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Note on the lesbian Communion case

February 29, 2012

The story of the lesbian being denied holy Communion at her mother’s funeral has several versions and layers to it (no reason to think any one of them is especially complete or accurate), but, based on what seems to have occurred, I’ll say this:

This is what happens when bizarre events (like an admitted practicing lesbian presenting herself for holy Communion in the first place), happen on the watch of priests whose love for the Eucharist probably exceeds their knowledge of the law on reception of holy Communion (through no fault of their own, doubtless), before a well-wired-world that can broadcast misinformation and even flatly wrong interpretations of an event with nary a care for correcting itself later. No matter who gets hurt along the way. And plenty of people have been hurt in this one.

I have expended no little effort over many years (like about 22) trying to get Canon 915 correctly understood and properly applied in ecclesiastical life. In the last few years, some signs of progress have appeared. Now, out of nowhere, Canon 915 is being invoked by some as justification for an action that, reading the facts as alleged in the light most favorable to the minister, would not have justified his withholding holy Communion from the woman in question. Specifically, a few minutes conversation (if that’s what happened), mostly with a third party (if that’s what happened), would not suffice, in the face of numerous canons protecting the right of the faithful to receive the sacraments, to verify either the notoriety of the (objectively) sinful situation, or to verify the obstinacy of the would-be recipient, both of which elements, among others in Canon 915, must be demonstrated before withholding holy Communion.

What else is there to say? I offer no opinions on the rest of this mess (e.g., did she perhaps approach for the Sacrament in part to make a point? is the archdiocesan letter of apology prudent?), and would advise those who really wish to understand Canon 915 and its proper, even vital, role in ecclesiastical life to study the materials gathered here.

PS: for another case of Canon 915 being applied in regard to a lesbian couple, see my post here. + + +

There’s some good commentary over at Fr. Z’s blog.


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