Liturgical Abuse of the Week
Since, as Ratzinger has recently pointed out, the practice of 'indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion' is not only an undesirable practice, but 'an abuse that must be corrected,' this practice will be the subject of our Liturgical Abuse of the Week (TM).
Now, let's take a tour through the texts - pastoral, liturgical, and canonical - in roughly chronological order. Every text in this series becomes foundational for later texts, such that a later text will generally cite most or all earlier texts and then perhaps add a note of application. One of my purposes here is to dispel the popular myth which circulates in some circles (e.g., "Therefore, based on the traditional practice of the Church . . . our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion") that the prospect of denying communion to an unworthy communicant is something which diverges from the Catholic tradition, something novel, a recent invention of those who would 'hijack' the Church's sacraments for political gain. The texts (all emphases mine):
"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).
"I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called 'communion,' not even were we to touch the Lord's body a thousand times over, but 'condemnation,' 'torment' and 'increase of punishment' (St. John Chrysostom, Homiliae in Isaiam 6, 3).
"If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin, however contrite even they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated" (Council of Trent, Session XIII, 11 October 1551, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chapter 7, Canon 11).
"The precept 'let a man examine himself' (I Cor. 11: 28) should be called to mind for those who wish to receive Communion. The custom of the Church declares this to be necessary so that no one who is conscious of having committed mortal sin, even if he believes himself to be contrite, should approach the holy Eucharist without first making a sacramental confession. If someone finds himself in a case of necessity, however, and there is no confessor to whom he can go, he should first make an act of perfect contrition" (S. Congregation of Rites, Instruction, Eucharisticum mysterium, n. 35)
"Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible" (Code of Canon Law, c. 916).
"Keeping these invisible bonds [i.e., between visible communion in the Church and invisible communion in grace with the Triune God] intact is a specific moral duty incumbent upon Christians who wish to participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving the body and blood of Christ. 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'" (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 36).
"The safeguarding and promotion of ecclesial communion is a task of each member of the faithful, who finds in the Eucharist, as the sacrament of the Church's unity, an area of special concern. More specifically, this task is the particular responsibility of the Church's Pastors, each according to his rank and ecclesiastical office. For this reason the Church has drawn up norms aimed both at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which communion may not be given. The care shown in promoting the faithful observance of these norms becomes a practical means of showing love for the Eucharist and for the Church" (Ibid., n. 42).
"It is certainly best that all who are participating in the celebration of Holy Mass with the necessary dispositions should receive Communion. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that Christ's faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately. It pertains to the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse" (Congregation for Divine Worship, Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 83).
"Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one's worthiness to do so, according to the Church's objective criteria, asking such questions as: 'Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?' The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected" (Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter to Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Gregory).
So, if that we, the faithful of the Church, are charged with the solemn responsibility of "the safeguarding and promotion of ecclesial communion," and that this is truly "an abuse that must be corrected," then how can anyone pretend that the "the traditional practice of the Church" inveighs against the denial of communion?
# posted by Jamie : 1:43 PM