The current debate regarding pro-abortion politicians and communion has piqued my interest in learning about the canon laws regarding manifest sin and communion and the powers priests have to withhold the Blessed Sacrament from potential communicants. My question stems from a situation in my parish: a mass coordinator who also chairs our parish council is an open homosexual and lives with another man, for whom he left his wife and child. This man’s state of sexual sin is known by many, including our pastor, who I know to be fairly orthodox. Can the pastor deny this man communion? Does he have an obligation to, assuming he has privately approached this man to no avail? Thanks.
In the case of a politician who PUBLICLY counters the Church’s stand on the sacredness of innocent human life in the womb, the priest has the duty to avoid giving any public sign that such a stance is compatible with the reception of the Eucharist. The public stance is on-going. So the sin is on-going until he publicly recants.
But the case you cite is a different matter. Here there is no proof that the individual is actually sinning. The man’s state of soul is known only to God, himself and to whomever he discloses it. The priest does not necessarily know when the man has just gone to confession. He cannot know the man’s state of soul at the particular time of receiving the Eucharist. The man’s sexual morality is PRIVATE. If the individual publicly states that he engages in sexual behavior that counters the Church’s teaching and publicly disagrees with the Church, then the matter becomes public and the priest should avoid any outward sign that would convey the Church’s approval of such behavior. i.e., refusing him the Eucharist.
In any case, the pastor can have a number of reasons for not having a particular person chair the parish council. Here something can be done (and in my opinion should be done)—without citing canon law.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.