JC receives JC
I'm struggling a lot with this article in The Catholic Herald attacking our Lord Jeremy Corbyn for receiving the blessed sacrament at a funeral.
The article states:
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of disrespecting the Catholic faith after allegedly receiving Holy Communion despite not being a Catholic.It seems to me the article and those who consider Corbyn's actions deliberately disrespectful are assuming that he must have been aware of some quite complex Catholic protocol. Frankly, the lack of reverence on display in most communion lines these days would hardly lead one to think twice before joining the line. Surely it could be that Corbyn just thought going up to communion was the appropriate thing to do?
The New Statesman reports he that he received Communion at the funeral of GMB union president Mary Turner, at Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn, north London.
Under Canon Law, non-Catholics are forbidden from receiving Holy Communion except in extreme circumstances.
The Labour Party declined to comment on whether Corbyn had received Communion, but did confirm his attendance at the funeral. They also confirmed he was not a Catholic.
Clare Bowskill of the Latin Mass Society told the Telegraph: “Most Catholics would think that was disrespecting the faith quite considerably. Even Anglicans are normally told at Mass that they are welcome to come up for a blessing but they do not take Communion.”
Corbyn has refused to comment on his personal beliefs, and when asked in 2015 whether he was an atheist responded: “There are so many things about me written that are unfair, unjust and ill-searched that it would be wrong. I’m not going any further than that, belief is a private thing.”
Should the question be, did the celebrant point out the expectations? Does the response to this just emphasise the need for a bit more transparency and clear speaking from Catholics?
Sure, I understand that devout Catholics find it distressing if non-believers go up to receive Our Lord and Saviour in Sacramental form—they are not aware what they are doing and Sacred Scripture warns us about this:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. —1 Cor 11:27But if they have not read the Bible and if they are as religiously illiterate as most denizens of our sceptred isle appear to be these days, and, if the priest at Mass says nothing as to the expectations before the consecration, pray how are we to expect people to know what they are supposed to do?
I think when you had to queue up and kneel at an altar rail, the prospect of joining the line if you did not know what to do would have in itself appeared pretty daunting. But now-a-days all and sundry just line up to receive.
The Church teaches that it is incumbent upon each member of the faithful to assess if he or she is in a state of grace to receive Communion. In order to know this with reasonable moral certitude, the person must not be aware of having committed any grave sin that has not been confessed or of not being in a situation which would normally preclude being able to receive the sacrament such as, for example, an irregular marriage not recognised as valid by the Church.
In fulfilling his ministry the priest and even more so other ministers should habitually defer to the good faith of those who approach the sacrament, this is because only God knows with absolute certainty a person's state of grace. The individual person can reach a reasonable moral certainty as to the present state of his soul. The priest usually has no knowledge as to a person's state of grace. Even if a priest knows that a certain person is a habitual sinner, he cannot know if, before coming for Communion, that person has repented, confessed and is striving to remedy his ways.
Even if the priest is practically certain that a person should not receive Communion and would be committing a sacrilege by doing so, he should not publicly refuse to administer the sacrament. No person, not even a grave sinner, should be publicly exposed for hidden faults. Everybody has a right to preserve his good name unless it is lost by the sinner's public actions or in virtue of a public penalty.
This is a very difficult situation for a priest to be in, but in this way he also shares in that same attitude which the Lord himself adopts in making himself available in the Eucharist. Only rarely will a priest be placed in such a difficult situation; the Eucharistic Lord faces it on a daily basis.
Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law indicates the principal cases in which Communion may be publicly refused. The canon says, "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."
The first case refers to those upon whom a canonical penalty of excommunication or interdiction has been publicly imposed for a grave canonical crime.
It does not refer to those who might have fallen under an automatic penalty (such as participating in an abortion) which is not known. Of course, people in this situation should not receive Communion until the excommunication is lifted, but the priest should not refuse the host even if he knows that the penalty exists.
The second situation, those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin, is harder to determine and usually requires a case-by-case study. Even expert canonists disagree regarding the practical applications. But almost all are in accordance that the law should be narrowly interpreted and that all the factors — obstinate perseverance and manifestly grave sin — must be simultaneously present before Communion can be publicly denied.
It is difficult to determine if a grave sin is manifest. In order to be so, a sin must be known by a large part of the community, and this can also depend on the nature of the community itself. For example, it is one thing to belong to a quiet rural village where everybody knows everybody and another to be part of a large urban parish were a situation might be known only if it appears in the media.
Obstinate perseverance is also difficult to determine and usually requires that the priest has been able to converse with the sinner and has warned him to desist from receiving Communion until he ceases committing the sin.
Since both factors must be present the priest can only make this warning that Communion will be publicly refused when the sin is widely known and he has not received knowledge of it through the sacrament of reconciliation.
There might be cases when all of the factors are present by the manner in which a person approaches the altar. For example, several U.S. bishops have refused Communion to people wearing a rainbow sash. In this case the person is using a symbol that publicly defends a lifestyle that the Church holds to be gravely sinful.
There might be some other cases when a priest has to decide on the spur of the moment, for example, when a person is in an obviously altered state and is clearly not fully aware of what he is doing. Such cases have more to do with public order and respect for the Eucharistic species than making a judgment as to a person's interior state.
Another case is when a person is obviously not Catholic. Such situations most often arise at weddings and funerals. Many dioceses and parishes have prepared policies for such occasions and advise those attending regarding the conditions for receiving Communion in the Catholic Church. This serves as a reminder both to Catholics who might not be practicing their faith as well as to those who belong to other denominations and religions.
Rather than assuming Corbyn was being deliberately disrespectful, should we first ask if there was a policy in place for this funeral and if it was followed? If it was not, perhaps the lesson is that it should have been!
If we want other people to respect the Blessed Sacrament, we have to show at all times how important and special it is to us Catholics, the way we do that is by acting with reverence and respect when we receive. It seems to me, while we are sauntering up chatting and acting like 'it ain't nothing' we can hardly expect anyone who isn't Catholic to think there's anything particularly special going on—let alone remarkable! Let's start by kneeling & receiving on the tongue.