With dioceses around the country reopening or planning to reopen Masses to the public, many…
Who shouldn’t receive holy Communion?
Question: In all the current discussions of denying Communion, I have not seen any examples. Can you give any modern-day examples of who is actually denied Communion?
— Name, location withheld
Answer: The single-largest group of those “denied” holy Communion would likely be those who are in invalid marriages. This is usually due to one or both of the current spouses having been married before. Jesus teaches that divorce and remarriage amounts to a state of on-going adultery (cf. Mt 5:32, Mt 19:9, Mk 10:11, Lk 16:18). Hence, unless the first marriage can be found null (that is it never existed due to some serious defect), a person in such a marriage is instructed not to receive holy Communion unless and until the matter can be resolved.
There are others who may have been instructed not to receive holy Communion by their pastor. The reasons for such an instruction must be for serious reasons such as manifest persistence in a mortal sin or serious dissent from Church teaching.
As you might see, these matters are usually handled privately and away from the Communion line. Hence you might not see or hear of such “denials” of holy Communion.
“Denial” is placed in quotes since the Church is not denying holy Communion. Rather, the person through manifest persistence in mortal sin or serious and public dissent excludes himself from Communion. St. Paul says: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29). So, the reception of holy Communion in an unworthy manner does not bring a person blessings; it does serious harm to him due to the judgment incurred. It is therefore an act of charity for the Church to warn such people against reception of holy Communion. It demonstrates the seriousness of the sin or dissent and also seeks to avoid further harm to those in such situations through unworthy reception.
The bishops are currently working on a document regarding this matter (see Pages 9-12). They seek to address the teaching to all of God’s faithful. There are any number of people who, on a given Sunday morning, ought not approach the altar to receive holy Communion. Some have committed mortal sin, and this can be resolved by confession. Others are in more complicated situations, such as invalid marriages, and this might be able to be resolved but will take time. Still others are in public and persistently dissent from Church teaching. The bishops are right to address all the faithful, not just single out certain well-known politicians and leaders. All Catholics have an obligation to receive holy Communion worthily. Many have too easily slipped away from confession or adopted worldly judgments on key moral issues. Bishops and priests have an obligation to admonish and teach the faithful in such matters. It is not whether the Church is denying holy Communion; it is whether we are truly in communion with Christ and his Body, the Church.
Question: The pastor at our parish requires that we provide proof of vaccination if we want to be admitted to the Church without a mask. Many of us are angry about this, and others support it. Is there a Church rule on this?
— Name, location withheld
Answer: There is no rule requiring you to prove vaccination. This seems a rather clear violation of laws protecting your medical privacy. Some colleges and other schools are doing the same thing, and it will all likely end up in the courts. Meanwhile, you should check with your diocesan offices to see what policies, if any, are in place regarding vaccination status.
The pandemic has certainly led to many unusual circumstances and has tested and tried the patience of many. Others, too, have suffered from significant fears related to the virus. Mutual charity coupled with following the latest guidance from health officials seems the best choice. Since most mask mandates are lifted without required proof of vaccination, this seems the best path to follow. I am aware of a pastor who has a number of parishioners still concerned about the virus. He has chosen to require masks only at one Mass on the weekend. Thus, those who prefer a masked environment can be served. For all other Masses, the masks are optional.