My daughter isn’t living the Faith but receives Communion. What should I do?
Question: My daughter (divorced) lives with another divorced man part time, and thinks nothing of going to Communion. I am happy that she goes to Mass every Sunday and does daily prayers. A lovely person, I do not want to be the cause of her not going at all. I have spoken to her, not emphatically, that I was concerned with her going to Communion under these circumstances. Evidently, she does not think that it is a mortal sin, which I do. Should I inform the priest, and is it a sin for me not telling him? I don’t feel as if I should be the judge.
— Name withheld, via email
Answer: It is good that you have spoken to your daughter about your concerns, and it is understandable that you do not want to further alienate her from the Church. In matters such as these and in our current cultural malaise and poor catechesis, careful, persistent reminders seem to be a good approach.
There is, however, clear teaching to which we must point and ultimately insist upon — namely, that one should not receive holy Communion who is guilty of grave (mortal) sin. To live with a man outside of marriage involves not only a violation of the Sixth Commandment, but also gives rise to scandal by making light and “normalizing” such practices. Church law, in regard to receiving holy Communion says, “[those persons] obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion” (Canon 915). Further it states, “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).
These teachings and laws of the Church are not a mean-spirited rejection; they flow from scriptural teaching, wherein St. Paul warns: “Therefore 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, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Hence, the Church teachings are rooted in a concern and care for souls. As Scripture teaches, those who receive the Eucharist unworthily do not receive a blessing, but rather, the judgment of condemnation. If a doctor were to prescribe penicillin to someone he knew was allergic to it, that would be malpractice. In the same way, the Church cannot prescribe or offer the Eucharist to someone not apt to receive it.
The bishops recently spoke to this matter in a document issued in their November meeting. In effect, they have acknowledged that teaching on this matter must be more vigorously done since many have not been adequately catechized.
As for you telling the priest about your daughter’s situation, that is a prudential matter. If you do, it must be on the record — namely, that you permit him to tell her that you are the source of the information. A priest cannot present hearsay from anonymous sources. He must be able to speak to her based on information whose source he can cite. And, before withholding Communion from her, he must make some attempts to discuss the matter with her. Part of your decision will be based on how you think the priest will likely handle the matter. Your primary duty is to speak to your daughter, which you have done. Continue to do so without nagging and use the opportunity of the bishops’ new document to further the discussion and her education.