Reception of Communion by mentally disabled persons

Should mentally disabled persons be allowed Communion? Does the church teach anything on this? It seems to me that some of the more severely disabled persons (not to mention other church members!) do not know what it is that they are receiving. We wait until the ‘age of reason’ for children, but some mentally disabled people are not, well… to the age of reason in their mind. I am obviously not referring to all mentally disabled people, and I am not making any statements about if they should or shouldn’t receive. What are your thoughts on this?

Actually, you’ve already answered your own question: it’s the age of reason. If an individual person is able to tell right from wrong (and that means not only knowing that some things are right and some are wrong, but to reason this out, and understand that there are reasons behind this distinction) then such a person can receive Communion. Canon 913.1

There is also another standard which might be applied by the pastor, and that is if the person is able to know the difference between the Body of Christ and ordinary food, and receive reverently. Canon 913.2

Yes, I know, they are 2 different standards, and this might seem like a contradiction. It depends a lot on the overall pastoral circumstances.

Ordinarily, “age of reason” is the standard–and remember that this does not so much apply to age in terms of years, but the individual’s own capacity. (canon 99)

In danger of death, infants (ie those below the age of reason–not “infants” in our everyday speech) may be admitted to Holy Communion if they meet this second standard of being able to tell the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary food.

Discerning the difference between someone who can on the one hand know that the Eucharist is nor ordinary food, and on the other hand, know right from wrong, is not always an easy thing to do. Yes, some people are in such an extreme situation that it is obvious to make that decision, but of course, every person is unique and that’s why this is a decision that must be made by the pastor together with the parents.

Does that help at all?

Since infants receive communion in the Eastern tradition, why should not mentally challenged people be allowed?

The idea that you have to understand how the Sacraments work for God to work in them is actually gnosticism.

Please, could you explain

Yes, thank you

Considering in our “loose translation” of “age of reason” we are giving first eucharist to second graders who are six and seven years old - I don’t see much difference between them and some very mentally disabled adults. I do not mean to offend anyone but I am speaking developmentally. In some cases the mentally disabled adult may be more reasonable. :shrug:

We [my parish where I managed the home visits] generally apply the same rule as for children. Do they know it is something special? Do they recognize it is different from ordinary bread?

This is a particular consideration with Alzheimer patients, of whom we have many. I had one who had Alzheimer’s and a brain tumor. He was barely conscious. However, when I held the host in front of him and said, “Body of Christ”, he would always make the sign of the cross. We decided that that was sufficient.

That is so beatiful. Amazingly, I hear things like that. I see the man at mass that could barely walk but insisted and two people helped him to the alter - yet sometimes I am selfish enough to want to miss Mass and sleep in. Unacceptable for me.

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