Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

When bishops disagree: on withholding the Eucharist

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 31, 2009

 In the Code of Canon Law, #916 obligates the faithful to determine for themselves whether they are prepared to receive Communion (that is, in a state of grace), and act accordingly. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington has cited Canon 916 to explain why he will not deny the Eucharist to a pro-abortion politician. The recipient himself is responsible, he argues.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, the head of the Apostolic Signatura, disagrees. He cites Canon 915 to support his argument that priests should withhold the Eucharist from those who are in manifest grave sin. It's the responsibility of the Eucharistic minister, he says.

Who's right? Canon lawyer Edward Peters acknowledges that both American prelates are citing the canons correctly. But individual provisions of the Code should not be read in isolation, he argues; one canon supports another. In this case, Peters reasons:

I suggest that, for one to argue that Communion reception by Catholics is a purely personal decision under Canon 916 is to ignore impermissibly Canon 915 and its assertion of ministerial obligations in certain cases.

In other words, it is the responsibility of the individual to refrain from approaching the Eucharist if he is not in a state of grace. But when it is evident to everyone involved that the individual has failed to meet that responsibility, the priest should take action. But Peters makes that argument more elegantly, and his analysis is definitely worth reading.

 

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach five million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our April expenses ($18,070 to go):
$35,000.00 $16,930.48
52% 48%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering April 22
Easter with the Pope April 21
Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline April 17
The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer April 16
Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Easter Vigil homily (full text) CWN - April 20
Pope Francis's Easter Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - April 20