Hijacking holy Communion is very, very serious
The excommunication threatened against those who take the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose is latae sententiae (1983 CIC 1367), meaning that the canonical discussion of Brenna Cronin’s action as reported here—retrieving a Host from a Communion minister at Mass and delivering it to one Joe Murray, a Rainbow Sasher who had been (quite correctly) denied holy Communion by Cdl. George a few minutes before—will immediately get bogged down by a wide array of exculpating factors (1983 CIC 1323-1324) that may be (nay, must be, per 1983 CIC 18 and 221) plead in defense of those who violate laws punished by automatic sanctions. That’s a pity, because Cronin’s action seriously threatens good ecclesial order, and much more besides, and should be addressed directly without becoming mired in the technicalities of an outdated penal procedural institute. Poenae latae sententiae delendae sunt.
Now, about Cronin’s deed.
Assuming a few things like she’s Catholic and was not a minister of Communion at that Mass, etc., we know that Cronin took a consecrated Host (which, on these facts, she was ineligible to receive a second time, per c. 917) and delivered it to a man who, in response to his deportment and egregious conduct during Mass, had been denied holy Communion by the cardinal-archbishop of the local Church (that is, by the spiritual leader beyond whose decisions in such matters there is no appeal save to Rome). The question, therefore, is canonical, namely, whether Cronin, acting in explicit disregard of the prelate’s sacramental decision, took the Host “for a sacrilegious purpose”.
Well, consider: “(c) Real sacrilege is violation of sacred things. It may be committed in the following ways: By abuse of the Sacraments, whether in attempting to confer or receive them invalidly, or in administering or receiving them unworthily, or profaning the sacred species.” Henry Davis (English Jesuit, 1866-1952), MORAL AND PASTORAL THEOLOGY , in 4 vols., 3rd ed., (Sheed and Ward, 1938) II: 36 (emphasis added).
Cronin administered holy Communion illicitly and she deliberately abetted in another’s illicit reception of the Eucharist—the Eucharist, for crying out loud!, against Whom one can scarcely imagine a worse sacrilege being possible in this life.
This is a blog, not a brief, so I leave aside recitation of some additional offenses and considerations (say, Cronin’s declaration of willingness to so act again), and add only that, in my opinion, hijacking holy Communion calls for immediate response.
Update, 27 June 2013: Drew Mariani and I are talking about this today, 3:30 pm Eastern.