unborn-baby and still be a good Catholic? Can you be shacked up with your girlfriend and still be a good Catholic? Can you be remarried outside of the Church and still be a good Catholic? Can you be openly, unrepentantly gay and be a good Catholic? Is the Church the Mystical Body of Christ or is it just "The People of God?" Can we discern right from wrong, or all we unfit to judge anything? If we refuse the sacraments to anyone are we being mean? Can't anyone call themselves a Catholic simply because they WANT to be a Catholic? Even if they disagree with the Church's teachings?

We are all struggling with these questions. They are hitting us harder every single day.

There were once clear-cut answers to these questions. Today, even our Catholic leaders don't seem to want to answer them with the clarity that once seemed unquestionable. In fact, to desire clarity will get one labeled as "immature" or "insecure in their faith."

But isn't God clear?

I suggest that we all think deeply on this: Does confusion come from God? Does ambiguity come from God? Does God speak in gray tones or in black and white precision?

There is only one author of confusion and strife.

It is not God.

We need to pray and do penance for an end to this confusion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The Church has clear guidelines for giving Holy Communion to non-Catholics with the local bishop the one who decides.

There is no sacrilege in anyone receiving Holy Communion under the guidelines I provide.

I would say the flaw in the pastoral provision is that it is not clear how a non-Catholic who desires to receive Holy Communion is understood to be in a state of grace if Sacramental Penance is not required for any mortal sins this person may have committed.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else recall the occasion in the 1960s in the Cathedral of Christ the King when Ab. Paul Hallinan gave holy communion to Gov. Lester Maddox, who pretty surely did not share Catholic belief in the Holy Eucharist?

rcg said...

I have a problem with it mainly because I do not believe any claim of ignorance the Archbishop of Chcago or the Governor of Illinois could make in this matter. Perhaps there is some statement of fraternity being made with the politicians and the Diocese. Still a mistake.

JusadBellum said...

Cletus' point is really the heart of the matter even if Fr. Allan's points are also accurate 'technically'. It's in translating the technically accurate to the praxis of everyday life and lay understanding that so much gets lost in translation.

For example the whole doctrine of "outside the church there is no salvation". Books can be written explaining the doctrine in densely written language but the layman's "interpretation" of this either goes into the rigid camp or the lax camp. It's pretty hard to thread the needle in our culture.

So do we pour ourselves out trying to rescue non-believers from hell and raise our own defenses to keep people in the safety of Catholicism....or do we become indifferent to non-believers under the rubric "everyone gets saved anyway" and thus also become lax with our own spiritual lives according to the same presumption of God's mercy covering all sins regardless?

If before Vatican II the Church was too rigid, we've definitely swung into the indifferentist direction. No one fears hellfire or God's wrath or even wounding God's love and majesty.

Some quibble about empty hells and ponder that perhaps Judas didn't go to hell and thus almost no one is there.... so what's the point in risking life and limb and luxury in the task of making disciples of all the nations?

If all are saved regardless, to what end would anyone risk martyrdom? If all are basically good folk...why preach the Gospel?

Rood Screen said...

I should clarify that a "Communion minister" is a priest (bishop or presbyter) or deacon. I'm not referring to "extraordinary" Communion ministers.

rcg said...

Is there a short explanation of why there is no sin if none is intended in the context of original sin?

gobshyte said...

"To sin, one must know they are doing so." There are many....perhaps millions of Catholics who do not "know" not believe, do not think they are "doing so" (sinning) when they use birth control. American Catholic families with 9 or 10 children are gone with the wind....and it's not the "rhythm method".

Now somebody can tell me about "a family I know who has 12 children"....

Anonymous said...

rcg, was not Adam's original sin intended?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In my parish I have one family with 11 children, another with nine, several with five and more. My DRE's daughter is expecting her 10th, all by choice.

gobshyte said...

But now tell me how many families have none or one or two..."all by choice".

My wife and I have seven...and we wouldn't change a thing. That's a rare thing now though.

And...the couples who CHOOSE to have only one or two are not going to hell.

Lefebvrian said...

Gob, You might believe that couples who make the choice to limit the number of children they have are not sinning. The Church does not agree with you.

The Church teaches that, without sufficient reason (such as risk of death, mental health issues, or state enforced abortions), such a choice is sinful.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - The "guilt" of Original Sin and Personal Sin are acquired differently.

We are tainted by Original Sin simply because we are born into the human race. The taint of original Sin doesn't depend on intention.

To be tainted by Personal Sin, we have to make a choice to sin, to do what we know to be contrary to God's will.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of the question. Everyone in the Church is apparently doing whatever the hell they want and have been for the last 50 years. Nobody cares and nobody does anything. So again what is the point of your question? Do you actually believe that the rules and regulations of the Church are being followed? Do you Father? Are we living in that Francis dreamland of a Church that is obsessed with rules and doctrine? Show me please where that Church exists, I would love to attend it.

Православный физик said...

I do in part agree, it is the responsibility of the Communicant to determine whether they are in the state to receive Him. (None of us are worthy, per se)....

That said, it is also the responsibility of the priest/Bishop to protect the Blessed Sacrament and prevent sacrilege from happening insofar as is possible.

It is my understanding that the governor was a non-practicing Catholic, from a friend who's related to the governor via marriage.

Rood Screen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A parish I attend commonly states during Christmas mass that anyone present in the church may receive communion. M guess, after reading your post, is that the priest is guided by the three rules you state. They know what the host is because there spouse is Catholic, and they are not attending a church of their own denomination for the same reason. I would also guess the Priest is doing this under the direction of the bishop.

Anonymous said...

This is slightly off topic but are you going to sign the Credo priests letter asking the Synod not to approve Communion to civilly remarried divorced Catholcs?

Anonymous said...

Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

These shades of gray are absurd. Yet another rotten fruit, another fallout that is the Revolution of V2.

Ambiguity is the Devil's plaything.

Denis. St. Paris