Can I receive the Holy Eucharist in a state of mortal sin in my circumstance?


#1

So, I’m pretty sure I’m in the state of mortal sin. I was hoping to get some guidance as to whether or not I can receive Communion before I confess. Obviously I understand that one should not typically receive the Eucharist before going to Confession While in a state of mortal sin, but let me explain my situation. I am handicapped and unable to drive, and there is no Church within walking distance of my house. I had worked out that I would be driven to Confession every two months (although I’m trying to work out going once a month and I am making some progress) but it has not even been one month since my last Confession. I’m going to have to wait until this Tuesday at the very earliest to go to Confession, but most likely I won’t make it back for at least a couple of weeks. So my question is, should I not receive until I make it to Confession, or can I make an act of contrition and receive, since it will be physically impossible for me to confess for quite a while? Obviously I would go right now if I could. I guess I could ask the priest before or after a Mass, since I go every week, but I can’t see that happening, since the priest will be busy, etc, plus my parents would not go for that! I want to thank everyone who answers for their help, and I will surely pray for you.

PS,

I want to make sure that nobody thinks my parents are against taking me to Confession, or even worse are against my faith. Both of them take the Catholic Faith just as seriously as I do, they just can’t drop everything to take me to Confession whenever.


#2

From the USCCB

As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.14

CCC

IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. the distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,129 became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.
Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery… But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.130

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. the promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."134

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.135

1864 "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."136 There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.137 Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.


#3

Thank you very much. I’ve been looking for an actual quote on this from official Church teachings. I guess I should’ve phrased the question as, "does my situation count as a ‘grave reason?’.


#4

It is a parent’s job to take care of the needs of their children, and this includes helping the child access the sacraments when needed. If you had a medical condition that necessitated frequent and perhaps unexpected doctor’s visits, your parents would of course arrange for you to make those appointments. If you’re in mortal sin, it is a serious condition of your soul that needs to be treated sooner than a month from now, irrespective of your ability to take Communion.

I understand that it can be embarrassing to tell your parents that you need to get to confession, but this seems to me the most straightforward way of getting there. Your parents may not be able to “drop everything” but could probably plan a week in advance, right? If Saturday is inconvenient, make an appointment for after school some day. Make Tuesday work if at all possible.

To address your specific question, I would advise that you not receive communion until you’ve had the opportunity to confess. The “grave reason” in that portion of the catechism refers to the reason to receive communion (for example, if a person were in danger of death) not on the difficulty of accessing sacramental confession. In other words, if you became in danger of death or there was another grave reaosn to receive (instead of just a desire to receive or reluctance to abstain) AND it was impossible to go to confession beforehand, then you could receive. It also sounds as if it is difficult and inconvenient but not impossible to access confession, though I understand it may be impossible to go before your next Mass.

Take comfort in knowing you can make a spiritual communion at Mass and use the pull you feel when you abtsain from the Eucharist to motivate you to make confession happen.

God bless.


#5

I would say your situation is not grave.

“Grave reason” means danger of death.

Use this time of abstaining as a penitential time to help you grow in grace and hopefully not commit this sin next time.

That’s what I do. Last week standing in the confession line for an hour at a very inconvenient time made me think better about my temptations in the future.

God Bless


#6

Instead of worrying about receiving communion while being in mortal sin…you should be worrying about getting your sin forgiven, first!

So, you miss receiving communion for a couple of weeks, it’s better than committing a sacrilege by receiving while in mortal sin. :eek:


#7

Okay. I will abstain. Since I am handicapped, the priest or EMHC will usually make a beeline straight to me with the Blessed Sacrament, but I guess I’ll just shake my head. Thank you everyone for your help, and please pray for me that I will kick this habit.


#8

You should sit in the middle section of the church, and the usher will ask if you want to have communion brought to you, instead of the priest or Euch. min. assuming you are up front to receive.


#9

There is great merit in showing such respect for the Eucharist by abstaining when you need to. You can still make a spiritual communion for graces for yourself and you can ask for graces for others who are in need of grace, like perhaps a woman who is considering an abortion, or someone struggling with addictions. It is still a time of great merit.


#10

Namax91, you mentioned your parents but I don’t think you mentioned your age. Are you a minor? If you are a minor, disregard my first suggestion and go straight to the next paragraph. If, however, you are at least 18 years-old, I would suggest you call the parish secretary at your church. Ask her if someone in the parish would be willing to volunteer to give you a ride to take you to confession and/or Mass when you need to go. Explain your situation. I am sure someone in your parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society would love to pick you up and take you to confession.

My second suggestion is to call the priest that will be celebrating the Mass that you want to attend. Ask him if he would be willing to hear your confession just before Mass starts. I’ve asked a priest to hear my confession 10 minutes before a Mass started. The priest was very receptive and heard my confession without any hesitation.

Bottom line: don’t receive Holy Communion if you aren’t in a state of grace.

Thanks, by the way, for asking such a great question. I will pray for you tonight when I pray the Rosary. God bless.


#11

You should talk to your priest. We don’t know your mind and cannot say if you are in a state of mortal sin or not.

We can only say objectively that if you are in a state of mortal sin you may not receive Communion and in such a state even making an act of perfect contrition with the intent to get to Confession as soon as possible still does not permit receiving Communion prior to Confession.


#12

If you have perfect contrition for your sin and confess privately to God, then you should have moral certitude (but not absolute certainty) that you are in the state of sanctifying grace. That strength will then help you until you can receive absolution from a priest.


#13

One can never legitimately receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. This is a rule of divine law and no exception is possible. However, the state of mortal sin is not the same thing as not having received the sacramental absolution. Perfect contrition with the intention to confess sacramentally brings the soul into the state of grace before confession.

However, there is an ecclesiastical rule that has been quoted above: if one is conscious of grave sin, one is not allowed to receive the communion prior to sacramental absolution, except in grave circumstances. That is the rule, even if the soul might in fact be in the state of grace. As this is not divine law, it is open to exceptions and dispensation.

As for what is counted as a grave situation, priests occasionally instruct penitents in the confessional that they don’t have to worry about confessing particular kinds of sins except every two weeks or so and that they can still receive the Eucharist if they are contrite. This may be because these sins are not actually mortal sins in their situation, or the priest has concluded that they have a grave reason to be able to communicate without having to confess every time.
I think the people can trust the priest’s judgement here, if the new sins are similar to the ones they have confessed in the past.


#14

As to your comments which I bolded the penitent must not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. I cannot imagine any priest saying its okay to receive Communion while in a state of mortal sin just because they are recurring mortal sins. Grave situation has nothing to do with recurring mortal sins.


#15

As I said, the communion can never be legitimately received in the state of mortal sin, but that does not always equal having received sacramental absolution.
Do you have a commentary about the interpretation of grave situations, or is this interpretation your own?


#16

There is no definition of grave situation but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that it cannot possibly mean what you say it means.

I absolutely do not believe a priest told a penitent that they may receive Communion while in a state of mortal sin because recurring mortals sins equal grave situation and do not have to be confessed.

That is ludicrous and I would be very interested in you showing me Church documentation that supports your claim.


#17

New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law explains the canon 916: “Grave reasons for going to communion without confessing include danger of death and serious embarrassment if communion is not taken. Lack of opportunity to confess includes absence of a confessor, inability to approach the confessor at a scheduled time for the sacrament, and the availability only of a confessor who is known personally and who cannot be approached without embarrassment.” This part of the commentary was written by John M. Huels, O.S.M., who was a professor of canon law at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.
This commentary presents quite a liberal interpretation of grave reason and lack of opportunity. I think it is safe to trust the priest’s judgement if the situation of habitual sins, opportunity to confess and desire to receive communion has been discussed with a priest in the past.


#18

The commentary you refer to is not a Church document or an official Church position.

Below is the actual Canon 916. Where does it even make reference to the kind of things mentioned by you or that commentary. Please show me an official Church document that states a person may receive Communion while in a state of mortal sin when these are recurring mortal sins.

Can. 916 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.


#19

Call your priest and see if he can give you a quick confession before Mass on Sunday. Explain your situation. Arrive a half hour early and meet with him. No priest I know would deny you the opportunity to confess if you let them know beforehand.


#20

Canonists are members of the Church. Their mission is to research and teach the application of canon law, it is a mission sanctioned by the Church. Unless there is a document of higher authority or evidence to the contrary, we can conclude that this commentary represents a common understanding on how the passages of canon law are applied in practice. At least, this trumps any private interpretation.

Canon 916 does not say it applies only in “danger of death”. If this is what the lawgiver would have meant, this is what would have been written. “Grave situations” is an open category, it allows for various circumstances, for example, pastoral needs, according to interpretation.

You are still confused that I am proposing receiving the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin. This is not the case.


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