Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

General Principles

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision,  based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to  the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full  communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a  penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy  Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice  of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a  consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf.  Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical  Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that  authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and  clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of  an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it  is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign  in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave  obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if  permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the  moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This  cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of  others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it”  (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.  For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the  application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not  for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy  Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war,  and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may  still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse  to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among  Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with  regard to abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself  to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself  in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone,  such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an  obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal  cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician,  as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and  euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the  Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy  Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning  him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they  were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence,  still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy  Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative  Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics”  [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a  penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s  subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to  receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy  to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a  candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion  and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour  of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons,  it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the  presence of proportionate reasons.] (Source)

Fr. Guarnizo  did the right thing.  The occasion was missing the “persistent” part of canon law and it is true that the good Father did not have a chance to explain how sodomy is not kosher with Catholicism, but the fact that he warned her (a public gay activist) beforehand and she still returned with her lover and clearly provoked (and therefore taunted) the priest is way more than he needs to justify withholding Communion, in my opinion.  Canon Law is not the only means of judging how the priest acted:

Saint Francis of Assisi addressed the question of the indiscriminate distribution of Holy Communion in his Letter or Exhortation to the Clergy. Saint Francis, first of all, lamented the lack of care for the sacred vessels and sacred linens, which hold and touch the Body and Blood of Christ, on the part of the clergy, the ministers of Holy Communion. He, then, addressed their responsibility to attend to their own worthiness and to the right disposition of those who present themselves to receive. He declared:

And besides, many clerics reserve the Blessed Sacrament in unsuitable places, or carry It about irreverently, or receive It unworthily, or give It to all-comers without distinction. With regard to the reception of Holy Communion, Saint Francis underlined two solemn moral obligations of the minister of Holy Communion: first, the obligation to be personally disposed to receive the Body and Blood of Christ worthily, and, second, the obligation to give Holy Communion with discretion, that is, with attention to those who, in a public way, have made themselves unworthy to receive the Sacrament….(Source).

Besides, why are not the bishops meeting with pro-abort public officials and doing, as then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, says?  Never heard of that in my life. Have you?  How many decades does it take to get around to calling in John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi or Dalton McGuinty (who is publicly for abortion and currently trying to ram gay clubs in Catholic schools)?

For me, if I were bishop, it would be the first order of business on Monday morning after my installation. Two weeks later, the candles would be dropping.

What? Not compassionate enough for you?

Those were the days when religion actually meant something and bishops had the gonads to ensure everyone knew it.  If you really believed in hell damnation, the best thing the Church can do for you as a pro-abort is to excommunicate you so that you can regain your senses and repent.  The problem today of course is that many of the bishops really don’t think about hell very much.  It’s not very ecumenical.

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