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There was always an elephant in the room during the Communion debate.
BY the Editors
There was always an elephant in the room during the
In debates about politicians receiving Communion, one big
fat fact remained unacknowledged.
Catholics asked: Why should the lawmakers who enact
draconian pro-abortion laws receive Communion? But they should have asked: Why
are so many others receiving Communion when they shouldn’t?
With their new document, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to
His Supper:” On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist,” the
bishops are pointing dramatically at the elephant in the Communion line.
The document reminds us not just that Communion is for
Catholics only, but for Catholics who:
— Went to confession in the past year, at least, or more
often if they committed a serious sin.
— Fasted for an hour first “refraining from food and drink
(except for water and medicines) for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion.”
— Are wearing “modest and tasteful dress” — “clothes that
reflect our reverence for God and that manifest our respect for the dignity of
the liturgy and for one another.”
— Are in a recollected and prayerful state of mind. The
statement even spells out some common serious sins. These are sins that
constitute grave matter. When we do them deliberately and with knowledge of
their sinfulness, they put us in a state of mortal sin.
— Abortion and euthanasia. “Committing murder,
including abortion and euthanasia, harboring deliberate hatred of others.”
— Any extra-marital sex. “Engaging in sexual activity
outside the bonds of a valid marriage.”
— Theft, including “serious fraud, or other immoral
— Slander, Hatred and Envy. “Speaking maliciously or
slandering people in a way that seriously undermines their good name. …
Harboring deliberate hatred of others. … Engaging in envy that leads one to wish
grave harm to someone else.”
— Pornography. “Producing, marketing, or indulging in
This document is a robust answer to what Pope John Paul II
asked for in his 2001 apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the
Beginning of the New Millennium). He asked for bishops to have “courage, confidence
and creativity” in re-establishing the sacrament of confession in their
In 2002, when the Church was rocked with scandals, John Paul
saw what the real crisis was: Catholics were allowing themselves to fall into a
state of sin, weren’t going to confession and were, often enough, receiving Communion
What’s the big deal with that? When priests and their flocks
no longer care about sin, it’s only a matter of time before they will begin sinning
in ways that shock us.
John Paul wrote a Holy Thursday letter to priests in 2002 in
which he said three times that people in a state of sin should not
receive Communion without going to confession first. In another passage he
“My dear brothers in the priesthood … I feel a pressing need
to urge you, as I did last year, to rediscover for yourselves and to help others
to rediscover the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation.
“In recent decades and for a variety of reasons the
sacrament has passed through a crisis. More than once I have drawn attention to
this fact, even making it the theme of a gathering of the synod of bishops.”
That same year, on the feast of Divine Mercy, he put his
plea for more confession, and proper confession, into an apostolic letter all
its own, giving it an especially urgent motu proprio status.
Then, in his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia,
he made this almost formal declaration:
“I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there
remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent
gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed
that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, one must first
confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin.”
Catholics should bring this new U.S. bishops document (find it at USCCB.org)
to the attention of their pastors and begin promoting it. It’s the best way to
defeat the Church’s biggest scandal: the loss of the sense of sin.