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John King wrote:

Hi, guys —

Can you please help me with this question.

  • Are openly gay people allowed to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church?

I attend our local cathedral and it is a very liberal parish led by a very liberal administrator.

They will not answer this question when I ask them. I know openly gay people come to Mass and receive Holy Communion.

  • Is this wrong?
  • Is this against what the Church allows?

I look forward to your reply.

Thank you,

John King

  { Are openly gay people allowed to attend Mass and receive Communion in the Catholic Church? }

Eric replied:

John,

Anyone who has freely and deliberately been involved in homosexual activity, knowing it is gravely immoral, and has not repented and sought and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is in a state of mortal sin. Anyone in a state of mortal sin should not receive Holy Communion.

Canon Law says:

"Canon 916 † A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible."

(Canon 916 from the Vatican website; can also be found in the Code of Canon Law: New English Translation. (1998). (p. 298). Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America.)

Another potentially relevant canon is the one that precedes this one:

"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."

Canon 915 from the Vatican website.

Someone who is open about their sin, and obstinately persisting in it, is not admitted to Holy Communion so, as such, the law is fairly clear.

Of course externally, as general parishioners, we can't always accurately judge what's going on; we don't know for sure, for example, whether the person hasn't gone to Confession and repented.

Ministers of Communion have to be careful not to deny someone Communion who unbeknownst to them is actually canonically permitted to receive Communion, because that could incur a canonical lawsuit.

Finally, Ministers of Communion have to consider whether they are working at cross-purposes; denying someone Communion may end up lending ammunition to the cause of the enemies of the Church, or doing more harm than good from a pastoral standpoint.

For example, denying practicing homosexuals Communion has been done in some places and triggered a media and ecclesiastical debacle. Generally it's better, if possible, if you can convince the person not to approach Holy Communion, rather than forcibly deny it to them but there is also the consideration of preventing scandal, that is, encouraging people in their sin by admitting those who openly and knowingly flout the church's teaching on Communion.

  • On the one hand, we have to avoid an attitude that these people must be excluded out of hatred, self-righteousness, or judgment.
  • On the other hand, this is a serious matter and we want to send the right message.

The right motivation to have should be that their salvation is in grave jeopardy if they knowingly and deliberately receive Communion after knowingly and deliberately committing such an act. It's like hiding the keys from a drunk man who wants to drive home out of concern for his safety (as well as those around him).

The first principle we should work from is love; we have to love practicing homosexuals and our actions should flow from that. Jesus called us to be as "wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). This matter has to be approached with great wisdom (and pastoral concern).

  • What is in the best interests of the salvation of the person in question?

Canon 1752 says that the salvation of souls is always the supreme law of the church.

Canon 1752: In cases of transfer, the prescripts of Canon 1747 are to be applied, canonical equity is to be observed, and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.
  • What is your fundamental concern and what do you intend to do with this information?
  • Are you an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion wanting to know how to act?

Eric

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