Just so people know, I think that this is a good example of why we need religious freedom:
Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.
Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.
“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’?” she recalled Tuesday.
Hooray for Rev. Guarnizo, who stuck to his principles, and who didn’t hide them for fear of social censure! Now we know what he stands for, and we can judge him accordingly.
Some further notes.
The Catholic Church may run itself however it likes, of course. But I suspect that given the rules it has, this was the right call. If I were a practicing Catholic, I would deny myself communion. In fact, I suspect that most people — gay and straight — who commune in the Catholic Church shouldn’t be doing it in the way that they are. Communion shouldn’t be a routine, once-a-week, no-big-deal kind of thing. Why not? Because if you’ve committed a mortal sin, communion is only to be taken after a confession. And mortal sins are very easy to commit. For example, it’s a mortal sin if you deliberately have “impure thoughts”:
The Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare ourselves to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. To receive Communion worthily, you must be in a state of grace, have made a good confession since your last mortal sin, believe in transubstantiation, observe the Eucharistic fast, and, finally, not be under an ecclesiastical censure such as excommunication.
First, you must be in a state of grace. “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” (1 Cor. 11:27–28). This is an absolute requirement which can never be dispensed. To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in your soul profanes the Eucharist in the most grievous manner.
A mortal sin is any sin whose matter is grave and which has been committed willfully and with knowledge of its seriousness. Grave matter includes, but is not limited to, murder, receiving or participating in an abortion, homosexual acts, having sexual intercourse outside of marriage or in an invalid marriage, and deliberately engaging in impure thoughts (Matt. 5:28–29). Scripture contains lists of mortal sins (for example, 1 Cor. 6:9–10 and Gal. 5:19–21). For further information on what constitutes a mortal sin, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache, an early Christian document written around A.D. 70, which states: “Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent” (Didache 10).
Which for many of us means that the only time we may commune would be in the moment or two after a confession, and provided the priest isn’t especially handsome.
The requirement to attend Mass on Sunday and other holy days of obligation, rooted in the Third Commandment and codified in Church law (cf. Code of Canon Law, canons 1246-48) is a serious obligation for all Catholics. A Catholic who (a) is able to attend Sunday Mass (i.e., who is not impeded by illness, lack of transportation, etc.), (b) knows the seriousness of this requirement, and (c) nonetheless freely chooses to miss Mass, thereby commits a mortal sin (cf. Catechism, no. 2181).
Now, obviously the above concerns whether the individual should step forward for communion. The priest’s obligations are different. Here, the concern is… to prevent scandal. (Yes, I wrote my dissertation on this stuff, as it happens):
Q. 6. Is there not the danger of causing a public scandal by denying someone the Holy Communion?
A. As a general rule, giving the person the benefit of the doubt, the priest will not deny the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. (This is not saying that the administration of the Sacrament was permitted. The person who receives the Body and Blood of Christ in an unworthy manner shall still be answerable to God.) Following the administration of the Sacrament, the priest is obligated before God, as a representative of the Holy Catholic Church and by conscience to meet with the person in private, to identify the state of the person’s soul and to explain the teachings of the Church regarding the administration of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Should it be identified that the person is not in a state of grace, he/she will be notified that unless he/she changes his/her way of life, sincerely repent and receive the Sacrament of Confession, future administration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion will be denied.
Should the person persist on approaching the Altar to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion after having been warned and the priest is absolutely sure that the person has not repented of his/her sins, then, the priest is obligated to deny the person the Sacrament.
Should the person create a scene after having been warned, it shall not be the priest, but rather the person, who shall be responsible for creating the public scandal that draws attention to his/her status before God.
It is somewhat of a mystery to me why someone would want to follow a religion like this. It’s apparently also a mystery to many Catholics, ordained and otherwise, who have not been practicing their religion in this way. But that’s what Church teaching is here, whether or not it has been almost universally neglected.