Hypocrisy on Reception of Communion

My preference for Church discipline on reception of Communion, as I’ve said several times before, is quite narrow: only believing and practicing Catholics who are free from all mortal sins and who have been to Confession within the last month or two should receive. I would only allow Catholics to receive Communion, not members of Orthodox or other Churches. And any Catholic who rejects any definitive teaching, or who holds an opinion incompatible with definitive teaching, would be prohibited from Communion due to a failure of belief. Then, in my view, if a person has committed an objective mortal sin, which was for some reason not also an actual mortal sin, he should nevertheless go to Confession before Communion. If anyone has committed any grave sexual sins, or used contraception, he would need to repent and go to Confession before Communion. This would be the general rule, if I had my druthers.

But I acknowledge and accept that the Church has the authority to decide the rules for reception of Communion. The current attempts by some Catholics to bind the authority of the Church to the traditionalist understanding of doctrine and discipline is really an attempt to usurp the authority of the Church. If the Roman Pontiff decides to permit reception of Communion by any Catholic who reasonably believes himself or herself to be in a state of grace, he has the authority. Perhaps God wills this loosening of the rules in preparation for the tribulation.

Now, even under the current rules, a priest, who unfortunately commits an actual mortal sin, can make an act of perfect contrition, and then he may say Mass and receive Communion, prior to going to Confession. The reason is that a priest may be alone in a parish, unable to get to another priest for Confession before the next scheduled Mass. And it would cause scandal to the faithful for the priest to be required to cancel the Mass or to say Mass without reception of Communion. So the idea that you absolutely have to go to Confession before reception of Communion, after committing a mortal sin, is refuted. Generally, you must do so; almost always, but this rule is not absolute. One of the many errors of traditionalists is to treat every rule and aspect of discipline as if it were inerrant and irreformable dogma.

A question arises, though, concerning reception of Communion, when an objective mortal sin (a gravely disordered act) is committed without full knowledge and full deliberation, so that it is not also an actual mortal sin. Only actual mortal sin deprives the soul of the state of grace. I would prefer anyone who commits any type of mortal sin to confess before receiving. But the current rules generally only require Confession after actual mortal sin, before Communion.

Should gay persons who are sexually active be permitted to receive Communion, apart from repentance and Confession?

My answer is “No” because unnatural sexual acts are objective mortal sins. If a sincere individual does not believe that such acts are gravely immoral, then perhaps the acts are not actual mortal sins, but they are objective mortal sins. However, the failure to believe what the Church teaches on this matter is also objectively a mortal sin. So we have a failure of belief and an objectively grave sin.

What will Pope Francis decide? We don’t know, at this point. But he could possibly allow any Catholic who is not conscious of actual mortal sin to receive Communion.

Now some Catholics hold a hypocritical position on homosexuality. They correctly say that homosexual sexual acts are gravely immoral because these acts are unnatural; they are neither procreative, nor truly unitive. And no true marriage can exist between persons of the same gender: neither a natural marriage, nor a Sacrament of marriage.

But then they claim that Catholic spouses may commit unnatural sexual acts within their marriage, and they speak as if this were not also a grave sin. It is hypocrisy to condemn unnatural sexual acts in the one case, and not in the other. For the basis for the Church’s condemnation of these acts is not only that the persons are of the same gender, but also that such acts are neither procreative, nor unitive. So when a Catholic husband and wife commit the same types of acts, the condemnation should be the same. If gay sexually active Catholics cannot receive Communion, then neither can any husband and wife who commit unnatural sexual acts in their marriage.

I would prohibit all persons who commit any grave sexual sins from reception of Communion, unless they repent and Confess first. But certain hypocrites among my fellow Catholics approve of unnatural sexual acts within marriage, and would allow the persons who commit these acts to receive Communion without Confession. In fact, they claim that these gravely disordered sexual acts are not sinful at all. Yet at the same time they allow no possibility for homosexuals who behave much the same way to receive Communion.

Certainly, there are some differences between the two cases. But it is undeniable that this type of sexual act remains non-procreative and non-unitive, despite being committed between a man and woman who are married to each other. If the Church refuses Communion to gay Catholics who are sexually active, then the Church must also refuse Communion to married men and women who commit the same type of gravely immoral non-procreative non-unitive sexual acts. To say otherwise is hypocrisy. To say otherwise is to permit persons unrepentant from grave sexual sins to receive Communion.

Should divorced and remarried Catholics (who lack an annulment and have sexual relations) be permitted to receive Communion? I would say “No” because their sexual acts are non-marital, making these acts objectively mortal sins. Perhaps some such persons are nevertheless in a state of grace due to invincible ignorance. It is presumptuous and judgmental to assume that all persons who commit this particular type of objective mortal sin always also have the full knowledge and full deliberation needed for actual mortal sin. If you make such an assumption in the case of the divorced and remarried, then why not make the same foolish assumption in the case of Catholics who hold or teach grave doctrinal errors or Catholics who commit other types of objective mortal sin? It is hypocritical to distinguish between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin only for some sins and not for others.

So if you choose to take the position that these divorced and remarried Catholics should not receive, due to objective mortal sin, then you must also prohibit from Communion all Catholics who:
* use contraception or abortifacient contraception,
* commit any deliberate sexual act outside of marriage,
* commit any unnatural sexual act within marriage,
* hold any heretical ideas or reject any definitive Church teachings,
* teach false doctrines on faith or morals,
* along with all who commit grave sins of formal cooperation by publicly claiming (usually via the internet) that direct abortion is ever moral, that contraception or abortifacient contraception is moral to use for a medical purpose, or that unnatural sexual acts are moral within marriage, that intrinsically evil acts can be justified by intention or circumstances, or any of a hundred other grave errors on matters of faith or morals. All these grave sins and any other grave sins should prohibit Catholics from reception of Communion.

Catholics who obtain a direct abortion cannot receive Communion. Under Canon Law, given a knowledge of the law and its penalty, they are automatically excommunicated. But direct abortion and the penalty of automatic excommunication also applies to abortifacient contraception. So all Catholics who use abortifacient contraception are prohibited from reception of Communion.

Certain hypocrites among my fellow Catholics loudly proclaim what a grave error it would be to permit divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, and yet they know that very many married Catholics who receive Communion are using abortifacient contraception. These married Catholics are guilty of the grave sins of contraception and abortion, and they commit an offense carrying the canonical penalty of automatic excommunication. Yet no one loudly proclaims that these persons also should be prohibited from Communion (except for my quiet protestations). The public grave sin of divorce and remarriage is said to prohibit reception of Communion, but no one says a word about the reception of Communion when the grave sins are private. Hypocrites! “First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, and then what is outside becomes clean.” (Mt 23:26).

I can name several Catholic bloggers, apologists, or whatever they call themselves, who have repeatedly taught abject heresy online. They are committing objective mortal sin and also causing grave harm to souls around the world. And yet these teachers of heresy still receive Communion. There are many traditionalist Catholics who have sinned mortally (at least objectively) by rejecting the Second Vatican Council, by repeated public calumny against that Council, and by the sin of scandal. They continue to receive Communion, despite these mortal sins, and then they loudly protest that the Pope might loosen the rules for reception for other sinners.

And there are more than a few Catholics online who publicly claim that the use of abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose does not require a married couple to refrain from sexual relations. They openly acknowledge that this choice will result in the deaths of innocent prenatals. And yet they approve of this type of behavior, and succeed in convincing their fellow Catholics to commit this sin. The result is the actual deaths of innocent prenatals. These online commentators are guilty of formal cooperation with abortion (a type of murder), and yet they consider themselves competent to teach Catholicism online and to answer every moral question. They also sin by causing grave harm to souls with their false teaching on morality. And yet they receive Communion.

If you take the position that not only actual mortal sin, but also any objectively grave acts (objective mortal sins) should prohibit a Catholic from reception of Communion, then you must prohibit ALL persons who commit ANY objective mortal sin from receiving Communion (until they repent and confess). It is hypocrisy to point to this or that group, and strongly denounce the idea that they might be permitted to receive Communion, if they are in good conscience, and then allow other persons who commit objective mortal sin to receive. In some cases, the persons loudly denouncing one group or another for grave sin are themselves guilty of even more serious objective mortal sins. For their grave errors on faith and morals harm many souls and they also cause the deaths of innocent prenatals by approving of abortifacient contraception in some cases, and yet they receive Communion.

My preference for Church discipline, as I’ve said, is for all who commit any mortal sin to confess before receiving. And I would require all Catholics to go to Confession, even if they are not conscious of any mortal sin, at least once every month or two. But I am offended by the severe hypocrisy of those who, while publicly teaching heresy and publicly approving of the use of abortifacient contraception, tell others they are unfit to receive holy Communion.

“Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone” (John 8:7).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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