October 18, 2013

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Year of Faith: Abortion and Communion

John F. FinkThe Catholic Church has not done a good job of convincing all Catholics either of the evil of abortion or the seriousness of receiving Communion only when one is in the state of grace. The evidence for that statement is the controversy that comes up whenever bishops tell politicians that they may not receive Communion if they support abortion.

This is not a national election year, so the issue isn’t as prominent at this time. Nevertheless, we should understand what is involved.

It boils down to this: Catholics have an obligation to respect life, and it is a mortal sin to encourage abortion. Those with any mortal sin on their souls are unworthy to receive Communion. Therefore, those who encourage abortion are unworthy to receive Communion.

This is not just a rule for politicians; it applies to everybody. It also isn’t a matter of the bishops getting involved in partisan politics. They are defending what the Church has consistently taught about the Eucharist ever since St. Paul warned the Corinthians that people may not receive Communion “unworthily,” which it has defined as being in the state of mortal sin (1 Cor 11:27). It’s a sacrilege to do so.

Any mortal sin—adultery, skipping Sunday Mass, stealing a large amount of money, defaming someone’s good name, etc.—is incompatible with going to Communion. In the matter of abortion, anyone who votes for a politician precisely because he or she supports abortion rights, while knowing that that is grievously wrong, is committing a mortal sin and may not receive Communion.

The U.S. bishops have not agreed on whether priests should refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians. There’s agreement that such politicians should not present themselves for Communion, but not on whether they should be refused if they do.

Meanwhile, we have to face the fact that the Church in the United States still has a serious need to educate the faithful about the seriousness of the issue of abortion. Those states with the highest percentage of Catholics are those with the most pro-abortion politicians—Massachusetts, for example, or Rhode Island.

As much as the popes and bishops have emphasized life issues, they apparently have not been able to convince most Catholics. And it’s not just abortion, but also euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and capital punishment, too. I discussed those issues last week.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches, “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic Communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive Communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (#1415). This is hardly new teaching.

Perhaps Catholics are no longer aware of what mortal sin is. The catechism again: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (#1857). Again, the same thing the Church has always taught.

Unfortunately, many Catholics seem to have rejected the whole concept of what comprises grave matter and therefore is mortal sin. †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!