Reception of Communion and Parish Economics

The cry has gone out, across the face of the whole earth: No Communion for the divorced and remarried!! What if the couple is in good conscience? They are nevertheless guilty of the objective mortal sin of adultery. Prohibit them from Communion because they commit objective mortal sins, even if these are not also actual mortal sin!

OK, well, I agree that the divorced and remarried should not receive Communion, because they are committing objectively grave sexual sins (adultery). A supposedly sincere but mistaken conscience is not sufficient to justify reception of Communion, when the Church clearly and definitively teaches that certain acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. If you reject Church teaching, based on your conscience, you are unworthy to receive Communion due to that rejection.

But what I find very disturbing is the denial of Communion ONLY to that small group, and not to any other Catholics who also commit objective mortal sins.

Many Catholic married couples use contraception, often abortifacient contraception. They do so continuously for long periods of time, without repentance or Confession, yet they continue to receive Communion. Abortifacient contraception includes the sins of abortion and contraception, and over time does result in the deaths of some innocent prenatals. Yet these persons receive Communion and no one objects. The very same commentators who are outraged that the divorced and remarried might receive Communion are entirely silent about reception of Communion by persons guilty and unrepentant from abortifacient contraception. And we cannot say that they should receive Communion based on their consciences, since contraception and abortion are objectively grave sins, clearly condemned by Church teaching. To reject Church teaching on contraception or abortion is heresy, which is also a grave sin.

In reply to this argument, some commentators claim that the sin of the divorced and remarried is public, whereas the sin of abortifacient contraception is private.

What a wicked and Pharisaical claim! You don’t mind if persons unrepentant from the sin of killing their own children in the womb receive Communion, as long as the sin is secret?! Do you really believe that only public grave sins disqualify a person from reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament? Do you imagine that Jesus himself only objects if the sin is public?

Sacred Scripture says that if anyone eats or drinks Communion unworthily (e.g. without faith in the real Presence), he is condemned. But such faith (or lack thereof) is not generally public, but private.

[1 Cor]
{11:27} And so, whoever eats this bread, or drinks from the cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be liable of the body and blood of the Lord.
{11:28} But let a man examine himself, and, in this way, let him eat from that bread, and drink from that cup.
{11:29} For whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks a sentence against himself, not discerning it to be the body of the Lord.

Everyone receiving Communion must “examine himself” to see if he is worthy to receive. And such examination of one’s conscience does not include only public sins. Nor is the proper examination of conscience by a Catholic independent of magisterial teaching. So the position is absurd and immoral which claims that only public sins make one unworthy to receive. And the position that a judgment of conscience, when it contradicts magisterial teaching, permits reception despite objective mortal sin is also foolish.

Every unrepentant unconfessed objective mortal sin makes a person unworthy to receive Communion. This includes grave sexual sins, such as: premarital sex, adultery, homosexual acts, unnatural sexual acts in marriage, masturbation, pornography, etc. It also includes every heresy on any matter of faith, morals, or salvation, as well as mortal sins of hatred, malice, pride, greed, envy, etc.

What percentage of Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics should not be receiving Communion? I would estimate 80 to 90% are unworthy, since they are unrepentant from objective mortal sins, such as those named above. How do I know they are unrepentant? Very few Catholics go to Confession regularly. If a parish gives Communion to hundreds of persons each weekend, the number who go to Confession that week is often in the single digits. Only a small percentage of Catholics still confess any sins at all in Confession. This rejection of Confession also makes them unworthy.

It is ridiculous to repeatedly loudly complain about divorced and remarried persons receiving Communion while ignoring the many other unrepentant grave sins committed by Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics, and their rejection of the Sacrament of Confession.


I fully expect the Church, in the near future, to clarify doctrine and discipline so that everyone guilty of objective mortal sin, who has not repented and confessed, cannot receive holy Communion (with some exceptions when Confession is unavailable and there is grave necessity).

But the result will be that these persons, many of them, still refuse to repent. Will they sit at Mass and not receive Communion? In all likelihood, they will not attend Mass at all, due to their refusal to repent and confess. The result will be a sharp drop in attendance at Mass.

Will these Catholics, unrepentant from objective mortal sin, who no longer attend Mass at all, still donate money to the parish? They will not. So along with the sharp drop in attendance, there will be a sharp drop in donations. Many parishes and dioceses currently have difficulty meeting their expenses. A sudden drop in attendance and donations will bankrupt most parishes and dioceses.

Why don’t priests and Bishops speak more strongly against contraception and grave sexual sins? They know that these sins are so widespread that they will lose most of their support from their flock if they speak out too often or too strongly. Why don’t priests and Bishops make it very clear that any objective mortal sin disqualifies a person from reception of Communion? They realize that most of their flock will walk away from the Church, rather than repent.

These loud online commentators, who rail against Communion for the divorced and remarried, do not mention the most common grave sins. Why? It may be that some of them are committing these sins. They themselves adhere to and teach heresy. They themselves commit one type of grave sexual sin or another. They themselves are unrepentant from some objective mortal sin.

But the Church cannot deny her commission to preach the whole Gospel, including the condemnation of every grave sin. Sooner or later, the Church will deny Communion to persons who are unrepentant from objective mortal sin. And then the Church will become much smaller, much holier, and much poorer.

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

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1 Response to Reception of Communion and Parish Economics

  1. Dot says:

    There is private sin, but there is also private sacrifice. Since modern couples are finding many challenges in marriage, the faithful who stick it out are often making private sacrifices that outsiders cannot see. For example, in a loveless marriage, they are still open to life and raising six children. These are not small sacrifices. So they are upset with those who divorce and take the easy way out, and then want extra privileges. It is a public slap in the face of those who would love to divorce but do not. While private sin could be the reason, it is highly more likely the faithful are upset because their private sacrifice is denigrated when the remarried take communion.

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