Skip to comments.A reflection on canon 915
Posted on 10/15/2007 5:25:26 PM PDT by Teˇfilo
On the admission of unworthy persons to Holy Communion .
"Can. 915 - Ad sacram communionem ne admittantur excommunicati et interdicti post irrogationem vel declarationem poenae aliique in manifesto gravi peccato obstinate perseverantes.Folks, in light of the recent improper--to put it mildly-- administration and reception of Holy Communion that took place in California, where the Archbishop of San Francisco administered the Blessed Sacrament to an unworthy communicant--for which he has since apologized--I've got thinking about which canon this action violated and found it was Canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I want to reflect briefly on the duties that Church law imposes on ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, as well as on the recipients of this the Most Holy Mystery of our religion.
Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.
My reflection centers upon the Latin word manifesto. To bridge the language barrier, some definitions are in order.
The English version of the 1983 Code translates Manifesto into English as manifest. The Latin-English online dictionary by William Whitakers translates manifesto as follows:
manifestus, manifesta -um, manifestior -or -us, manifestissimus -a -um ADJ [XXXBO] detected, plainly guilty; flagrant, plain; caught in act/redhanded; undoubted; clear, evident, plain, obvious; conspicuous, noticeable; unmistakable;In turn, Merriam Webster's defines manifest as follows:
Etymology: Middle English,from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French manifeste, from Latin manifestus caught in the act, flagrant, obvious, perhaps from manus + -festus (akin to Latin infestus hostile) Date: 14th century 1 : readily perceived by the senses and especially by the sight 2 : easily understood or recognized by the mind : obviousIn my lay opinion, I interpret Canon 915's second clause to mean that when someone is clearly, evidently, plainly, obviously, conspicuously, noticeably, unmistakably, readily perceived by sight, understood and recognized by the mind, in grave sin, he or she is not to receive holy communion, and he who recognizes this reality should refuse to administer the sacrament to the would-be communicant.
By this standard, are the persons portrayed in the picture above right qualified to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord? Yet, as we can see on the picture immediately to the right, their obvious appearance as mock nuns wasn't, at first sight, considered a sufficient impediment to deny them the Holy Eucharist. Hence, the mixed signals the Archbishop's actions conveyed.
The second clause of canon 915 logically applies to an outside observer responsible for administering to, or withholding the Blessed Sacrament from the communicant. This person must therefore be the Minister of Holy Communion. The person who must know and learn how to apply this canon is the person charged with administering the Blessed Sacrament. That minister faces the double responsibility of protecting the Blessed Sacrament from unworthy reception, as well as protecting the unworthy communicant from sinning against the Body and Blood of the Lord due to the unworthy reception of the sacrament. The minister of Holy Communion must do so when he or she perceives that a communicant is manifestly living in grave as the canon states.
I humbly and most respectfully call on pastors to instruct all ordinary and extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion as to their obligations under canon 915. It is human nature to see that some cases are more "manifest" than others. To wave off a garish-looking he-nun is easy; but what if the communicant is wearing a t-shirt covered with obscenities? What if he or she is dressing immodestly? What is the minister if he knows that a communicant is a member in an organization that openly defies the teaching of the Magisterium, say, a member of so-called "Catholics for a Free Choice," or is wearing a rainbow sash?
When we move from that which is "manifest" as these mock nuns were to something less so, it gets tricky. We must avoid the extreme situation in which Ministers of Holy Communion, particularly extraordinary ministers, are thrust into a situation in which they feel they are to judge the worthiness of every single would-be communicant approaching them. Yet, even extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must not remain indifferent to that which is manifest. Hence, the need for pastoral instruction regarding the obligations ministers incur under canon 915.
Father William J. Martin writing on the October issue of Homiletics and Pastoral Review, stated something I believe is directly relevant to this case:
The Church has defied the spirit of the age on matters of sexual morality. Since the time of Christ the Church has been clear that sexual love is reserved for marriage. Its purpose, divinely ordained, is the procreation of children. Artificial conception is wrong. It has been forbidden from the earliest days of Christianity. Homosexual sex is a violation of the Natural Law. In no case can it be morally approved. Abortion is the killing of an unborn child. Euthanasia is the deliberate ending of the life of a handicapped, sick, or dying person. If the Church believes it has the truthand it doesit has a duty to defend that truth and denounce the sexual revolution as a movement erected upon a foundation of moral lies.I believe Fr. Martin was being truly prophetic here, considering that he must have written this piece several weeks before the tragic event in San Francisco last Sunday, when tranquility was achieved at the expense of peace at a local parish, and also at the expense of the Lord.
Tolerate anything, put up with mediocrity, never accuse the world of sin, and there will be tranquility. But there will never be true peace, for peace demands right order, that things be according to the dictates of God. The loss of moral sensibility is what the Church must fight and condemn. It cannot condone it simply because society does so. We must continue to be shocked and scandalized by sin. It must be faced as the terrible reality that it is, and it must be named as that reality. It must be recognized if it is to be avoided. Only when the sinner recognizes sin is there hope of repentance.
One final thought: if we fail to take a stand to defend our principles, our principles would be worth nothing. Canon 915 indicates clearly that the Body of Christ must not be given casually to people who cannot discern Who is the One they are receiving. In most glaring, manifest instances of unworthiness, common sense is all that is required to protect the Lord from an unworthy communicant, and the unworthy communicant from himself. If there has been at least one lesson to learn here, this one is it.
If their own bishops won't obey the Magisterium, why should they?
Because the Church is bigger than them. God's will for the Church will take place in spite of those who disobey.
“If their own bishops won’t obey the Magisterium, why should they?
Because the Church is bigger than them. God’s will for the Church will take place in spite of those who disobey.”
You are stating the obvious and that answer won’t do at all, Theo, at least it won’t for Orthodox Christian who have the same understanding of the Eucharist and its worthy and unworthy reception as you Romans. Try again if you really mean to call on your hierarchs to protect the sacrament and the faithful (and not so faithful).
I am doing what I can.
As you know, the Church is an object of faith. To "state the obvious" is to state my faith that the powers of hell will not prevail against the Church, and that she will remain "One, Holy, Catholic" and "Apostolic" in spite of all of us.
I'll accept you talking down to us from your high-horse, but just this time! :-)