Abstaining from Communion

I know we are to abstain from communion if we are in a state of mortal sin or we have not fasted for one hour beforehand. Are there other situations when we should abstain?

This was from a letter by then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)

“Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement 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 (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).”


(there can be other reasons…like this is your third mass that day and you received already 2 times…etc…)

Is abstaining as a self imposed penance acceptable?

If you are in a state of grace and able to receive then I would see abstaining as a rejection of God and not a penance.

Finally some body answered in stead of giving citations which in themselves did not say one had to partake but were more “encouraging” one to partake.

Thanks! Would someone in doubt about certain Church teachings be considered in full communion?

That is an interesting question. I seem to recall a priest giving a talk about receiving communion and he said something about in ages past there were Christians that received less frequently because they wanted to be very well prepared to receive Christ. I am not entirely sure I am remembering that correctly.

I think it might matter for what reason you’ve self-imposed a penance. If it is a result of scrupulosity, I think that could a problem. If it is for something else, I am not sure it would be. You’re not “rejecting” God by voluntarily abstaining. At least, I wouldn’t think the act of voluntarily abstaining would be inherently sinful. I think it might be possible that you have valid reasons for doing so.

Sorry I can’t provide anything more concrete than my inadequate speculation.

  1. If it is your second mass for the day and you were late because the second time to receive in a day needs to be at a mass that is attended in full, unlike the first time one receives. It also means for example, that a communion service would not suffice to meet this requirement

  2. If you have already received the Eucharist twice in one day, unless there is a dire need.

if your stomach is upset and you fear a natural body reaction that might profane the sacrament it is best not to receive. You would not of course drink from the common cup if you have active cold or flu symptoms or know you are contagious. In that case you should probably stay home in any case.

Yes one may abstain where one is otherwise prepared to receive. In fact Pope Benedict XVI mentioned abstaining when he was a Cardinal as a kind of solidarity with those who could not receive…etc

(though I would have to admit having not done so myself…but it is an option and can be good)

Not sure to do it out of penance thought…humm…I would have to think on that.

Also avoid scruples…or jansenistic reasons for not receiving…

That is a good question. Not only about “full communion” but also simply about fully professing the Catholic Faith. I am not sure on a complete answer. On the one hand a Catholic is to profess the Faith…and assent to the teachings of the Church in various degrees…some for example with the “obedience of Faith” and some only with the “submission of intellect and will” (see chart in link below).

And of course one can commit a mortal sin against Faith…(or I would think of the refusal to submit ones mind and will in those things where such is required but not faith (see below link)) which would in the least put one in the “state of mortal sin” category (grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent)

On the other hand in regards to the “full communion” there are those who can by exception and with permission from the Bishop receive in certain grave necessity when deprived of their own ministers etc and when they have Faith in the Eucharist …who are not in full communion. And there is even more possibilities for those who are Eastern Orthodox etc to receive though they are not in full communion.

But as for a Catholic…well they certainly are to profess the Catholic Faith as Catholics…but I am not completely certain as to the complete answer here. There can be too many variables I think (and perhaps they could seek guidance from the Bishops office of Diocese…etc…actually getting in touch with someone who can know…or perhaps their confessor…)

Remember there with the Catholic we are also particularly in the area of potential mortal sin…for they are Catholic and are to profess the Catholic faith. Which by itself would be an impediment.

One important aspect would be what is in “doubt” …there are some things that are commonly held but are not teachings of the Church per se…etc

(certainly if one obstinately doubts the real presence …that is different from doubting something one is not even required to hold as a Catholic…even though many Catholics do…like some private revelation!~)

This can help: ewtn.net/library/Theology/SUMMARY.HTM


Also I would think too that it would depend on if it was a voluntary doubt…or involuntary doubt or temptation…

It can be simply a difficulty a thousand difficulties do not equal a doubt as Bl. Newman noted…

One can give the Yes of Faith in the various degrees…and then one works on the difficulties…“Faith seeking understanding”…for one knows in Whom one believes and that it is his Church etc…


157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”** “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”**


2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith"9 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.10 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."11

  1. It could I think depend on how late one is…(there is nothing in the law that says one has to be there from the exact entrance rite…)

  2. One could only receive third time in a day (midnight to midnight) as viaticum…basically one is on their death bed.

I don’t quite agree with this premise. One could have just had a verbal fight with his/her spouse and not quite as attentive as he/she should be on the Real Presence. Receiving Christ could merely be postponed, not forced at a particular moment in time. Just one example.

Though someone could abstain from receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist as a form of penance I think it’s a poor choice really. There are many other ways you could do penance without denying yourself the Holy Eucharist. The graces we gain from receiving the Lord are fathomless and for us weak creatures they are vital to strengthening us for our daily spiritual battles. Surely there is something else in your life that you could abstain from as an act of penance that would be of greater spiritual benefit than denying yourself Holy Communion.

The very reason the Holy Eucharist is sometimes referred to as Holy Communion is because when we receive Him we are communing with God in a very real, special, and personal way. So if one has love for Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist then surely He will miss not being able to commune with them in this way especially when one considers how many receive Our Lord in an unworthy or disrespectful manner. You would be denying the Lord any comfort He receives from the love you show Him when you commune with Him.

This is not distant past this was the time when I received first communion. We were encouraged to receive communion only if we confessed our sins within a week. Practically everyone who received communion did so.

In the the same time when the opportunity of confessions diminished from practically every mass time so minimum 4 hours per priest a week down to one our or less a week – everyone is herded to the communion.

The contraception is grave sin. In this group in 2004 80% of the pool takers believed that less than 20% of the Catholic couples obey Humana vitae.
In my opinion many of that 80% who do not obey Humana vitae are receiving communion because they are pushed to do so. No one likes to be seen as in state of grave sin.

25 % of the Catholics claim that they attend Masses weekly of more often, but in the reality according to the October count only 15% do so. Still almost everybody goes to communion who are present, an estimated third just for this reason (missing Mass since his/her last confession) having grave sin.

Above this there are the irresponsible votes with significant damage for the community as the result. Who considers that sin at all?

The communion is degraded from receiving the Most Holy Body of our Lord to a community meal, the concept of sin is washed out almost completely.

Who is responsible for the sacrileges?

While each person may be different in this regard, there are a few other instances where I, personally, would probably chose to abstain. Here are a couple that I have actually experienced.

  1. When I was so distracted by something during Mass that I would be going through the motions rather than prayerfully participating.

  2. When something at Mass seriously disturbed my inner peace so that I might be angry when going up for Communion.

  3. When the Mass was so full of abuse that I couldn’t stop crying and chose to remain seated to regain my composure.

  4. When the priest changed the words of the Consecration

  5. When I was aware of invalid matter being used for Communion

  6. When my young child was being so fussy, I didn’t think we would make it up to the front of Church without a melt-down. :smiley:

Abstaining from the Eucharist as penance reminds me of the parishes who unfortunately put sand or rocks in their holy water stoups during Lent. i think Fr Z has on his blog somewhere the official response to this, which reminds us that we don’t fast from sacramentals or sacraments, because they are our weapons in the battle for holiness.

Sometimes when I get a bit scrupulous, I make myself take Communion, because I know it is the best possible medicine.

This is the reason that I do not receive communion. I have serious doubt about certain church teachings, because those teachings appear to conflict with God’s nature. The doubt is with the church, not God, so God must get the benefit of the doubt.

You are right and what I meant to say was anyone in a state of grace and otherwise properly disposed to receive has no reason not to do so. Such a person deliberately refusing to receive is not making an act pf penance. They are saying to God I don’t want you.

Anyone who says that obviously isn’t properly disposed. :slight_smile:

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