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By now it should be clear to Catholics that when it comes to proclaiming the Faith, our biggest fight today is within our own Church, and the dissension is about sexual morality and gay rights. This was made clear to me by an incident that happened some years ago.
A gay rights group took out an ad in a local newspaper condemning the local bishop who was teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. A group of young college-age Catholics wanted to fight back, and they collected money to run their own ad defending the bishop. But the chancery at the local diocese intervened and told the students to stand down. The students were told, "We do not want to have a street fight over homosexuality with the LGBT."
The leader of the college group protested to the diocese, "If we do not have a street fight with the LGBT now, we will have a sanctuary fight with them later."
Well, guess what. The sanctuary fight is here.
Consequently, today we are forced to ask the question: When is it licit for a minister of the Eucharist to refuse someone Holy Communion? The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked this kind of question to the Congregation of the Doctrine for the faith (CDF) in 2004 when they asked if pro-abortion politicians should be denied Holy Communion.
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who was president of the USCCB at the time, misled the bishops about the reply from Cdl. Ratzinger (at that time head of the CDF). McCarrick gave the bishops the impression that Cdl. Ratzinger's reply stated that it was up to the bishops to decide if these politicians should be refused communion. But Cardinal Ratzinger actually said that, if these manifest sinners would not stay away from Holy Communion after being warned, the minister of the Eucharist must "refuse to distribute it" to them.
Since then, the truth — that these politicians and other publicly known sinners should be denied Holy Communion — has not been given to U.S. Catholics and has been ignored by the U.S. bishops' conference. It's another cover-up.
Consequently, divisions are occurring among the bishops, and a storm at communion time is sure to erupt in many parishes throughout the United States.
In fact, there are already a number of bishops who think that neither the LGBT nor anyone else should be denied Holy Communion. Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, for example, stated that "it is not our policy" to deny Holy Communion to the LGBT. He believes the person receiving communion should decide. Cardinal Donald Wuerl is also on record for refusing to deny Holy Communion to politicians, like Nancy Pelosi and anyone else, including lesbian couples. In fact, he took away the faculties of a priest for refusing to give self-proclaimed lesbians Holy Communion and apologized to the lesbian involved.
For some time now, a number of bishops, especially Cardinals McCarrick, Wuerl and Cupich, have been pushing this idea of open communion to all — open even to politicians who publicly promote abortion and same-sex marriage
But there are clear teachings which govern the Church's decision to refuse or not to refuse someone Holy Communion. Let's look at these teachings. One is from Our Savior Jesus Christ and the other is from St. Paul.
Our Lord stated, "It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It would be better for him, that a millstone be hung about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than he should scandalize one of these little ones" (Lk 17:1-2). Note that this directive — not to cause "scandal" — is a divine teaching from the Son of God Himself.
The statement from St. Paul teaches: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27).
The Catholic Church has certain laws which flow from these teachings of Our Lord and St. Paul. The Church teaches in no. 2120 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us." Thus Can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law states: "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately preserving in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion."
Saint Thomas Aquinas makes a very important distinction between "notorious" or "open" sinners and "secret" or "occult" sinners when he discusses times when the minister of the Eucharist must deny Holy Communion to sinners and when he must not deny Holy Communion to them. He says:
A distinction must be made among sinners: some are secret; others are notorious, either from evidence of the fact, as public usurers, or public robbers, or from being denounced as evil men by some ecclesiastical or civil tribunal. ...
But if they be not open sinners, but occult, the Holy Communion should not be denied them if they ask for it. For since every Christian, from the fact that he is baptized, is admitted to the Lord's table, he may not be robbed of his right, except from some open cause. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part III, Q80, art. 6)
Consequently, Cdl. Ratzinger's 2004 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith to the U.S. bishops interpreting Can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that, when a person appearing in "manifest grave sin" comes to communion after being told not to do so, "the minister of the Eucharist must refuse to distribute it" to him. Again, we are talking about a person who is a "manifest" sinner and not to someone whose evil act is known to the minister of the Eucharist but not to others.
One must understand why a person must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to those "persevering in manifest grave sin."
It is not because the minister can see the soul of the recipient and knows the person is not in the state of grace. Only God knows the state of a person's soul. Rather it is because the recipient is connecting what the Church condemns — an evil act — with the Body and Blood of Christ by coming to communion.
Let us consider, for example, a congressman or congress woman who promotes abortion, same -sex marriage, euthanasia, drugs, etc. or a couple openly divorced and remarried with no annulment or publicly practicing premarital or extramarital sex. Even if the recipient is in the state of grace because the person thinks extramarital sex is not evil, the person is still connecting the evil act with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And, because people think that this person is committing adultery, which is condemned by Jesus Christ and His Church, the "scandal" still occurs. This can lead innocent people astray by suggesting to them that, if the minister of the Eucharist believes that it is OK to give Holy Communion to a person doing this action, then the action must not be evil. It can cause these innocent people, these "little ones," to "stumble" or "sin" through "scandal."
Some bishops, like Bp. Felix Glenn of Munster, Germany, are badly mistaken when they say that it is not up to priests "to deny or allow access to the Eucharist." But much less do priests have a right to disobey a divine teaching of Jesus Christ not to cause scandal. Not only the priest, but also the individual lay minister of the Eucharist, must obey the divine law. The bishop cannot replace Jesus' teaching — not to give scandal– with his own opinion. If the person coming to Holy Communion is "notorious" or publicly known to support abortion or same-sex marriage, the minister must obey Jesus Christ rather than the bishop and refuse to cause scandal. He or she must not distribute Holy Communion to him or her.
So, before a storm breaks out in parishes throughout the United States at communion time, the leadership of the USCCB ought to inform all Catholics about Cdl. McCarrick's deceptive interpretation of Cdl. Ratzinger's 2004 letter. All Catholics have a right and a need to know this and why this is still being covered up today. And they need to know it now!
If the USCCB is not willing to tell Catholics about this deception and cover-up, then the individual bishop should let the people of his diocese know about it — especially ministers of the Eucharist.
Republished with permission from Fr. Regis Scanlon's blog.