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Statement by Bishop John Yanta regarding politicians and communion

West Texas Catholic

July 18, 2004

Perhaps you have been waiting for my response to the recent highly publicized issue about pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion.

Let us begin at the beginning with the Word of God, the foundation of our Catholic teachings along with God¹s Eternal Law and Natural Law:

"Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself - for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The Revised Standard Version of the Bible uses the words: "eats and drinks judgment upon himself." The Jerusalem Bible uses the word ³CONDEMNATION² in verse 29. And would you believe that the popular Protestant King James Version states: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself not discerning the Lord¹s body." First, receiving Holy Communion unworthily is grave matter, one of the three requirements for mortal sin that prevents salvation. "Mortal sin is a grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of a sinner, constituting a turn away from God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1855, 1857).

Second, receiving Holy Communion unworthily is a "sacrilege: profanation of or irreverence towards persons, places, and things which are sacred, i.e. dedicated to God; sacrilege against the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is a particular grave offense against the first commandment" (Catechism 2120).

Third, the written Divine Law of God in 1 Corinthians places the responsibility upon the individual to "examine himself" before receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. The responsibility is not placed primarily on the ordinary minister of Holy Communion (the pope, bishop, priest or deacon) nor upon the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. These are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion.

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 (Code of Canon Law, Canon 916). A frequent reception of the sacrament of penance is encouraged for all.

For Fellow Christians:

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 that 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" (John 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).² There is a prohibition of the Eucharist to public sinners in Canon 915:

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. Obstinate perseverance is indicated when the pastor or other church authority has expressly warned the offending party to cease committing the sin, but this warning is not heeded (new commentary on the Code of Canon Law p. 1110).

As far as I know, there are no pro-abortion Catholic politicians in the Diocese of Amarillo ­ at least they have not surfaced so far. However, if you know of a pro-abortion Catholic politician in our diocese, please inform me immediately.

If I had or if it becomes known to me that there is a pro-abortion Catholic politician in our diocese, I, as a teacher and a shepherd, and as a father and brother to him/her, would first consult with his/her parish pastor for a Gospel approach. This would be followed up with a pastoral visit, making sure the politician has an informed conscience, pray for his/her conversion ardently, repeat the pastoral approach if necessary, and allow some time for God¹s grace to be accepted. If after all that there is still "obstinate perseverance" then I would arrive at a "prudential judgment" advocated by USCCB in Denver June 17. Prudence is the virtue which disposes a person to discern the good and chooses the correct means to accomplish it (Catechism 1806). Others who should not present themselves for Holy Communion are those who persist in sinful behaviors that is manifest (i.e. public) and objectively grave, e.g. cohabitation, sexually active couples before marriage, etc.

Those who are divorced and remarried find themselves in this situation. Apart from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of life between Christ and the Church which is signified by the Eucharist, there is also the consideration of scandal and of possible error and confusion in the minds of the faithful about the Church¹s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

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