Should they be denied Communion?


Andrew Cuomo

The following comes from a story by canon lawyer Ed Peters published in the November 2012 edition of First Things.

For several years, Raymond Cardinal Burke, now Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and I have been among the chief exponents of the view that Catholic sacramental and canonical discipline supports, and in some cases demands, that Catholic ministers withhold Holy Communion from certain Catholics in response to their public conduct. In particular, serious questions have arisen about the eligibility of some prominent political figures to receive Communion. Almost invariably, these questions focus on their personal, albeit public, conduct, rather than their beliefs, and are being decided, or conspicuously not decided, case by case.

While some earlier disputes about participation in Communion focused on the receiver’s private conduct, recent disputes concern conduct that is particularly public, indeed often formally political or, at any rate, packed with societal consequences. These modern debates emerged first in regard to Eucharistic participation by the millions of Catholics who civilly divorced and remarried, followed by arguments about Catholic politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Kathleen Sebelius, Andrew Cuomo, and Rudy Giuliani, and most recently Catholics participating in various forms of pro-homosexual activism.

Many Catholics who support untraditional marriages, Pelosi’s near-perfect pro-abortion politics, or Rainbow Sash-style activism profess outrage at seeing the Eucharist “used as a weapon” against fellow Catholics. Others, however, are appalled at seeing such markedly contrarian Catholics take Holy Communion.

The Eucharist is central to the identity, doctrines, and practices of the Catholic Church. As canon 897 of the Code of Canon Law puts it, “The most august sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic sacrifice . . . is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ.”

Canon 898 adds: “The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration.”

Against Burke’s view and mine stand some scattered negative episcopal demurrals (Cardinals Roger Mahony, emeritus of Los Angeles, and Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., come to mind) and some short essays by academics. Mostly, it seems, the opposition reflects an institutional reluctance to enforce ecclesiastical discipline when the public outcry might be loud.

Participation in Holy Communion is achieved by two related but distinct acts: the action of a member of the faithful in seeking Communion (reception) and the action of the minister in giving Communion (administration). These two actions are not only performed by different persons, they are governed by different canon laws. Virtually all confusion over Communion can be traced to the failure to keep these two actions distinct.

The criteria for receiving Communion spark little disagreement. Canon 916 expressly states that a person “conscious of grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession.” To receive Communion with a guilty conscience is to commit the mortal sin of sacrilege, and to die with mortal sin on one’s soul invites eternal damnation. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” Canon 916 leaves no doubt about the gravity of irreverent reception of the Eucharist.

This canon seeks to protect against sacrilege. Yet the human conscience is private, and the Catholic Church knows that some people can and will receive Communion sacrilegiously. The first such reception was committed, it seems, by Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper. St. Thomas Aquinas, however, ranks the sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist among lesser, albeit still grave, offenses and warns priests of his day against improperly withholding Communion from personally but not publicly unworthy Catholics. In doing so, they risk committing mortal sins themselves.

More recently, the Jesuit Felix Cappello, perhaps the greatest sacramental lawyer of the twentieth century, warned in his De Sacramentis that “certain writers, particularly those addressing ascetics, exaggerate the gravity of the sin of sacrilegious Communion. But all excess in this area should be avoided, lest the faithful, especially poorly informed and children, plunge into desperation” (my translation). Today it seems that this desperation arises not from personal fear of offending the Lord through one’s own sacrilege, but from a desire to see the Eucharist withheld from others lest they commit a sacrilege—not the desperation Cappello had in mind, but one every bit as erroneous.

The Church knows, as surely as did our Lord when he handed himself to Judas, that some Catholics will receive Communion sacrilegiously. To prevent ministers from too zealously safeguarding the Eucharist, canon 213, located in a part of the Code that many authors compare to an ecclesiastical Bill of Rights, declares the fundamental right of the Christian faithful to receive “the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments.”

Canon 912 adds that any baptized person “not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion,” and canon 18 states that any laws that “restrict the free exercise of rights [especially fundamental rights to receive the sacraments] are subject to strict interpretation.” The burden of proof falls on ministers to explain why they are denying the sacrament to a member of the faithful.

There are, of course, certain prohibitions against the reception of Communion that would not upset Catholics. Non-baptized persons, most baptized non-Catholics, those known to have received Communion earlier in the day, and certainly those who have received twice that day, cannot be admitted to Communion. Someone eating in the Communion procession is obviously violating the Eucharistic fast. Someone asking for Communion as the pastor is leaving the rectory to catch a flight is not asking at “an appropriate time.” Neither enjoy a right to Communion to which ministers must defer.

To be sure, canon 843 allows the clergy to deny any sacrament based on one’s improper “disposition,” but canon lawyers have long distinguished between external dispositions (such as sufficient catechetical formation, demeanor, and even dress) and internal dispositions (such as fervor, faith, and grace). Questions about internal disposition are left to the individual and his or her confessor.

But the concerns for irreverent reception of the Communion contained in canon 916 must be distinguished from the concerns for the illicit administration of Communion to Catholics found in canon 915. Canon 915 states: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion.”

Crucial to a proper understanding of canon 915 is, first, the fact that it binds the ministers who admit persons to sacraments, not the recipients who approach the sacraments. Second, it both authorizes and requires Communion to be withheld from the faithful who approach under certain conditions, specifically “those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” To read canon 915 as if it were a mere suggestion or exhortation instead of a command is to disregard the plain text of the law.

Third, the conditions requiring Communion to be withheld must be simultaneously satisfied before the minister may licitly withhold the Eucharist from a Catholic approaching for it publicly. To invoke canon 915 against a member of the faithful who does not satisfy all of the terms of canon 915 is, again, to disregard the plain text of the law and, as St. Thomas warned centuries ago, to violate the fundamental rights of the faithful.

Sacramental tradition allows for withholding Communion in two other cases: when a person reckoned to be in a state of unrepented grave sin (determined usually by the individual’s disclosure) approaches for the Sacrament privately, and when a person reasonably suspected of intending to desecrate the Eucharist approaches to receive. Both are rare events these days.

Those two exceptions aside, if a member of the faithful approaches Communion publicly and gives no indication of intending an external act of desecration, even the minister’s moral certitude that the would-be recipient suffers grave moral disarray does not permit him to withhold Communion. His grief at being a material cooperator in sacrilege may be joined to our Lord’s grief at so many unworthy receptions of himself.

Like canon 916, canon 915 works in part to prevent sacrilege, but it is oriented primarily to preventing scandal. In the Catholic moral tradition, scandal is not behavior that once known will embarrass or compromise the actor, but “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil,” as the Catechism puts it.

In a religious society animated by communio and possessed of few mechanisms for the external enforcement of discipline, the personal conduct of every individual affects the ability of every other individual to act for good or for evil. Bad examples in the Church have even more effect when ecclesiastical authority appears to be complicit with them by failing to impose any consequences.

A few years ago, then-Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius’ pro-abortion activism invited her bishop’s private remonstrance against reception of Communion. Since he announced her exclusion publicly, she has apparently complied. Similarly, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whom I argued last year was ineligible for Communion based on, if nothing else, his living arrangements, has apparently discreetly refrained from approaching for Communion since then. In contrast, Nancy Pelosi’s scandal drags on, and to ignore it is to provide her the veneer of ecclesiastical fellowship even as she invokes her Catholic faith to justify her cooperation with and promotion of evil public policies.

Canon laws do not affect only select national figures. For example, divorced Catholics living in civil marriages are, in most cases, not to be given Communion because their living together affirms in a very public way actions contrary to Church teaching and gives a bad example to other Catholics preparing for marriage or struggling in marriages that have become very difficult. Similarly, withholding Communion from those who actively promote homosexual practice reduces classical scandal and helps protect the integrity of Catholic doctrine.

This is not to suggest that all cases of divorce and remarriage, or of any degree of political complicity in the culture of death, or of some level of promotion of homosexual activity by Catholics can be easily recognized and are severe enough to warrant withholding Communion. Difficult cases of law and fact will arise, and mistakes will inevitably be made in deciding them.

But a clear recognition of the fundamental differences between canon 916 on the reverent reception of the Eucharist and canon 915 on a minister’s withholding of Holy Communion is essential in assessing these cases. So too is recognizing that ambiguous cases must be decided in favor of reception of the Sacrament, even at the risk of sacrilege, while proven cases of public unworthiness as understood by Church law must result in withholding the Sacrament, even at the risk of public outcry. Both outcomes are required upon pain of dereliction of ministerial duties in regard to participation in the Eucharist.

Canon 915 is not a cure-all for wounds on the mystical body of Christ, but it does seem to cauterize certain wounds until deeper and more satisfying resolutions can be effected.

Edward Peters teaches canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. In 2010, he was appointed a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict XVI. This article expresses his own views.

To read original story, click here.


  1. On the net see:
    ” The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin ” by R.L. Burke. (Cardinal Burke)
    The Cardinal’s writing says it all.

    Many of the problems in the USA today are due in part to confusion caused by:

    1) the Mortal Sins of some Bishops and some Priests participating in the Sacrilege of giving the Body and Blood of our Lord to those they know are obstinate in grave sin;

    2) the Mortal Sin of grave public SCANDALS which some Bishops and some Priests refuse to publically address.

    3) Bishops and Priests not actively and publically encouraging the reading and study of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” by all literate persons over age 16.

    Code of Canon Law: ” 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion. “

  2. “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition” –

    CCC: ” 2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.”

    CCC: ” 2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized.
    It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
    Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.
    Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. ”

    CCC: ” 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
    Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.
    This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values. ”

    CCC: ” 2326 Scandal is a grave offense when by deed or omission it deliberately leads others to sin gravely. “

  3. Canon 915 is also a teaching tool, teaching the gravity of sacrilege to the world. This cannot be done with the subtle rhetoric such as one finds in this article. It is why Jesus appointed a pope rather than a theologian to rule His Church.

  4. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, Nancy Polosi, Kathleen Sebelius, John Kerry, Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carolyn Kennedy, and others who call themselves ‘Catholic’ yet PUBLICALLY and OBSTINATELY support INTRINSIC EVIL should be excommunicated.

    Intrinsic Evils include: abortion, euthanasia, homo-sexual marriage, against Freedom of Religion.

    By definition in the CCC 2089, they are HERETICS and/or SCHISMATICS.

    The mortal sin of SCANDAL needs to be taken very seriously by our Church leaders.

  5. Maryanne Leonard says:

    Has anyone noticed the decline in adherence to the tenets of the faith among Catholics who observe Catholics in the public eye who suffer no consequences when defying Catholic teachings? Some well-known Catholics have gotten away with promoting abortion, adultery, and even seen deaths of living adults occur due to their own irresponsibility, yet they continue to enjoy the friendship of leading Catholic clergymen and are never denied communion. Are these “Catholics” to be seen as “above the law,” so to speak, or are their bishops shirking their sworn responsibilities? Why should the rest of us take pains to follow Catholic teachings if others seem to be excused? Are these teachings valid; in other words, will Jesus express disapproval on Judgment Daqy? Are the souls of those who are not sanctioned being put at risk by our Catholic public figures not being brought back into line? What are we to conclude about our own adherence to teachings that may not be taken seriously by our bishops? Were the teachings moral suggestions, to be followed when they strike us as “feeling right” and abandoned at will without any serious concern? Is our Catholic hierarchy winking at what they teach?

  6. R.B. Rodda says:

    I find Raymond Burke to be a rather embarrassing individual given his position in the Church. He’s got a big mouth and he lacks tact. No wonder he was kicked upstairs into his current position.

    Of course Pelosi should be denied Holy Communion. But the Most Blessed Sacrament cannot be used as a weapon to shame people. It’s far too precious for that!

    Pelosi probably receives Holy Communion in at mos 2-3 different places. The bishop(s) responsible for those churches/chapels/etc. should contact Pelosi privately and FORBID her from receiving Holy Communion.

    Given that she is a public person person that can (and has) bring scandal to the Church, measures can even be taken to physically ensure she is not allowed to receive Holy Communion. All it would take is a single exceedingly tactful and well trained usher.

    What should NOT happen is for any bishop to bloviate in writing that they have banned XYZ person from receiving Holy Communion. Burke did that and it was an embarrassment to the Blessed Sacrament.

    • Rhoda, perhaps you have never read the Code of Canon Law which you can find on the VATICAN web site:
      “Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin ARE NOT TO BE ADMITTED to holy communion.”

      This is the responsibility of the Diocese Bishop and each Priest.
      It is not a choice by people who call themselves ‘Catholic’ but are heretics and schismatics.
      Do you want PRIESTS to commit the Mortal Sin of cooperation/participation in the SACRILEGE and SCANDAL ?

      • R.B. Rodda says:

        Read what I wrote.

        Pelosi should NOT be allowed to receive holy communion. She should be told that in private. If she is still intent on receiving communion in defiance of the local bishop, a well trained usher or two could ensure she never made it into the communion line.

        What should not happen is for bishops to bloviate in writing about banning certain people. That’s simply unacceptable.

        • Why is it unacceptable? These are people who have made a conscious choice to catapult themselves into the public arena. They publicly boast that they are ‘catholics,’ whilst in the same breath promoting abortion and homosexuality. As such, they are fair game. Even Henry had to bend his knee at Canossa. The Bishops ought to become more vocal in their rebuke of those who defend these intrinsic evils. Their authoritative voices will also go a long way in dispelling any confusion that might arise.

        • Rodda, please quote the section of the CCC or Canon Law whereby Bishops should allow public “SCANDAL” to stand without public correction for the rest of the Faithful ? ? ?

          As a teaching moment, Jesus called out Judas Iscariot in front of the rest of the Apostles, and Judas’s name went down in history for the rest of the world to know and see.

          Only heretics and schismatics love confusion.

        • They are public officials committing public acts and therefore should be publicly confronted. Why would anyone want to conceal the truth or not hold public servants accountable for their actions whether or not they are that of a secular or religious affront to the public?

    • RB: Evidently you have never met Cardinal Burke. He is one of the most holy men I have ever met. He is very humble and yet is able to impart the teachings of the Church with great skill and charity. As a Bishop/Cardinal, he has the responsibility to inform the faithful of what must be done when someone who publicly and obstinately persists in the support of grave evil. I applaud that he is willing to put into writing what he professes. Would that more would do so.
      Once after speaking to a group regarding the magnificent gift Christ gave us in the Eucharist, a man came to him in tears wanting to confess and return to the Faith. In a room of over 500 men, you could hear a pin drop. The Cardinal hugged him and welcomed him like a son.
      I do not think you need to lecture Cardinal Burke on the sanctity of the Eucharist!
      Pelosi is such a narcissist that she lectured the Holy Father when she visited Rome! She believes she is god.
      When it comes to “embarrassment”, “big mouth” and a “lack of tact”, you should look closer to home. Your nasty remarks are uncalled for.
      Cardinal Burke has never caused embarrassment to Christ Jesus in any respect, but especially not in the Eucharist.

    • Rhoda –

      Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is a Canon Lawyer.
      He is Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop emeritus of Saint Louis (USA).
      He is also a Vatican member of the – Secretariat of State (second section);
      Congregations: for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; for Bishops;
      and Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

      Now what makes you think you know more than he does?
      Who is the real embarassment – inserting foot in mouth ? You should apologize.

      • R.B. Rodda says:

        As I said I don’t have any respect for Burke given how he has handled certain issues pertaining to Holy Communion. I almost wonder if he wanted the attention himself?

        We need more Dolans and fewer Burkes in the Church.

        • Need more Dolans? The Dolan who sat down to dinner recently with arch-abortionist Obama?????? I think not!

        • Abeca Christian says:

          We need less Roddas

          • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


            Once again you hit the nail on the head!

            God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
            Kenneth M. Fisher

        • Rodda,
          You did not answer the question.
          What makes you think you know more than Cardinal Burke?

          All you keep doing is giving us your personal uneducated opinions, which mean nothing.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            OSCAR don’t hold your breath in receiving an answer, maybe one that lacks reason and logic.

        • Mike Malone says:

          I know Cardinal Burke. I find you approach to criticizing the Cardinal offensive. Who are you to criticize this Cardinal? I’ve read your posts and find that your understanding of scandal, 915 and the excommunication process to be lacking. I can only hope that you listen to the words of the other posters because I doubt I can be charitable to someone who is so arrogant so I won’t post you again.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Mike I don’t blame you, I can’t stand that type of arrogance and Rodda many a times has behaved that way on there.

        • Rodda, your blog implies that Cdl Dolan is the model for the Church: But he is a lukewarm man pleaser and conniver. Jesus spits such souls out of His mouth. But maybe this Cardinal will repent and make himself become holy some day. Although this would be rare among, since once a man laps up the worldly things, especially if a cleric, he never seems to go back to the humble state that will save his soul and other souls.

          • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


            Not so, I read that many of the English Bishops who originally fell in line with Henry VIII finally repented and joined their Brother in Christ St. Cardinal John Fisher. The mercy of God is relentless!

            God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
            Kenneth M. Fisher

        • R.B. Rodda, your misperception of Cardinal Burke may be based on the media that has surrounded him. Cardinal Burke is the real deal. Even those who disagree with how he handled some of the things when he was Archbishop of St. Louis, say that he is a kind and compassionate person; the kind of person that, when he is speaking with you, is really listening and loving you.

    • Mr.Rodda, to speak of one of our cardinals in such a disrespectful way is absolutely shocking. Even when I wrote my post about Cardinal Dolan’s dinner invitation to the pro-abort president, I didn’t write with such a virulent hatred. Shame on you for your absolutely reprehensible views on Cardinal Burke. You really need to spend some time in reflection on your unacceptable attitude toward a man that is especially in line with the teachings of the Church and its faithful. I will put you on my prayer list, which I don’t mean condescendingly, for I crave any prayers that any here would offer for me, and if you read something I write that doesn’t sound orthodox or Christian, please tell me! I know I often speak very harshly to or about people who are making attacks on the Church or fellow believers, but I feel compelled to do so.

      • R.B. Rodda says:

        Ultimately Burke is a man. He’s not a saint and of course he’s certainly not God.

        I am way, way, way past the point of saluting anyone’s uniform. I strongly disagree with how he handled the matter of Holy Communion in his former archdiocese. The Blessed Sacrament should NEVER be used as a weapon or a political tool!

        • Ultimately, if Cdl Burke carries out the will of God, he is not simply a man but will be divinized. Rodda, you go and do your homework.

        • Rodda, all Bishops are required to privately talk to the heretic or schismatic.

          If the person does not repent and reform, and correct his/her own public scandal in reparation – the Bishop has an obligation to do so.
          In the sin of SCANDAL, other souls are at grave risk.

          Bishops must do their jobs to Save Souls.

      • R.B. Rodda says:

        Oh, and one more thing. Please, please do not lie about me anymore. I don’t hate Burke nor did I display hatred for him. Disgust? Perhaps. Dismissal? Maybe. But certainly not hate.

        • Abeca Christian says:

          Rodda you are society…there are many like you going around….why do we keep wondering why our church is in chaos.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      WRONG again! Then Archbishop Burke was not kicked up to get him out of the way as you liberals ridiculously like to claim. If that were the case, how do you liberals explain the now Cardinal’s increasing responsibilities given him by the Holy Father?

      Also, it is those who wrongfully and publicly receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity unworthily who seek to use the Eucharist as a political tool to fool the fools they can mislead!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

    • It is not embarrassment, Rodda, that you feel, but shame. Archbishop Burke has sponsored holy things, and thus has been responding to the Pope’s call to become holy. On the other hand, Cdl Dolan sponsors go along to get along, play the polititicians for money and funny, and adjust the faucet for equal hot and cold water. From your posts, it is obvious that this is your kind of man, lukewarm and anything but holy.

  7. Larry from RI says:

    Would’t the proper course of actio be to excommunicate and then deny the reception of Eucharist.
    If they have already excommunicated themselves by their public conduct this would be an official recognition of their self excommunication.
    A case should be made against the most egregious offender and proceed expeditiously in public.
    As PPaul II use to say “It’s a long way to Tipperary…”

    • R.B. Rodda says:

      Nope! All excommunicating would do would be to martyr Pelosi! I’m sure she would still present herself for communion!

      • False. Excommunicating Pelosi would draw a critical line in the sand, and bolster the faithful’s hopes for Heaven.

      • Rodda, apparently you do not care about Sacrilege against the Body and Blood of Christ.

        • Abeca Christian says:

          Rodda read CINDY F”s comment. Cindy I don’t think Rodda understand the gravity of the spiritual consequences, she only see’s things in the flesh!

      • Rodda, you must love confusion and the sins of SCANDAL and SACRILEGE within the Church.

        1) Ecommunication is a public act.
        2) Excommunicated Catholics would no longer be able to publically lie (like Biden and Pelosi) and say they are Faithful Catholics.
        3) Priests would know about a public excommunication, and would not give them Holy Communion even if they presented themselves to receive.

        Not publically correcting heretics and schismatics is exactly why there is so much relativism, secularism, scandal, heresy, and schism within the Church today.

        Confusion and lies are tools of the devil.

        • Pelosi? A martyr? That is much akin to being a legend in her own mind! She would become a cause celebre’ to all those who are the implacable enemies of Jesus Christ and the Church. Let them have her. No Catholic worth their weight in gold would ever regard her excommunication as an act of martyrdom. She doesn’t have what it takes to make it into the books of the Bollandists.

      • Rodda, you’ve avoided the question put to you, what religion do you profess?

  8. Juergensen says:

    “scattered negative episcopal demurrals” ~ When only 10 or so American bishops enforce Canon 915 and 240 or so do not, I would hardly call that “scattered demurrals” to enforcement. What is “scattered” is enforcement of Canon 915.

  9. Father Karl says:

    From the time I was taught religion in kindergarten at St. Casimir’s School in 1958, the norm was IF YOU HAVE A MORTAL SIN ON YOUR SOUL, YOU ARE NOT TO RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION. By advocating abortion, birth control, homosexual marriage one is sinning mortally. Therefore, those politicians and others who dissent from traditional Catholic morality and dogma, are NOT to receive Holy Communion. If they do, then they commit the mortal sin of sacrilege. These norms have NOT changed, and NEVER will change, as Cardinal Burke has pointed out so clearly, but those who have ears, have NOT paid attention and probably never will.Bishops and other church leaders who do not uphold Church teaching are to be blamed, and God’s justice will be severe for the scandal they have caused.

    • Thank you so much for your insightful comments here, Fr Karl. I look forward to your interpretations in these posts. It is such an antidote to some of the more wayward views seen on this site. May God continue to richly bless your ministry.

    • Catherine says:

      Father Karl,

      Dana so beautifully expressed my same thoughts and I would also like to thank you!….. “The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.” Isaiah 40:3 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible

  10. St. Paul in I Corinthians says that a man “living” with his stepmother should be kicked out of the Christian community in the hope that he would come to his senses and repent. Are we doing these “Catholic” politicians any good by condoning their behavior (or voting records)?

  11. this is a very intelligent and well-written article, but it shows the dilemma we face during mass.

    if bishop smith say mr. jones should not be admitted to communion, how would a priest or a eucharistic minister know thiws, especially in a distant church?

    the russian orthodox, i’m told, have ONE way of safeguarding communion, namely, by asking the person (in russian, perhaps?) their confirmation name, and thus weeding out catholics and other non-orothodx who might try to receive communion during an orthodox liturgy.

    but for us, with millions of members in our church, it would be very hard to enforce such communion practices. it seems to me the BEST method would be ongoing, public catechesis, so the people in the communion line would KNOW whether they should be approaching the priest for communion — or instead, for confession first!

    • The Bishop or Priests have no idea what is in the heart and soul of each individual.

      But when someone is PUBLICALLY obstinate in Mortal Sin, then Bishops and Priests know about it just like the rest of us.
      If they do know about it, they participate in the sin. If by chance they do not know about it, they do not participate in the sin.
      It’s that simple.

      We are talking about SCANDAL which must be a PUBLIC act, and SACRILEGE.
      Further it must be obstinate and ongoing.

      There is no dilemma.

      • “The Bishop or Priests have no idea what is in the heart and soul of each individual”: Really!? What would St Pio say to this?

        • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


          By the Grace of God, I have the JOY of being a Spiritual Son of Padre Pio, as such, I know what he would say. He would say “Basta” and step to the next person wishing to recieve the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.

          Every priest, knowingly giving the Blessed Sacrament to a Public Sinner, shares in that sinner’s SIN OF SACRILEGE.

          A sin of sacrilege is worse than even murder, because it is a sin directly against God!

          God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
          Kenneth M. Fisher

  12. Former Altar Boy says:

    Yes, they shold be denied Holy Communion! Ever heard of “giving scandal?” Rewarding their disobedience with Holy Communion only makes the rest of the faithful lose respect in the institutional Church.

  13. WOODY GUIDRY says:

    It’s a little hard to earnestly continue reading after the given example of Jesus’s giving Himself to Judas, knowing that Judas was not in good faith. I have to commend the attempt to educate every reader in truth, but the example of the Last Supper left a bad taste in my mouth.

    • like that altar wine in the other article from today? :-

      • Woody sometimes has a hard time expressing clearly what he means, because he writes as if his readers are watching him speak. Maybe he’ll clarify his post.

    • Guidry: Seriously? Does that not teach to you the fact that Christ gave us a free will and we are called to act upon our properly formed consciences? One would think studying at the foot of the Master that Judas would have had proper formation, yet he rejected it, rejected Christ. Jesus offered himself to Judas; it must have wounded his Sacred Heart deeply when Judas forsaked him for silver.

      That is exactly the choice we make every day; to follow the Lord or not. To confess our sins or not. To repent or not.

      We could have been put on this earth as robots, but Christ gave us the option to show our love for Him. This is so fundamental to our faith it surprises me that it is “a bad taste” in your mouth.

      How loving is our God that he gives us the free will to choose to love Him? When we recieve the Eucharist unworthily we choose evil and we wound Him just as did Judas.

    • If you are comparing any Bishop to Jesus, you are sadly mistaken. Other than Jesus Himself, no one is God.

      Further Judas had not yet committed the PUBLIC sin of SCANDAL; he thought the upcoming betrayal was a secret.
      And nothing OBSTINATE was involved.
      Btw, Jesus said – “the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. ” – MT 26:34. This condemnation is quite clear.

      Part of not allowing someone to receive Holy Communion is to impart on him and the rest of the Faithful the gavity of the continued sin. – Hopefully to allow for repentance so the Soul of that person and the souls of those persons scandalized can be saved.

      ” If the lack of right disposition is SERIOUS and PUBLIC, and the person, nevertheless, approaches to receive the Sacrament, then he is to be admonished and denied Holy Communion.
      In other words, the Church cannot remain silent and indifferent to a public offense against the Body and Blood of Christ. ”

      The Fathers of the Church and approved theologians have addressed the Church’s serious concern that due respect be paid to the Most Blessed Sacrament, that souls not fall into the sin of sacrilege by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, and that scandal not be given to the faithful by a careless administration of the Holy Eucharist to individuals who clearly are not rightly disposed, that is, who obstinately persevere in manifest serious sin. The just-cited text from Saint John Chrysostom, found in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, is an excellent example.

      • Man unites with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This union is called “divinization”. Faithful man becomes one with God. Jesus is the Kingdom of God and He is both man and God. God became man so that man could become God: Sounds impossible, but you have to learn what it means.

    • I got this from Cath.Answers…I don’t know if it’s okay to copy it here or not. If not, that’s okay. “Receiving the Eucharist from Jesus was simply a part of the over-all betrayal that Judas instigated against Him which ultimately led to His suffering and death. Jesus also didn’t stop Judas from betraying Him. But this is what Jesus says about the matter: “..but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!” (Mt 26:24-25)For a Catholic politician to publicly contradict the Church’s stand on protecting innocent human life against abortion is to give public scandal. For a Catholic priest or bishop to publicly treat such a politician as if his behavior is morally acceptable (as in giving him the Eucharist) is also to give sandal. Here is what Jesus has to say about those who give scandal: ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depth of the sea with a great millstone round his neck.’ (Matt 18:6)
      Any priest who uses such a lame excuse as the one you cite in such a grave matter, is seriously endangering the salvation of his soul—not to mention the possible harm he is doing to others.”
      Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

      • Excellent explanation by Fr. Serpa. I have read that before and found it very helpful in understanding the betrayal of Christ.

      • Judas Iscariot had already committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. He was already doomed to Hell. He was already condemned for the Body and Blood of Jesus. His reception of Holy Eucharist was a sign of that. Jesus did indeed teach the others that one had betrayed Him. When are the bishops going to teach the faithful that these worthless politicians have and are betraying Jesus?

        • WOODY GUIDRY says:

          JSL? Maybe I can be plainer.–The equating of our Lord’s actions with that of a late-day minister just shouts that Alice is looking through that looking glass again. Peter’s comparison is not between matching parallels. Exposing Judas before Our Lord gave us His own Body and Blood would cause Judas to get away quick to check on the silver count. His tongue, too, OUGHT to taste bad. Do you ever wonder if unworthy communicants receiving the Sacrament ever think the taste is “funny”?

          • Woody, why are you trying to limit the Last Supper event to some sort of pragmatic issue? It is a profound spiritual thing.

      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        Father Serpa,

        I have seen answers from so called apologist on Catholic Answers that were way of base. We must know the faith ourselves in order to avoid the pitfalls. As a matter of fact, I just emailed a correction to one of their postings, no reply yet.

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      Theologians, even good ones, are still debating whether or not Judas actually received at the Last Supper.

      In any case, it was a sacrilege for him to recieve on that occasion. Our Lord tells us what his conditions for reception are, he does not normally physically stop anyone, including Judas, from recieving unworthily!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

      • Judas did partake of the Lord’s flesh and blood, but that great sin of blasphemy sealed his fate in eternity. He never partook of the sacrament again, and his name was blotted out from the Book of Life. There is really nothing for theologians to debate here. Moreover, the personality of Judas has surfaced in bona fide cases involving Exorcism and possessed individuals.

        Acts 1:16-25

        English Standard Version (ESV)

        16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[a] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

        “‘May his camp become desolate,
        and let there be no one to dwell in it’;


        “‘Let another take his office.’

        21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

  14. Mike Malone says:

    Of course they should be denied if for no other reason than that their actions scandalize the faithful. In fact those Catholic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and others I could name should be excommunicated for their outright rejection of Catholic doctrine.

  15. Life Lady says:

    Okay, so can the new Archbishop of San Francisco NOW say to Pelosi that her public stance of abortion on demand would result in her being denied the Eucharist? Lord, let it be so. Her continual disrespect of the Church, and her unworthy behavior has been a scandal to the faithful. I don’t know how her obstinence can be tolerated any more.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      Life Lady,

      Of course the New Archbishop, Archbishop Cordileone, can tell Nancy and others of her ilk that they are not to present themselves for Communion, and so could his predecessor Archbishop have done so, and will be judged for not having done so! He also could notify his priests of that fact!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  16. St. Christopher says:

    American bishops are a scandal, and giving communion to Nancy Pelosi–Joe Biden types in clear violation of Canon 915 is only one extreme example. Yet, the Vatican does nothing, perhaps because no one there truly cares, or due to fear at the public reaction: what . . . the Pope is really trying to enforce no contraception, and mandatory Mass attendance, and no living together. They can’t do that!! In fact, most American Catholics also don’t care about these things (or there would be no election of President Obama). In fact, the sense of sin is virtually gone from the Catholic Church, so the use of Canon 915 is understood by most people as a political step, not a religious one. This understanding is why any direct and hard hitting criticism of nonconforming action is often seen as an effort to make the Church “Republican” or conservative. The abdication of the Church from living and teaching its patrimony, its Faith, has left a true moral vacum. The awful sacramental “administration” of Cardinal Wuerl is much more in keeping with how American Catholics really believe and live their lives. Denying liberal, pro-choice Catholics communion would seem spiteful and wrong to far more Catholics than would applaud such correct sanctions.

  17. goodcause says:

    It’s a dangerous slope to navigate the world of kicking people out of the Church, which is what denying Communion means. Passing charges of who is invoiolved in scandal and who isn’t deteriorates into a rock throwing exercise that gets us nowhere. Just about every Catholic I know disagrees with the Church on one or more of its teachings.

    Want to get all the Catholics out of holding public office altogether? Then start kicking them out of the Church. That way the conscience of those still standing will tell them that the only way to keep their beliefs while staying in the Church’s good graces is never to hold public office. This will also ensure that only those Catholic officials who vote the Vatican line 100% of the time will remain elected officials…..and that will be an absymally small number, a wholesale sweeping out of Catholic influence in public life. Setback for the Church? You decide.

    • No goodcause, denying Holy Communion is not the same as excommunication.
      Excommunion is separating someone from the Church.

      Denying someone Holy Communion means they are still required to attend Mass each Sunday, but may not receive the Sacraments until they repent, confess, and make public reparation (due to the public Scandal) for the harm they have done.

      • It is only a dangerous slope for those who have consciously chosen to set themselves against the moral teaching of the Church. Sins such as abortion, homosexual acts, fornication, adultery, euthanasia, etc are so prima facie serious as to place the sinner in jeopardy of spending eternity in hell, and it doesn’t require the help of a theologian to figure it out. It should go without saying that communion should be withheld from it’s most pronounced advocates who publicly ‘claim’ to be ‘Catholic.’ An emphatic message must be delivered here which will dispel any public confusion over this topic. One cannot publicly support and endorse abortion and homosexuality and still claim to be ‘Catholic.’ That statement would constitute a lie and a gross misrepresentation of our faith, and as such, cannot go unchallenged.

    • goodcause, there are some things that are debatable – such as ‘how’ to implement helping the poor.
      There are some things that are NOT debatable – such as abortion, euthanasia, homo-sexual marriage, and contraception.
      These non-debatables are mortal sins, and those in the state of mortal sin should not receive Holy Communion.

      Read the ‘ CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition’ in entirety.
      Two of the best internet links reagarding the CCC that I have found are:
      1.) ” UNDERSTANDING the CATEHCISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH “, by Fr. John Hardin
      2.) ” What Catholics REALLY Believe Source ”

      Share these sites with everyone, especially those you think may be bordering on heresy or schism.
      Help to save their souls.

      God created us to: Know, Love and Serve Him in this World, and to be happy with him forever in Heaven.

    • goodcause, you sure you’re not an apologist for evil?

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      Good cause,

      Your above remarks are spoken like a true liberal modernist, and are what has gotten the Church in the mess it now finds itself in.

      You still have not answered my prior question as to just what your good cause is!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

    • goodcause, your post has no rational element to it.

    • goodcause, in which cases or situations would you recommend that a bishop recuse himself from receiving Holy Communion?

  18. Those who publicly scandalize should be publicly chastized. As for the Priests who knowingly give communion to them, they should be defrocted as they clearly agree with their political agenda.

    • WOODY GUIDRY says:

      JSL, “THE OTHER ROSE” puts it like preached to the Corinthians. There should be no demeaning remarks about THAT thinking, at least.
      And HE knew that they were watching him!

  19. These are very high profile American politicians. A powerful message must be sent out to those who pervert and flaunt Church teachings, and lead fellow Catholics (and others) morally and spiritually astray. The proper course here would be to formally excommunicate them. Due to their stature in the community, their excommunication would become publicized throughout the world, and this would send a clear message to those who share their thinking in respect to abortion, homosexualty, stem-cell research, euthanasia, etc. The name of Linda Gates should be added to the list.

    • Agreed.
      The Bishops must stop confusion.
      When they don’t publically act, they appear to say –
      1) it’s really not that significant to have a difference of opinion with the Church on matters of Faith and Morals;
      2) although we preach that abortion, euthanasia and homo-sexual marriage are intrinsic evils, it’s really no big deal.
      3) The Mortal Sin of SCANDAL is not significant.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Life Lady, It is my understanding that AB Niederhauer not only spoke to Pelosi at least twice, but also told her NOT to present herself to
    Holy Communion!
    I pray this is true………………..
    for her soul, that of the Priest/EM and the people sitting in the pews
    that think because Pelosi with all her WRONG stances on the Church’s
    teachings, that they also can think the same way, and still receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.

    • A Bishop should speak to a heretic or schismatic in private, and give them every opportunity to repent.
      When they refuse to repent, they should be excommunicated. Excommunication is a public act.

  21. The Other Rose says:

    1 Corinthians 10:21 “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.”

  22. George R. Kadlec says:

    Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 tells the people to expel a man who is having sexual relations with his stepmother. Now which is worse, supporting murder of the most innocent human life, condoning homosexual marriage, etc. or having sexual relations with his stepmother?

    I can’t believe anybody with half a wit could figure this one out. St. Paul says the man should be expelled from their midst. It is difficult for me to believe that many of the Bishops in this country or in Europe can be so ignorant.

    Some quotes from G. K. Chesterton and others:

    “There are an infinite number of ways to fall, but there is only one way to stand.”

    “I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.”

    “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

    “Be careful not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

    “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural”

    “Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine [Ephesians 4:14], seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s ego and desires.” — Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became pope)

    Hillaire Belloc stated “It is a nice question whether ignorance or stupidity play the greater part in human affairs.”

    “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”
    St. John Chrysostom

    “I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”
    St. John Chrysostom

    “The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”
    St. Athanasius (The first Doctor of the Church and Champion of Orthodoxy)

    “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.”
    St. Thomas Aquinas

    “Augustine says in his Rule: ‘Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger.’ But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.”
    St. Thomas Aquinas

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      George R. Kadlec,

      The Douay Rheims version reads: “It is absolutely heard that there is fonrnication among you, and such fornication as the like that is not among the heathens; that one should have his father’s wife”.

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  23. Excommunicating a high profile abomination such as Biden or Pelosi could cost the Church the life of a bishop.

    • Better to be a Saint than an accomplice in Sacrilege and Scandal.
      I’m prepared to stand with our Faithful Bishops.

      • Mike Malone says:


        You can’t hide from the Tiger… hiding under our desk will not defend the faith….Pelsoi’s gotta go…and take a few other notables with her and Biden, Kerry, all of the Kennedy’s 🙂

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      That is why Bishops and Cardinals wear red and scarlet!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  24. ” But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reliver, drunkard, or robber – not even to eat with such a one.” “….DRIVE OUT THE WICKED PERSON FROM AMONG YOU.” – – Letter of St. Paul 1 Cor: 5:11-13.

    Ask appropriate Diocese Bishops to EXCOMMUNICATE non-repentent “Catholic” politicans and judges who support Intrinsic Evil at all levels of Government – Federal, State and Local.

    A repentant sinner must try to undo the harm he has done, including public scandal.

    It’s past time to clean up the Scandals within our Church.

    Intrinsic Evil includes: abortion, euthanasia, homo-sexual marriage, being against Freedom of Religion, etc.

  25. Abeca Christian says:

    Today we had a visiting Bishop, I believe so (from one of the parishes I attend), his homily was somewhat confusing, it gave me the impression that he was trying to impose the end of the death penalty initiate on us but he didn’t straight out say so but his stories and points led into that. Nearing the election, you would of imagined that his homily would’ve been to make sure people of faith vote their conscience on INTRINSIC EVIL. Its a pity that he missed that opportunity to do so. I was more concerned on what my kids got out of his homily, the message was kinda confusing to me.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      You should have stood and asked him why they did not put even half the effort on the “Parenthal Consent Issue” and then walked out!

      That would have been a lasting message for your children. “The path to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops and priests”!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  26. Mark from PA says:

    Wow, Mr. Fisher, you really think you are better than our bishops, don’t you? If the bishop doesn’t agree with all of your opinions then he is on the road to hell? Why don’t you try a little humility?

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      Mark from PA,

      When a bishop puts the death penalty, which is not dogmatically forbidden by the Church ahead of the deaths of Millions of innocent babies, yes I do believe they are in danger of Eternal damnation. I believe St. Augustine, himself a Bishop, put it very well: “the path to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops and priests”!

      Never call me on the phone again, I know your game!

      May God have mercy on your soul,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

      • Mark from PA says:

        Mr. Fisher, I don’t recall that I have spoken to you on the phone in a long time. My mother was ill and passed away and to the best of my knowledge I haven’t spoken to you since her passing. I have only talked to you a few times so I don’t know why you have to make such a nasty comment. I do not think that any bishops are putting themselves in danger of damnation for speaking out against the death penalty. Most bishops speak out against abortion and from my perspective they have spoken out against abortion more than they have against the death penalty but being pro-life they speak out against both.

    • Mark, our opinions are not important, but the Church teachings in the CCC are accurate, and we must all adhere to them.
      Try reading it sometime.

    • Mark from PA says:

      Mr. Fisher, sorry if I was short in my first response but I was stunned by your comment to Abeca Christian. What you suggested that she do would be very rude to the bishop and inappropriate. The holy sacrifice of the Mass is not a political rally or a ball game. A certain decorum should be maintained during Mass. Our pastor says that the church is sacred space and people need to act appropriately during Mass. You said it would have been a lasting message for her children but most people wouldn’t want their children acting like that during Mass. If Abeca Christian feels that the bishop needs to address other issues she can write him a letter. Bishops give many homilies over the course of a year and she only heard one.

  27. david befford says:

    i think Jesus himself would be denied communion in a catholic church. after all, he was a practicing Jew.
    it is shameful how the the church judges who is worthy or not worthy.Jesus himself would never deny anyone. man made rules , not the rules of the Creator are being followed.
    communion should be open to all who seek it.

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