Thomas Aquinas on the Denial of Communion
Thomas of English Catholicism has just posted a review of St. Thomas Aquinas' position on the denial of communion.
I haven't seen this discussed in the Blogosphere recently, and I find it quite interesting. St. Thomas is largely concerned with the issue of 'secret sin,' i.e. that the priest's refusal of communion could unjustly expose the communicant to infamy, especially in the case of sin revealed in the confessional. But, thankfully, the Thomistic Distinction (TM) is introduced to make it clear that public (or 'notorious') sin is an entirely different manner:
"A distinction must be made among sinners: some are secret; others are notorious, either from evidence of the fact, as public usurers, or public robbers, or from being denounced as evil men by some ecclesiastical or civil tribunal. Therefore Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it."
Of course, this adds nothing to the celebrated canon 915. If anything, it is less clear, since it does not specify that the sin be 'obstinate,' as c. 915 does. Yet it is helpful to have the opinion of the Angelic Doctor made clear. It goes without saying, of course, that a politician who has publicly voted to legalize abortion would be the equivalent of a 'public userer' or 'public robber.' Note that St. Thomas' concern is to balance the just reputation of the communicant with the reverence due the sacrament. Whether or not the denial would constitute an undue incursion on the part of the Church into civil polity hardly seems to have crossed his mind.
On a related note, a priest over for dinner the other night made an interesting point about the perspective of clergy on this issue. A typical parish priest, he says, distributes communion on a daily basis to parishioners whom he knows to be in a state of grave sin, due to information received in the confessional. Yet, due to the seal of said confessional, he is unable to refuse it to the communicants, and is therefore morally obliged to cooperate in sacrilege. Because of this, priests often become 'immunized' to the crime of sacrilege, such that, after years of parish ministry, they hardly seem to notice it, much less does it evoke anything approaching moral outrage. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why laity seem much more agonized over this 'CommunionGate' scandal than our clergy.
# posted by Jamie : 12:24 PM