A Rebuttal To Ed Peters & Canon Law 915.1

Ed Peters, a canon lawyer, has been offering his views about the whole Fr. Guarnizo dustup.  Readers who are unfamiliar with the imbroglio can read about it here.  Basically, it’s about a priest who denied Communion to a Lesbian who had announced to him her active lesbianism (and introduced her “partner”) before Mass. 

In his judgement which you can read here, Ed thinks that the priest is in need of “correction”.  Did you get that?  The priest is in need of correction for not following the letter of the law.

Before making a few remarks on his assessment of this scandalous treatment of the Holy Eucharist, I would like to make this observation. 

Canon law, like all law, is there to serve the Church and to honour God.   It is not something that, in and of itself, is infallible because it is, ultimately, by its very nature a pastoral document.  True, we must obey canon law – otherwise we would have anarchy in the Church.  However, in His Ministry, Jesus went BEYOND the Law to its ultimate purpose.  What is my point here?  Simply this:  canon law can be changed to reflect the culture in which we live.  Canon law is, by its nature, malleable according to the times which Christ’s faithful are living in order to both provide liberty to Christ’s followers but also to protect the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, this means that where hostile situations start to develop in the world, the Church has the authority to change the law in order to protect its most cherished beliefs.  In my opinion, we are at the cusp of these hostile times, and sooner or later, the Church might very well have to change the law to stop the profanation of the Eucharist on a massive scale. 

Under Ed’s rubric,  for instance, if a whole lesbian congregation came up to a faithful priest before Mass and provoked and mocked him just like Barb did, there’s sweet diddley the priest could do about it.  By the way, Catholics had better get ready for it…because that’s what’s going to happen in the future, and then we’ll see if canon law changes then to reflect the new “pastoral realities”.  I’m sure the slick gay apologists are combing Ed’s answers to ensure they comply with canon law but get the mission done just the same in the future.  Thanks Ed!

In this scenario, this priest would have to give the Body of Christ to every single one of those practising Lesbians, one after the other.  Because, you know, we can’t be sure that each one of those Catholic Lesbian Buddhists was persevering in their sin, and we can’t be sure that the sin was manifest either, and we have to remember to ensure that ALL of the conditions  (grave sin, manifest, obstinate, and persevering) must be present before denying Holy Communion.  And remember, folks, according to Ed, any law restricting the exercise of rights (as Canon 915 certainly does) be strictly interpreted, that is, that the restrictions in Canon 915 be construed as narrowly as reasonably possible.”  Because. you know, us poor dears have such a problem with self-esteem and not getting our fill of entitlements.  We’re a culture, after all, that has been deprived of  liberty and freedom all these years. 

But I digress….let us take a look at some of Ed’s answers….

Here are two sources which Ed Peters cites:

If the priest … doubts the publicity or notoriety of the crime, it would certainly be safer to give the Holy Eucharist to one who publicly asks for it.” Dom Augustine, COMMENTARY (1920) IV: 230.

If there is doubt about the notoriety of the sin, the communicant is to be favored in public.” Abbo-Hannan, SACRED CANONS (1960) I: 854.

I’m not sure how that helps his case more than it does mine.  If the priest doubts “the notoriety of the sin”?  Uh…well, if you were a priest being CONFRONTED and PROVOKED in your sacristy by a lesbian and her “partner“, maybe you wouldn’t doubt that you were being setup for some show.  Normally, even open lesbians don’t confront and provoke a priest in the sacristy.  This provocation therefore militates against the doubt of notoriety on the part of our lesbian protagonist.  If you’re into provocation, you’re also likely into notoriety.  The two go together.  What is the likelihood of someone who is into provocation is not also notorious in the community?  Maybe it’s a 50/50 chance.  (And guess what?  The priest was right.  She’s a lesbian activist.)  And if it is a 50/50 call, Ed Peters has got no business demanding a “correction” of a priest who has more concern over the integrity of the Holy Eucharist than being cowed by an avowed lesbian looking to find acceptance for her lifestyle by the Church.  Besides, the priest did not make a big show of refusing her Communion.  He did it quietly and discreetly, which befitted the situation.  And, of course, the Archdiocese’s response was completely balanced and measured in how it revoked the priest’s faculties.  Good to see such balance and sound judgement. 

G: If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with Canon 915.

For reasons I can develop elsewhere, I think that withholding holy Communion from those divorced and remarried outside the Church is an application of Canon 915 (see, e.g., Kelly, in GB&I COMM [1995] 503), but I need not prove that point to show that withholding the Eucharist from divorced-and-remarrieds, that is, those who status is de iure public, is appropriate under, among other things, the 1994 CDF Letter on Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics, n. 6. Of course, as Johnson is apparently not divorced and remarried outside the Church, and because Guarnizo did not suspect her of being so, his implicit appeal to the CDF letter and/or c. 915, fails in law and in fact.

I get it, Ed. 

So, if a heterosexual is divorced and living in adultery with another woman, Communion can be withheld.  But if a woman living in an open, public lesbian relationship proceeds to the altar, Communion cannot be withheld. 


I suppose that when gay “marriage” gets legalized, it really won’t matter from Canon Law’s perspective if this Lesbian were to divorce her partner because she wasn’t technically married in the first place.  So, in other words, it really doesn’t matter if the State considers her married or divorced because the Church will allow her to receive Communion as long as she doesn’t marry a man and then divorce.

Glad to see Canon Law has caught up with the times, and is so very relevant to the new pastoral realities we Catholics find ourselves in.

I think it’s time for Canon Law #915.1, don’t you, Ed?

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