View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Umm, Father ....

I turned on the radio and it happened to be tuned to station that carries a local talk show host, Bob Lonsberry. What he was saying caught my attention.

He was explaining that he'd not been on the air Monday because he was attending the funeral of a local public official from Mt. Morris, where he lives. The funeral was at the Catholic church. (I checked. St. Patrick's is located in Mt. Morris, and there was indeed a funeral there Monday for a local public official.) Lonsberry is an outspoken Mormon.

He made a point of noting that the priest - whom he did not name, but described as gray haired - gave a terrific eulogy/homily, and then the priest - twice, Lonsberry emphasized - invited everyone, no matter what religion, to receive Communion.

Lonsberry joked that the Vatican might not be too pleased (you think?), and that he remembered as a youth when he went to church with Catholic friends he knew that he was not allowed to receive Communion. He said he did not feel comfortable doing so yesterday, so he didn't. But he noted that a number of people whom he knew - and anyone in that small community might know - were not Catholics did go up to receive.

He described it as a neighborly thing for the priest to do.

Neighborly? Maybe, but clearly a violation of Church teachings.

Wonder which priest it was? There is an older priest who serves that parish (which has a Male Lay Administrator), and knowing a little about that priest's leanings in the past, it would not surprise me if he would say something like that - but I can't say for certain he was the offending priest.

Of course, not only did that priest lead the people attending the funeral astray and violate the teachings of the Church, his story has now gone out on a large radio station for thousands more people to hear and to be confused.


Blogger David Marciniak said...

UGGGHHH! Why do some priests keep shooting US in the foot?!? So frustrating.

When my wife and I were in NYC a few weeks back there were some shenanigans at the house with the older ones. When confronted my son stated, "well, we did it because nobody said we couldn't". Obviously that is a real problem in the Diocese of Rochester as well. Maybe a little "groundation" is in order. it works here. Of course, you need a Father for that...

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Todd said...

I think I'd tamp down the meme of the poor, dumb laity getting "confused," unless it were an early onset of Alzheimer's or something. That said, I think the priest erred badly. Non-Catholics may receive Communion, but only under exceptional circumstances, none of which existed at this funeral.

5:54 PM  
Blogger NC Sue said...

I am a convert to Catholicism after a series of what were, to me, disappointing experiences with an assortment of Protestant denominations. My last experience as a Protestant was in the Episcopal church, a denomination that also believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While in the process of attending RCIA, I respected the Church's position that non-Catholics should not receive Eucharist. Having to abstain from receiving the Body and Blood only increased my longing to be in full Communion with our Church.

It's sad to me to see priests treat the Eucharist lightly.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Todd said - "I think I'd tamp down the meme of the poor, dumb laity getting "confused," unless it were an early onset of Alzheimer's or something."

Actually, it is a real problem. I've heard so many people say they thought something was all right becuase it's done at their parish, or Father said it was all right. Having been a Catholic reporter for 12 years, I can tell you there's a lot of ignorance out there.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Welcome home NC Sue!

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Lonsberry joked that the Vatican might not be too pleased (you think?)"

Why would the Vatican not be too pleased? The Holy See is the worst offender. Pope John Paul II, for instance, gave Holy Communion to the Episcopalian prime minister Tony Blair at the Vatican in February 2004. Maybe that's why I'm a confused lay person? :)

8:02 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

There's a difference between giving Communion to someone who presents himself, and openly inviting non-Catholics to receive.

8:06 PM  
Blogger GrandmaK said...

Want to thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting...I was able to read your comment and appreciate it. However, lest you wonder what had happened to your comment or that I purposely did not post it, know that somehow I managed to reject it in error. Again Thank YOU!!! Cathy

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I put homily/eulogy because I was not sure what it was - Lonsberry wasn't clear on that (or I didn't not hear him when he explained)and I wasn't there. He may well have just given a homily.

Obviously, the issue here is the Communion.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the reason for not giving communion to non-Catholics?

Don't you want to swing open the doors of the church and get those non-Catholics into the church and allow them to receive Christ?

If you welcome them, maybe they will come back and join your parish.

The Diocese of Rochester is dying right before your eyes. Giving communion to non-Catholics is one rule that I would not get too excited over.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

anonymous 6:55 - the Church is very clear in it's teachings: Communion is only open to Catholics except in exceptional circumstances (a funeral would not qualify). It is reserved only for the baptized who in "communion" with the Church.

In the same way, Catholics should not recevie in other churches.

For a priest to state that anyone can receive is a blstant disregrad for the teachings of the Church he is supposed to represent.

It this kind of breaking the rules that is one of the things hurting the Diocese.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

From the Code of Canon Law -

It is frequently asked whether non-Catholics can receive Communion at a Catholic Mass. Quite often this comes up in the context of family events - weddings, baptisms, funerals - situations which put a great deal of pressure on families and Eucharistic ministers, Ordinary and Extraordinary, to allow it. As a result it happens quite frequently that Communion ministers believe themselves authorized to extend Eucharistic hospitality, either for the sake of kindness or a genuine sense of unity among the members of the Congregation. While such motives are admirable, the result nonetheless falsifies the sacramental meaning of the Eucharist as both a sign of communion with Christ and communion with the Catholic Church.

In order to safeguard the sacrament, and to ensure that Christ is received with the proper dispositions (something very important for the authentic good of the person receiving Him), the Church has enacted certain norms for determining those occasions when intercommunion is legitimate. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law the following is prescribed:

Canon 844 (c.671 in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches)

1. Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers with due regard for parts 2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, part 2.

2. Whenever necessity requires or genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.

3. Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned.

4. If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.

5. For the cases in parts 2, 3, and 4, neither the diocesan bishop nor the conference of bishops is to enact general norms except after consultation with at least the local competent authority of the interested non- Catholic Church or community.

(to be continued)

9:59 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Previous comment continued ...

In keeping with the sacramental meaning of the Eucharist this canon reserves the sacraments to Catholics, that is, those who are in communion with the Church. It then addresses the question of Catholics receiving the sacraments from non-Catholics. It sets the following strict conditions:

a. necessity or genuine spiritual advantage
b. when the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided
c. it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister
d. a church which has valid sacraments

This last condition is the key one, since it eliminates ALL the Reformation churches (Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist etc.), none of whom have valid sacred orders, and therefore, a valid Eucharist. The possibility of a Catholic receiving from the minister of another church, when the first three conditions are fulfilled, is limited to the Orthodox Churches, other Oriental Churches, Old Catholics, Polish National and others whose sacraments are recognized by the Holy See. As paragraph 3 notes, the members of those churches may likewise receive from a Catholic minister, when they ask and are disposed.

Under what conditions, therefore, may non-Catholics from the Reformation churches receive? Paragraph 4 addresses this matter and sets stricter conditions than for non-Catholics who belong to Churches which have a valid Eucharist, true Eucharistic faith and valid Penance. These conditions are:
a. danger of death, or, other grave necessity,
b. the norms of the diocesan bishop, or, the conference of bishops are complied with
c. cannot approach a minister of his or her own community
d. asks on his or her own for it,
e. manifests Catholic faith in the sacraments
f. properly disposed.

These last two conditions are very important. When Catholics and Orthodox present themselves for Communion, either to their own minister or that of another Church with valid sacraments, Eucharistic faith and proper disposition is assumed, given the introduction to both Penance and the Eucharist at an early age in Churches which have a Catholic Eucharistic faith. However, when a non-Catholic presents himself the norms presume an investigation to determine the person's faith, and to determine the necessary moral conditions for a proper reception of the Eucharist. That all these conditions are met, especially the last two, cannot be determined by a minister of Communion, ordinary or extraordinary, in the Communion line. This is why the USCCB guidelines, which are published in the back of every missalette, exclude weddings, funerals and other such occasions as appropriate for intercommunion. The occasions would be individual, normally determined by a pastor after consultation with the bishop, or, in accordance with norms drawn up on the basis of this canon (paragraph 5).

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Diocese of Rochester is dying right before your eyes. Giving communion to non-Catholics is one rule that I would not get too excited over."

Oh sure, and giving Communion is going to help matters. Nobody will bother to join the Church anymore if you don't even need to be a Catholic to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Why don't we invite Jews and Muslims as well? Come on. If these Protestants who you wish to give Communion to actually believe in the real presence, then make amends with the Catholic Church and stop playing games.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Distributing Communion to non-Catholics? Why, this kind of disobedience could make him a Vicar General in the DoR!

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for the detailed explanation of the question, why non-Catholics can't receive Communion.

You mentioned that the Church is very clear in it's teachings: Communion is only open to Catholics except in exceptional circumstances. Do you know what are the exceptional circumstances?

11:07 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Anonymous 11:07 - thanks.

The conditions under which non-Catholics may receive Communion are outlined in the two comments I included from canon law.

It depends which churches they belong to. They have to be properly disposed and ask for it themselves. In such cases as danger of death or being unable to get to a minister of their own church they may receive (again, assuming the proper dispostion on their part).

A funeral of this sort clearly does not meet the criteria.

1:00 PM  

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