Monday, October 26, 2015


Okay, call me dense! But just who is excluding the people in my headline from participating in the Mass or any other parish event such as dinners, faith formation, choirs, cantors, ushers, altar society, and the like?

In fact, I have preached that even though someone can't receive Holy Communion at Mass (let's say they broke the flimsy fast) they are obligated to attend Mass. Got that? Every Catholic is required by the Third Commandment, canon law, by conscience and by their pastors to attend Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation; every Catholic no matter if they are a murderer, mobster or other criminal! I think this is even true of the publicly excommunicated--they can't receive Holy Communion, but they should attend Mass unless there is a civil injunction against them attending (for example they are a threat of some kind).

We had our second "last Sunday of the month" Extraordinary Form High Mass on Sunday the 24th of October at our normally scheduled 12:10 PM Mass. At Holy Communion time as communicants knelt at the altar railing there were some who crossed their arms over their chest indicating that they wanted a blessing and not Holy Communion. I do not know the reason for this--perhaps they were married outside the Church? Maybe they committed a mortal sin(s) and had not been to confession? Maybe they broke the flimsy fast? I don't know, but they were not excluded from coming to Mass and even coming to the altar railing to receive a blessing instead of Holy Communion at an EF Mass no less! I was happy to over a blessing with the Host between my fingers, a Benediction in reality.

In fact, because of the use of lay Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the Ordinary Form the "Benediction" with the Host by the priest prior to giving Holy Communion on the tongue was suppressed. But how much more included and welcomed would that make a Catholic with a prohibition against receiving Holy Communion feel if they could receive a Benediction with the Host by the priest rather than a simple blessing? Thus the EF Mass can be more welcoming and inclusive of these kinds of Catholics than the Ordinary Form is!

In terms of Catholics who can't receive Holy Communion, none of them are excluded from participating in other church events, like dinners, faith formation and various committees to include also the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council. They can decorate the altar, be ushers, sing in the choir and be cantors from the choir loft.

The pope has wondered aloud if they should be allowed to be godparents for baptism and confirmation--I don't know; what do you think? Or be lectors at Mass. I know of many places where baptized non-Catholics are allowed to be readers at funerals and weddings. How kosher is that?

Finally, with divorced and remarried Catholics, what priests out there are not working with or encouraging these people not to make use of the  external forum, the annulment procedure to assist them in returning to Holy Communion?

And what priests are denying the sacraments to people in unrecognized marriages when they are on their death bed or entering a critical life and death situation? Just who? Give me names, addresses and phone numbers!


Gene said...

There is a difference between a Baptized Catholic being unable to receive because he is not in a State of Grace taking part in Church services and a non-Catholic who is, therefore, unable to receive doing the same. Why on earth would a non-Catholic want to be a reader, etc. in a Catholic service other than a funeral or wedding, anyway?

Gene said...

I don't think anyone is being excluded. We have the opposite problem...anything goes. Bring your Dixie Cup and "Come on down!"

Gene said...

FR, you should start an"internal forum Dear Allan column" and field questions from Catholics and non-Catholics regarding their behavior. You may get some good questions like:

Dear Fr. Allan, "I went to the Girls Gone Wild street party in New Orleans but I just looked and did not touch. Can I receive this Sunday?"

Dear Fr. Allan, "while driving to Mass Sunday, I saw a goat standing right by the fence near the road and thought she was pretty. I had some pretty strange feelings, but I received anyway. Am I in a state of mortal sin? PS she was an adult goat."

Dear Fr. Allan, "My Jewish neighbor on one side says Jesus was a false prophet, my Methodist neighbor on the other side says he was an existential hero, and my Episcopalian neighbor across the street says he had the hots for Mary Magdalene. Who is right? If I am confused about this, should I receive?"

Dear Fr. Allan, "when I was in San Francisco, I saw to guys getting it on in the street at noon. I crossed myself and said some Aves. Was I hiding behind doctrine to be judgmental?"

Marc said...

This is a good post, Father. It seems that the reality does not match the rhetoric, which is unsurprising. It seems to me that part of the problem here is the idea that people are entitled to Communion as an end in itself. The Holy Eucharist is not an end; it is a means to the end of holiness.

By focusing on reception of Communion as an end, people have begun to see it as a matter of who is "eligible" to receive, something of an ecclesial rubber-stamp on that person's life choices. If the Church were able to somehow return to the idea of Communion as a means to the end of holiness instead of a statement that one is "properly disposed," many of these problems would disappear.

In the Orthodox Church, people are regularly refused Holy Communion since the priest has the duty to safeguard the Sacrament. Priests will not give Communion to people that they do not know or people who have not turned up for Confession or people who show up late to the services. The reason for this is because Communion is rightly seen as a medicine for the soul, but like all medicines, must be taken only under the proper care of the dispenser and only under the correct circumstances -- otherwise it does more harm than good.

The Roman Catholic situation is somewhat different since the congregations are usually larger (and there is "mortal sin" in Orthodoxy), but some of the same sorts of catechetical ideas could be used to demonstrate to the people that there is more to receiving Communion than being "qualified" to do so by having met certain conditions. So long as Communion is seen as a statement made by the receiver, it will be a sort of political tool for those looking to advance their political causes.

It seems to me that the idea of Communion as a means to eternal life was neglected by the recent synod. Instead, they are focused on making paths for people to receive. In that sense, they have the entire Christian program backward.

Marc said...

My post above, in the fourth paragraph, should say "there is no 'mortal sin' in Orthodoxy" -- I apologize for the error.

Gene said...

Marc, a very astute post. I did not know that about Communion in the Orthodox Church. I like it.

Marc said...

Gene, all Sacraments in the Orthodox Church are given to the person by name. So, when Holy Communion is given, the priest would say, "The Servant of God Mark* receives the Body and Blood of Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life." This assumes that the priest knows the name of the person that he is communing. In order to receive Communion as a guest when visiting a different parish, the accepted method is to have one's priest call the priest at the visiting parish to give the okay for the person to receive Communion.

* Or whatever is the name of the person -- when I was baptized into the Orthodox Church, the priest gave the name Mark. My patron is Mark of Ephesus, who (to put it mildly) was not a fan of Roman Catholicism.

Jenny said...

Gene, you might enjoy reading Alexander Schmemann; particular favorites are "FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD" and "THE EUCHARIST: SACRAMENT OF THE KINGDOM".

Jenny said...

Marc, thanks for correcting your error--it made me nervous that you didn't get that right... Very important Eastern distinction.

Gene said...

Thanks, Jenny. Marc, when you say there is no mortal sin, does that mean, as in Calvinism, that all sins, no matter how minor, are a stain on God's Holiness and equally damning?

Marc said...

Gene, actually, Orthodoxy teaches that are sins have no effect on God since he is God. Our sins only affect our relationship to God, so sins differ in "severity" by how much they affect that relationship. One who is attached to sin might find oneself in the state of being separated from God in the afterlife -- that is the condition know as hell in the west. Generally, he'll is understood as a co diction and not a place -- since Gid is present everywhere, he is present even to those in this condition. But they experience him as a burning and painful fire while the saints experience him as a flame of love. We can pray for those who are in the negative condition to alleviate their experience and help them to be saved.

That's a very simplified explanation.

Marc said...

If you're interested in a systematic overview of Orthodox theology, I'd recommend Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, which is available for free online here.

George said...


"there is more to receiving Communion than being "qualified" to do so by having met certain conditions."

That above is a statement which I find to be true to Catholic teaching.

"So long as Communion is seen as a statement made by the receiver, it will be a sort of political tool for those looking to advance their political causes."

The above statement does not reflect the true and authentic Catholic perspective on reception of the Eucharist.

Marc said...

George, of course the latter statement doesn't reflect an accurate Catholic understanding. It does, however, represent the view of the bishops who recently met in Rome, if one is to judge by the way they framed the discussion and wrote their document.

George said...

"actually, Orthodoxy teaches that are sins have no effect on God since he is God."

It depends how you define "effect". Did not our sins have an effect on Christ in His human body? This person who was at the same time God, the Second Person of the Trinity? Now, from a certain perspective, it could be said that all the sins of humanity from the beginning of time to now do not diminish or take away anything from the Triune God. That is true. It is also true that sin does affect our relationship with God. From Scripture we learn that our God is to be adored, worshiped, honored, and obeyed by us and that there are consequences to be paid if we do not do those things. We know that Christ wept at the death of Lazarus and could get angry as He did toward the money changers in the Temple. He wept for Jerusalem “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it”. He anguished and suffered over our sins from the Garden of Gesthemene to the Cross and He did this as a person who was both fully human and fully Divine. God is offended in His Holiness and Justice when we do not do as He desires us to do. Yet,to our great benefit,He is rich in mercy.
He has given us the Sacraments,that of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation to repair our relationship to Him when it becomes broken.

Unknown said...

Generally, he'll is understood as a co diction and not a place -- since Gid is present everywhere, he is present even to those in this condition.

Marc, were you drunk when you wrote this?

Marc said...

Flavius, I wasn't drunk -- I typed that on an iPhone. Sorry for all the typos.

George, I don't really want to enter into a long discussion about Orthodox theology. I'm not a theologian. Your post seems to conflate the humanity and the divinity of Christ. As a man, Christ weeps. Everything else you mentioned is for us -- God has no need of our worship or adoration. It doesn't increase his holiness for us to worship him.

George said...

There is an inseparable unity between the Divine and human nature in Christ. No human being could atone for our sins by suffering and dying for our transgressions. Christ, the Second person of the Holy Triune God, in taking on our human flesh, could. It is true that His Divine nature did not die, but neither does our soul perish when we experience death. He even took His glorified humanity up to the Eternal Heaven. Yes, it was for us. It doesn't increase His holiness for us to worship Him. How could it? He is Holiness itself. In proportion to the state of our soul and our spiritual disposition, it does increase our own holiness, and this is made possible to us by God's mercy and benevolence and in our co-operation with His freely available gift of grace.
From one aspect, God does not need us - He is entirely self -sufficient unto Himself. It is not compatible with His Divine nature to be selfish and self -centered, however. God is Love, and because of the operative aspect of His Divine nature, through His Holy Will, He created us and gives to us the possibility of sharing in His Divine life. He created us, He cares for us, and desires that we have Eternal life. As great a deeds that have come from human love, how much greater is Divine Love? Yes, God has no need of our worship and adoration. If we have a right relationship to Him, we will do these things out of out own desire to do so, and the better our relationship to Him, the more we will want and desire to do so.