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Denying Communion: An “Act of Mercy”

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 03/14/16

From the Catholic Herald in the U.K.:

Over the weekend, my attention was drawn to a news item from two years ago: a 2014 LifeSiteNews interview with Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth. In it, he suggested that “people [who] are not in communion with the Catholic Church” on core teachings – he specifically cites here politicians voting in favour of abortion or same-sex marriage – “shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion”. In such cases, moreover, actively denying Communion would be “an act of mercy”, done in the “hope that… it would encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord, with the truth, and say I’m sorry I got lost.” When and why old stories suddenly resurface on social media is an interesting question in itself. Regardless, since it seems to be doing the rounds again, now is as a good a time as any to share some observations on the understandably sensitive issue of who should or should not receive (or, relatedly, be offered) Communion. It is, after all, not an issue that is likely to go away. The first is simply this. In general terms, Bishop Egan was – and I assume still is, though I’ve not asked after his present stance – on very firm scriptural, patristic, and scholastic ground. Paul’s strictures against those who “eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Corinthians 11.29) are, of course, well known. Partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood is no casual affair – “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (11.28) – and it is far better not to receive, than to receive unworthily.
Evidently, this point applies to everyone, and not just to elected officials. It also, note well, applies to many more matters than voting for abortion or same-sex marriage (serious matters though they indeed are).

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