There is another thing that is upsetting me father: A friend of mine was also attending the Mass and when the moment of receiving Holy Communion arrived, the Minister who was in charge of distributing the Eucharist passed and gave to him also so he received Holy Communion and since I know he never goes to confession and that he is not living his life like a Catholic should, at the end of the Mass I told him that this was not the way to receive Communion. Did I commit a sin for not having stopped him in time on that occasion?
The Priest’s reply
1. Your email gives me an opportunity to point out the inappropriateness of deciding that the Minister should pass among the faithful to distribute Communion in some places. This is because it is immediately understood that the faithful cannot refuse unless they declare openly that they are not in a position to receive Holy Communion. There are various reasons why the faithful find it impossible to receive Holy Communion.
Ministers have a duty to respect them preventing them from feeling embarrassed for having to say, always publicly in this case :“I do not want to or cannot receive Holy Communion”. 2. Your friend, who has not gone to confession for years and who does not live his life according to the principles of Catholic morality, should he have attended Mass according to its ordinary form, he would most likely have remained in his place because he is surely aware that it is necessary to go to confession in case one is living a life that is morally disordered from a Catholic perspective. While being before the Minister who told him “Receive the Body of Christ” he did not dare to say no so he received it.
Of course things would have been different if the Minister had come to bring Holy Communion to those who were indicating by a gesture that they wanted to receive it.
But passing among the faithful in the attitude of distributing Holy Communion to everybody can be a cause of embarrassment for some of them.
3. Therefore, in this case, it is clear that the first moral responsibility for this sin falls on the Ministers whose duty is not to make the faithful feel embarrassed due to their improvident behaviour nor should they give the impression that everyone who is attending Mass should receive Holy Communion, regardless.
Sacred Scripture clearly warns: whoever wants to receive Holy Communion must first examine himself and then – if he obviously finds no obstacles – he can be nourished by the Body of Christ. Otherwise “he eats and drinks his own condemnation” (1 Cor 11:29).
4. A shepherd who is living with the odour of the sheep must deal with the matter carefully.5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls that the first condition for being able to receive Communion that is a source of grace and not a reason for condemnation is being in God’s grace.
Here is what is taught : “To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for this moment so great and so holy.
“To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1Cor.11:27-29) Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC 1385)
6. Likewise the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “According to the Church’s command: after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year. Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.” (CCC 1457) 7. You are not responsible for what happened, you were taken by surprise. Given the circumstances, you are not to blame. However, at the end of the Mass, you did well to tell him that he should not have behaved like that. You could have added that he should have taken the opportunity to go to confession. You are always in time to come back to the issue.
I thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind these general principles that come from God Himself because they come from Sacred Scripture.
I entrust you to God and I bless you.
Translated by Emanuele Menchiari