Sticky/volatile situation re: Non catholic nieces receiving Communion

A situation has occurred which has me “concerned”:

One of my sisters, who was a cradle Catholic, like the rest of us, and married in the RCC is now a member of the Nazarene Church. (Long story) She and her husband never had either of their daughters baptized in the RCC.

We recently attended a RCC funeral of a close family friend.(“We” being this sister, her husband and their 2 daughters, as well as the rest of our family…who are all still practicing Catholics.

When it came time for Holy Communion, said sister, husband and daughters all received the Eucharist. I was shocked to see them get in line, and there was virtually nothing I could do about it, and obviously wasn’t going to “make a scene”.

It isn’t so much the fact that my sister and her husband received the Eucharist. What bothers me is that their daughters DID. These girls know ZIP about Catholicism. I realize that Nazarenes do not believe in the real presence and that this church they are members of only occassionally have what they call Communion.

I have hesitated making an issue of this, as have the rest of my siblings, but we are in agreement that this was NOT proper. The chances of this sister and her family returning to the RCC are nil. I did briefly mention it to her and she basically said, “They receive at OUR church, so what’s the big deal”?

What, if anything, should I say/do in regard to this issue? The chances of it happening again are pretty good, as several of our old friends are at the age where they are dying and we will no doubt be going to even more funerals. I can’t in good conscience sit back and NOT say something, can I ?

It seems like quite a conundrum to have a big family squabble over receiving Holy Communion.

Thoughts ???

If I were put into that situation …and I WAS in that situation when my sister marrried my brother-in-law that Protestant children of my brother-in-law’s went up to receive communion and weren’t refused. I was surprised, because the church pastor didn’t refuse them…and I think it is important to point this out- that in order not to disrupt services and have the person who is curious about the eucharist and christianity, be allowed one slip, but that the pastor take that person…and in many instances…family aside and explain that not all people can receive communion in all churches.
That if they want to be a member of that church they can join and be baptized into that religion, and receive communion, but until then, they should stay in the pews out of respect for the religion and it’s practices. It’s a sticky situation…on one hand you don’t want to offend and turn people off on the church, but the church DOES have it’s rules. So I can empathize with you on this.
You should ask the priest if he would hold a class at the church and explain the faith…possibly a Bible study group, where people are free to inquire about the activities of the church and the mass and it’s meaning and the point of communion. This may help to shed light on the sisters misunderstanding of the situation you ran into at the funeral when her children went up to receive communion. I hope this helps…God Bless Mary:)

There is an ancient canon that says, “If any of the unbaptized in all innocence receives the precious Eucharist, that person is to be baptized immediately, as this is seen as clear evidence that God has called him.”

This canon, btw, dates from the days of long catechumenates of 1-3 years.

The place to mention “Not going up to Holy Communion” this would have been before the funeral Mass started.

Probably. But none of us had any clue this would even be an “issue,” since the sister and her husband have been Nazarene’s for going on 20 years now, and haven’t even been inside a RCC for 15 of those.

The next time something like this comes up, make it a point to tell the priest who will preside at that Mass that there will be non-Catholic family members in attendance, and politely suggest that an announcement about who may receive would be in order. Let him take it from there. You’ve already done whatever you can with regard to informing your family members. From now on it’s on their own consciences.

Just wanted to add that you could tell her this is not relevant as any Catholics should NOT be receiving at her Church.

We live in the “mission” area down in the South. When we have funerals, our priests make a little announcement before the communion song begins.

Also consider other ways of persuasion. Such as: “If you do this again you will not be invited to my place.”

Writing a letter may reinforce your concerns, highlight that this is serious.

As well as telling the priest it may be worthwhile video taping them receiving communion. Then if the priest decides “not to make a scene” you have evidence with which to complain to the bishop and/or Vatican.

This strikes me as being just a little extreme.

Let me ask: Is this likely to occur again? If not, let it go, because it is done and nothing can be done about it.

If it is likely to happen again, phrase it to your sister as a question of etiquette, like “you may not have known this, but usually only Catholics receive communion.” Then drop the issue. You have told her and there’s nothing else you can do. It may also be a good idea to educate your brother-in-law and nieces too, because it is quite likely that they genuiniely did not know this. Again, phrase it as an FYI, then drop it.

Actually, Redemptionis Sacramentum, the authoritative document of the Holy See concerning liturgical abuse, covers this matter:

[84.] Furthermore when Holy Mass is celebrated for a large crowd – for example, in large cities – care should be taken lest out of ignorance non-Catholics or even non-Christians come forward for Holy Communion, without taking into account the Church’s Magisterium in matters pertaining to doctrine and discipline. It is the duty of Pastors at an opportune moment to inform those present of the authenticity and the discipline that are strictly to be observed.

Thus, the priest has a serious responsibility to make sure that this does not happen.

I actually spoke to this sister yesterday about the situation and prefaced the conversation with my not wanting to cause a huge rift over this, but that it needed to be addressed.

She told me that after our initial discussion of the matter, she did in fact inform her daughters that they were ALL in error for receiving Communion: She and her husband for not meeting the requirements of fasting and confession, and their absence from the church for all these years, and the girls for not even having been baptized Catholics.

Needless to say, this conversation was very long and drifted off topic numerous times into a myriad of other areas concerning religion and basically ended with her informing me that this is why she and her husband left the RCC to begin with: “Too many rules to follow, antiquated concepts about salvation, them “not feeling good” when they went to church (in the RCC) and the church’s attitudes about birth control, women and the ministry, etc. etc. etc”.

Obviously I couldn’t address every single one of these issues,(or I’d still be on the phone with her) but we did come to the agreement that they would not be receiving again…and that that “saddened her”, but she would abide by the rules (on this issue at least…).

This discussion is obviously far from over with her, and will no doubt get more intense with time, as she is a tough nut to crack. I obviously can’t force her to return to the RCC against her will, but will take this thing in baby steps over time.

To say I have “opened a can of worms” is an understatement !

Ya, my aunt who is also a cradle catholic left the Church and is now part of the Nazarene Church. She got mad when she and her family weren’t allowed to recieve communion. She said they get to recieve at their church so it wasn’t fair. :rolleyes:

Our priest also makes a very polite announcement prior to communion at funerals, Christmas Masses and Easter (any occasion that it is obvious or likely that non Catholics are attending the service) . It is very helpful. And I’ve yet to see anyone be offended, etc. You probably want to mention your experience and request that your priest make an announcement in the future. God Bless!

There’s no need for her to be “saddened” by this. If the person is receiving a catholic funeral it is because they were most likely catholic, and therefore held the teaching of the church regarding the Eucharist. This is an opportunity for her to demonstrate her respect for that belief (and our church as a whole) by NOT partaking, as would be the desire of any catholic (to include the deceased). It is not a cause for sadness, it is a sign of her respect for the beliefs of the dead.

Further, it isn’t an insult to her or her family. You could explain it thus: our church doesn’t recognize the sacrament as a symbolic act… and if you had Christ with you, wouldn’t you be careful to protect Him from harm? The same goes with our communion: we have Christ with us, we are BOUND to protect His Flesh and Blood from being taken by those who are not in a proper state of Grace and full communion with the church. That applies to catholics as well as protestants when they attend the mass… and catholics of good conscience abstain from taking the Eucharist as well. There’s no great insult in NOT going forward for communion

Well, actually, no we don’t “get to”. Roman Catholics may not receive at such communion services. She may not realize that difference in our understanding, though…or Catholics who visit her church may not understand it.

I think it is important to approach these conversations in the recognition that the offense is usually unintentional, and made out of ignorance. Even if it is not, it usually doesn’t hurt to speak as if it is. There is nothing more frustrating for someone who intends to give offense than for the victim to refuse to take offense.

As for the OP, it would be a good idea to have some conversations with more than one priest with considerable pastoral experience under his belt about how to handle the matter. Church and family can have some very, very sticky connections that experienced clergy will have had experience with. Choose your course of action by arming yourself with knowledge from those who have experience. Don’t let yourself in for family fall-out that you did not even see coming. Whether you choose to act, not to act, or to resolve to act if and when the matter rises again in the future, let it be an informed choice that you have prepared for with wise counsel and prayer.

However, Redemptionis Sacramentum has already addressed that issue. Even Pope Benedict XVI, in Sacramentum Caritatis, makes this observation:

In this regard, I would like to call attention to a pastoral problem frequently encountered nowadays. I am referring to the fact that on certain occasions – for example, wedding Masses, funerals and the like – in addition to practicing Catholics there may be others present who have long since ceased to attend Mass or are living in a situation which does not permit them to receive the sacraments. At other times members of other Christian confessions and even other religions may be present. Similar situations can occur in churches that are frequently visited, especially in tourist areas. In these cases, there is a need to find a brief and clear way to remind those present of the meaning of sacramental communion and the conditions required for its reception. Wherever circumstances make it impossible to ensure that the meaning of the Eucharist is duly appreciated, the appropriateness of replacing the celebration of the Mass with a celebration of the word of God should be considered. (153)

In other words, the Church does not give much wiggle room to priests. They have to take a stand and explain to the assembly that Holy Communion is restricted to practicing Catholics in the state of grace. Of course, tact and charity should be used, but, the message needs to be made crystal clear.

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