Rules regarding recption of Holy Communion

All of my sisters have left the Catholic church and have joined Protestant churches. We are going to have a Mass celebrated for my mothers 80th birthday and I asked everyone who was not a Catholic to basically abstain.

On sister has written here is what she said “I am not sure what requirements for communion you are referring to; I know for the past 25 years I have take holy communion administered by both priests and deacons in many settings, at the hospital with Jim, at the Dominican Retreat house and at mother’s home when Father Bob was visiting.”

My response to her may be something to the effect of, you have voluntarily excommunicated yourself from the Catholic Church and as such should not be receiving communion without authorization by the Bishop.

I think that I am right on this issue, but I do not know what the type of excommunication is that she is barred by.

I also thought that I would tell her I did not know the circumstances of her receiving Holy Communion when she did i.e. if she had given prior knowledge to the Eucharistic Minister/Deacon/ or Priest of her status as a protestant. I also do not know if there was a special allowance made by the Bishop for when she received at the Dominican Retreat House or through Father Bob.

Any help you can give will help.

There are rules, of course, but it sounds like your sister makes up her own rules as she goes along.

One explanation I heard that makes sense to me without saying “you CAN’T receive communion” is that in the Eucharistic prayer we pray with “Benedict our pope and N our bishop.” When you receive communion you are saying you believe what we’ve just prayed, including that these people are your leaders. The church wouldn’t ask you to proclaim something you don’t believe, so she doesn’t invite people to receive communion if they don’t share these beliefs.

You may want to see catholic.com/library/Who_Can_Receive_Communion.asp .

If she is not a Practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church and in Sanctifying Grace, without any unconfessed Mortal sins (only she would know this.) Then she should not approach Holy Communion. I would not use the term “Excommunicated” because technically she would not have been would be my guess.

I wouldn’t use the term excommunicated in this situation regardless of whether or not it was true, simply because I think it’s too harsh for the situation in quesiton.

I have my druthers about family members giving such instructions to lapsed family members in the first place.

If she is attending another congregation, she is not going to Mass every Sunday, right?

Show her in the CCC re: missing Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation and grave sin:

2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass."117 "The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day."118 2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.119 Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

Point her to the USCCB website:

usccb.org/liturgy/current/intercom.shtml

For Catholics
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.

That should say “with any unconfessed Mortal sins”

Thank you all for your thoughts and recommendations’. What I finally wrote back follows. I looked to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops after having checked my Diocese web site. This seemed to answer the question well enough without getting to technical and keeping it at the higher level of why Protestants generally cannot receive holy communion while still participating in celebration of the Eucharist.

“Below is the text I found. I cannot explain why you were allowed to receive communion on occasion at the Dominican Retreat House or by Father Bob, other than they may have been granted permission by the Archbishop or they did not know you were no longer part of the Catholic Church. I was present at least one time at the hospital when you received communion and I do not recall you stating to the lay minister that you were not Catholic.

“On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of communion. These guidelines replace the guidelines approved by the Administrative Committee of the NCCB in November 1986. The guidelines, which are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States, seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of eucharistic communion…”

“We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).”

I hope this helps you understand the requirements of receiving communion in the Catholic Church. I did not mean to offend anyone if I did.”

Summarizing other posts, make her aware of her Sunday obligation.

Then, ask her to examine her conscience for any mortal sin, maybe provide her with an examination of conscience. There are many good suggestions in other threads, just use the forum search.

Then, explain to her that if she has mortal sins on her conscience, she needs to go to confession before the Mass. If she is not willing to do this, and she has mortal sin on her conscience, she should abstain.

Your sister may be ignorant of the idea of mortal sin. Just because a sin is grave matter doesn’t make it mortal, and only she and God would know if she is guilty of mortal sin.

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