Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is Reception of Communion a Right or a Privilege?

The confusion in the Church
makes my head ache
Why has it become so hard to identify sin in our world?  A woman at a funeral for her mother introduced herself and her lesbian partner to the priest before Mass, and when she presented herself  for communion, the priest denied her, saying she was involved in serious sin and he could not give her communion.  She became quite indignant, wrote a nasty letter to him, complained, and now the Diocese is reprimanding the priest!!!   This woman is in clear violation of Church teaching and the plain teaching of the Bible, and yet the priest is reprimanded? 

I make no pretense at being able to explain Canon Law.  But I do understand that reception of communion is not a right.  It is a gift given to us by our Creator, and unless we are in a state of grace, free of mortal sin, we are not qualified to receive.  The very fact that this is being disputed indicates, to me at least, that something is seriously wrong.

Here is the article from

Archdiocese of Washington reprimands priest for denying communion to a lesbian

GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND, February 29, 2012, ( – A parish priest in Maryland, who denied communion to a woman who identified herself as a lesbian, has been publicly rebuked by the Archdiocese of Washington.

Barbara Johnson attended her mother’s funeral last Saturday and introduced her lesbian partner to the priest before Mass.

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, covered the Host as she approached and told her, “I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the Church, that is a sin.”

Afterwards, she wrote him a letter telling him, “I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”  [She shows no sense of humility whatsoever.  She does not question herself and ask whether the priest may be right.  If she is a Catholic, she knows that homosexuality is condemned by the Church.  Yet she still feels that she has a right to communion.]

Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout wrote a formal letter of apology telling Johnson, “I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity.”  [First of all, a funeral should not be a "celebration of life".  The purpose of a funeral is to pray for the deceased.  Secondly, how about reminding this poor lost soul that she is in fact living contrary to God's law and that unless she repents and changes, she could very well lose salvation?  Isn't there any concern for her soul, or are we too concerned about hurting her feelings?] 
The Archdiocese of Washington issued a brief press release saying Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were inappropriate. “When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person. Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.”  [Even when the sin is public?  She was there with her Lesbian lover.  If she told the priest, it is an almost sure thing that others knew as well.  It was a public matter.  And aren't we the least concerned about desecration of the Blessed Sacrament by giving it to someone who is in mortal sin?]  After receiving the letter of apology, Johnson said “I will not be satisfied” until Fr. Guarnizo is removed from the parish.

Monsignor Charles Pope, who blogs for the Archdiocese of Washington’s website, told, “One would presume a priest would have had more ongoing conversations with somebody of a private nature before one would publicly deny somebody communion.”   [I don't understand this.  The woman admitted to being involved in serious sin.  What am I missing?]

“There may be a time when a pastor has concerns about a parishioner and then speaks to them privately and advises them privately not to receive communion,” he said. “But we don’t have these confrontations at the altar rail.”  [I can understand not wanting to have confrontations at the altar rail, but it is also important to keep the Blessed Sacrament from being desecrated, which seems to the major concern of Fr. Guarnizo.]

Canon 915 of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law admonishes priests to deny Holy Communion to those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The New Commentary on Canon Law states: “Eucharistic Ministers are also to refuse holy communion when they are certain (1) that a person has committed a sin that is objectively grave, (2) that the sinner is obstinately persevering in this sinful state, and (3) that this sin is manifest,” or widely known to those present at the Mass. [As I already stated, if the woman was so bold to present herself and her Lesbian partner to the priest, it's a pretty sure bet that others knew as well.  Since that most probably is the case, doesn't giving her communion put the Church's approval on her clearly sinful relationship?]
The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops established “engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage” as such a sin in its 2006 publication “‘Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper’: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.”

“Catholics who are conscious of committing any mortal sin must receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion,” they wrote.

[See below]
The commentary on the 1983 Code of Canon Law, prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, states, “before a minister can lawfully refuse the Eucharist, he must be certain that the person obstinately persists in a sinful situation or in sinful behavior that is manifest (i.e. public) and objectively grave.” [Is there any doubt in this situation?  The woman has a live-in Lesbian partner, and not only didn't try to be discreet about it, but openly bragged of it to the priest.  It would seem reasonable for him to assume that this was public knowledge.]

“Most canonists, including pastors and priests, interpret that not just as not just a quick conversation but something of a more substantial nature,” Monsignor Pope told LifeSiteNews.   [This is the problem.  Canon Law can be "interpreted" in different ways by different people.]

Dr. Ed Peters, a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote “a few minutes conversation…would not suffice, in the face of numerous canons protecting the right of the faithful to receive the sacraments [emphasis on the word "faithful", which it would seem this woman was clearly not, and her prideful, revengeful attitude afterwards would seem to support this conclusion], to verify either the notoriety of the (objectively) sinful situation, or to verify the obstinacy of the would-be recipient.” However, Dr. Peters noted after a sufficient period of warning and instruction, a priest would be well within his rights to invoke Canon 915 and deny communion to an obstinate, sexually active homosexual.

“I don’t know that that can be determined by a brief interaction in a sacristy,” Msgr. Pope told LifeSiteNews.  [Again, who is the one who is suppose to make these judgments?  It seems that Canon Law only leads to confusion.]

Fr. Guarnizo may have been forcibly denied the opportunity to expand on his conversation. A commenter on Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog, who claimed to have been “in a meeting with Fr Marcel and heard the whole story,” wrote: “The woman in question brought her lesbian partner into the vesting sacristy just before the funeral Mass and made sure to introduce her partner to Fr. Marcel, introducing her as her ‘lover’. He told her then that she should not present herself for Communion.” A commenter claimed Barbara’s partner “blocked his way out of the sacristy when he attempted to speak with her further.”

The Catholic Church believes a faithful Christian has such an interest in receiving Holy Communion that it must only be denied only in extreme cases. “When in doubt, give it out,” Msgr. Pope said. [This seems to be very dubious reasoning.  Isn't protection of the Blessed Sacrament of any importance?]

The popular blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf wrote no one should be surprised that questions persist about when to publicly deny someone communion.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf writes that “Many priests have received inadequate training in these matters of law and have been given even worse example by bishops who ought to be applying can. 915 is genuine cases of applicability,” he wrote. [Father Z also used this post to promote his own "stuff" for sale:  "Finally, while I have your attention, please go buy some can. 915 stuff."  Sigh.  Hard to take him seriously when he is always hawking his "Swag Store."]

Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, waded into a similar controversy in 2009 when he said he would not deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi communion, claiming to do so would amount to “Communion wielded as a weapon.” When asked, he said, “there’s a question about whether this canon [915] was ever intended to be used.”   [I rest my case about the confusion caused by Canon Law.]

Fr. Zuhlsdorf described Fr. Guarnizo’s actions as “well-meaning” but “premature,” adding he could not find fault with his motivation.

“He should be thanked for taking his role seriously and for wanting to uphold the Church’s teaching,” he wrote.

Fr. Guarnizo did not return messages left by LifeSiteNews.
When situations like this happen, and the Church hierarchy sides with someone clearly in violation of church teaching against a faithful priest,  is there any wonder that the laity in the Catholic Church just throw up their hands and make up their own minds about what is right and wrong?  Yet, it is just that which has led to the crisis in the Church, sinking attendance, lack of belief in the Real Presence.  Like the Protestants, far too many Catholics have become their own Magesterium.  Further, by making an "example" of this faithful priest, the Church hierarchy is telling the priests to be more concerned about hurting people's feelings than saving their souls. 

Blessed Mother, pray for us.

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