Popes Clearly Say Who Can and Can’t Receive Communion

Reading the comments to John’s excellent post about Bishop Paprocki, I sense a kind of amnesia. So, for the record: There is already lots of clarity about communion and pro-abortion politicians.

And, lest we let ourselves off the hook while  scorning those awful no-good pro-aborts, there is also lot of clarity about how maybe many of us  shouldn’t be receiving communion, either.

Flickr; papistFirst, take the “Aparecida Document” edited by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis, and approved by Pope Benedict (it was the final report of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean meeting in 2007).

Pro-abortion politicians should not receive communion, it says:

“We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated.  This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.”

For further clarity there is the 2004 letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just before he became Pope Benedict XVI.

He says such politicians should be told not to present themselves, and told they will be denied the Eucharist.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick:

“Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

benedict massBut that doesn’t mean that others need to be vetted for their votes while they are in the communion line, said Cardinal Ratzinger:

“If a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive holy Communion,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger. “While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

Does it seem harsh that these politicians are denied communion? Not if you consider that this is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ we’re talking about.

Pope John Paul II New Orleans 1987Pope John Paul II insisted that there are many people who shouldn’t receive communion. In his final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II made this almost formal declaration:

“I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin.” [Emphasis mine]

It came at the end of a flurry of John Paul exhortation about confession and communion.

When Pope John Paul II spoke about the crisis in the Church in our time, he meant the crisis in the confessional. When communion lines are long and confession lines are non-existent, there is a serious problem: We have lost the sense of sin.

And people who have lost the sense of sin are capable of doing terrible, terrible things.

In the midst of the scandals of 2002, John Paul wrote a Holy Thursday letter to priests in which he said three times that people in a state of sin should not receive Communion without going to confession first.

That year on Divine Mercy Sunday he released an urgent “motu proprio” (from his own hand) document, Misericordia Dei, insisting:

  • •  Priests should be available at set times, not by appointment only.
  • •  Confession times should be convenient.
  • •  Confession should be available before Mass, and even during it, when possible.

He ended with: “I decree that everything I have set down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio shall have full and lasting force and be observed from this day forth, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary.”


The U.S. bishops took him at his word.

5789CVR.inddIn their 2006 document, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist,” the bishops pointed out that communion is not just  for Catholics only, but only for Catholics who:

— Went to confession in the past year, at least, or after they committed a serious sin.

— Fasted for an hour first “refraining from food and drink (except for water and medicines) for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion.”

— Are wearing “modest and tasteful dress” — “clothes that reflect our reverence for God and that manifest our respect for the dignity of the liturgy and for one another.”

— Are in a recollected and prayerful state of mind.

The statement even spells out some common serious sins. These are sins that constitute grave matter. When we do them deliberately and with knowledge of their sinfulness, they put us in a state of mortal sin.

  • •  Abortion and euthanasia. “Committing murder, including abortion and euthanasia, harboring deliberate hatred of others.”
  • •  Any extra-marital sex. “Engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage.”
  • “Missing Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation without a serious reason, such as sickness or the absence of a priest””
  • •  Theft, including “serious fraud, or other immoral business practices.”
  • •  Slander, Hatred and Envy. “Speaking maliciously or slandering people in a way that seriously undermines their good name. … Harboring deliberate hatred of others. … Engaging in envy that leads one to wish grave harm to someone else.”
  • •  Pornography. “Producing, marketing, or indulging in pornography.”

So don’t think the Church is being mean for denying communion to politicians who reject the right to life for the unborn. Communion with Our Lord is a precious privilege, not a common right. Every one of us should be more careful about approaching it worthily.

  • Shannon

    If Jesus were to perform an Audit on the Catholic Church today I think he would be deeply saddened by the pervading judgemental attitude and double standards. I find it horrifying that a person can shoot someone, make a confession and receive the Eucharist, yet a couple living together in a long term loving partnership offering security and home life to a child or children cannot. Jesus was kind. All of his actions sprang from kindness and compassion, he did not judge, he wouldn’t stone the woman. He shared the loaves and fishes with the five thousand. He woul never allow people living ‘in sin’ to sit like lepers and not fully share in the taking of the blood and body. I go to Mass every week. At times I feel like a masochist as I cannot have Eucharist but I won’t allow some cruel judgemental Cardinals to stop me from visiting the House of God . Pope Francis is a good and kind man se t by God. I have faith in him and faith in God. This cruelty will stop in my lifetime. I am 48, God Bless and Be Kind x

  • Sue

    If a woman has a child out of wedlock, is she allowed to receive Holy Communion?

    • Shannon

      Yes if she is not living with a manor having sex outside of marriage

  • http://popesclearlysaywhocanandwhocan'ttakecommunion Carmen Delahunt

    I take great pride in being Catholic and receiving communion. I was married in the church. My relatives were involved in the cristeros wars and were persecuted for practising Catholicism. My husband is Irish Catholic his relatives also were band by English from practising faith. To receive the body of Christ is an honor and privilege. We have been married 32 years and can’t wait to have marriage blessing for our 40 th Anniversary. Our daughter was married in the same church we married this past October . Take soul mate , marry the in the house of God it’s a beautiful feeling I will never forget it.

  • http://none James

    I didn’t see anything of what the priest told my wife today: You cannot receive communion because you are married to a non-Catholic. Perhaps this is covered in the “out side the bonds of a valid marriage.” Any comments please. My wife is devistated, as she is a totally devoted Cahtolic…….

    • Tom Hoopes

      Being married to a non-Catholic does not bar someone from receiving communion. Is this her first marriage?

    • SKD

      I need answer for this as well.
      – I’m Hindu, my wife is catholic and married in Hindu ceremony and we plan to marry catholic way next year as well.
      – She goes to church regularly and I go with her too.
      – I goto Hindu temple and She goes with me too
      – To us god is one and if you see through my eyes: lot of rituals are very similar.

      Anyways, so recently she has been told by father that she can not take communion / host as she is living in SIN as she never married catholic way.
      To us, she doesn’t have to, because we are married in US court and in front of a Hindu priest as well, we not living together without getting married.
      Priest told me that I’ll have to convert to Catholic in order for her to take Communion in future.
      We both don’t agree with that… and to us its more political than religious. I’m born Hindu and She is born Catholic and nobody can change that like nobody can change their parents / siblings.

      As she was so devastated by not taking communion and by being judged sitting there, I told her I’ll start taking Host / communion with here as well as its directly from GOD, and God is one.

      I don’t know what is right or wrong, but we both believe in god, help people in need, homeless people when we see them.

      I’m thinking to write letter to Pope as well and ask the advise / guidance. Funny thing is we both don’t have any problem with each other religion but everybody around us ‘so called religious people’

      • Gerda Hipson

        Those priests need to be re-educated. A catholic could always receive communion as long as he/she where married in the catholic church. @ SKD For catholics marriage is a sacrament and comes with certain restrictions. You will find out that, if you want to get married in the catholic church, you have to agree that any children will be raised catholic. First things first. Find another priest who is more knowledgeable in catholicism. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of american priests. They seem to be just making just up to fit in with their own beliefs.

        • hi

          You cannot receive communion if you are not married in the catholic church. Even if you are catholic….You still have to be married in the catholic church. The catholic church only recognizes a marriage in the catholic church so basically you are still not married. Just get married in the catholic church and she should be able to receive communion. on another note… A hindu can not receive communion in a catholic church unless you convert to catholic. And visa versa as a catholic cannot receive communion in a hindu or any other church. Please refrain from the catholic communion if you are hindu. Hindu beliefs and Christian beliefs are not the same and they are not the same God. Hindu has many and Christian is the Trinity. And as a catholic……she should know this. The first of the ten commandments is thou shall not have any God before me. And as for helping people in need….even an atheists can do that. All good comes from God. He is working thru you to do good things. He can also work thru an atheists too because without Him you can do nothing. Also, I am not saying this is you but sometimes people do good as a form of selfishness. Like say a maybe a celebrity who just wants to be recognized for his or her good works, but deep inside, they are not good people. Again….not saying this is you. just putting it out there so you understand that doing good for people doesn’t automatically make you worthy to receive the Eucharist. You should just do good anyway. Its kind of an obligation….a criteria for being a good person.

          • Jim

            hi, when was it made a rule that you cannot receive Communion if you are not married in the Catholic Church? Are all the 8 year olds who receive their First Communion every spring (and are quite clearly NOT married in the Catholic Church) not supposed to receive it?

            I have long suspected that the Catholic Church has a bias against unmarried people. Your post proves it quite clearly.

          • guest

            No, IF you are married, it needs to be in a Catholic Church.



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