Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


1152 x 864


23 feb 2017

Resources for Understanding and Applying Canon 915


Informed discussion of Canon 915 requires access to key documents on the law and awareness of the positions taken thereon by qualified commentators. This page is offered in service to those who wish to understand, and perhaps contribute to, the discussions on the application of Canon 915 in the life of the Church.


The Law



Quick Links


Official Statements

on the Law







Blog Discussions


Other Items


Gramunt Abstract



1983 CIC 18. Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.


Olim: 1917 CIC 17. Laws that establish a penalty, or that restrict the free exercise of a right, or that contain an exception to the law, are subject to strict interpretation.


1983 CIC 213. The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments. (See also CCEO 16)


Olim: 1917 CIC 682. Laity have the right of receiving from the clergy, according to the norm of ecclesiastical discipline, spiritual goods and especially that aid necessary for salvation.


1983 CIC 843. § 1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them. § 2. Pastors of souls and other members of the Christian faithful, according to their respective ecclesiastical function, have the duty to take care that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, attentive to the norms issued by competent authority.


1983 CIC 897. The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The Eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated through the ages is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ. Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it. (See also CCEO 698)


1983 CIC 898. The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, pastors of souls are to teach the faithful diligently about this obligation.


1983 CIC 912. Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.


Olim: 1917 CIC 853. Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.


1983 CIC 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. (See also CCEO 712)


Olim: 1917 CIC 855. § 1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they caused]. § 2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal. (See also: Canon Law Digest I: 408-409.)


1983 CIC 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. (See also CCEO 711)


Olim: 1917 CIC 807. Priests conscious of grave sin, no matter how contrite they believe themselves to be, shall not dare to celebrate Mass without prior sacramental confession; but if because there is lacking a sufficient supply of confessors and there is urgent necessity, he shall elicit an act of perfect contrition, celebrate, and as soon as possible confess.


1917 CIC 856. No one burdened by mortal sin on his conscience, no matter how contrite he believes he is, shall approach holy communion without prior sacramental confession; but if there is urgent necessity and a supply of ministers of confession is lacking, he shall first elicit an act of perfect contrition. (See also Canon Law Digest II: 208-215; and VII: 664.


Part Two

Official Statements on the Law


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cdl. Ratzinger's Memorandum "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles", Summer 2004, Origins 34/9 (29 July 2004) 133-134, on-line here.


6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.



Josef Cdl. Ratzinger


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Catholics in Political Life”, Origins 34/7 (1 July 2004) 97, 99, on-line here.


Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.


John Paul II, enc. "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" (17 April 2003), AAS 95 (2003) 433-455, on-line here.


37. ... The judgment of one's state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one's conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion [c. 915]. AAS 95: 458


Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration "Concerning the admission to holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried" (24 June 2000), Origins 30/11 (17 Aug 2000) 174-175, on-line here. Italian version in Communicationes 32 (2000) 159-162.


2. Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon's substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (cfr. can. 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance.


3. ... The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.


4. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church "Concerning the reception of holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful" (14 September 1994), AAS 86 (1994) 974-979, and Communicationes 26 (1994) 163-168, on-line here.


Part Three

Applications of the Law

  • Raymond Cdl. Burke, interview (1 Feb 2013), on-line here, follow-up by Fr. Z (10 Feb 2013).

  • Abp. Charles Chaput, "The Political Obligations of Catholics: a conversation with the Most Rev. Charles Chaput" (17 Mar 2009), Pew Forum Transcripts, on-line here.

  • Bp. Joseph Naumann, “Kansas Governor told not to receive Communion”, Origins 38/2 (22 May 2008) 17-18; see also E. Peters blog post Staunching the wound of Bleeding Kansas (10 May 2008).

  • Abp. Edward Egan, unsigned notice, Origins 37/47 (8 May 2008) 780; see also E. Peters blog post Four cheers for New York's Cardinal Egan (28 Apr 2008)

  • Abp. Roger Mahony, “Catholic Politicians and Holy Communion”, Origins 34/7 (1 July 2004) 110; see also E. Peters blog post The Cardinal and the Canons (scroll to 18 May 2004).

  • Abp. William Levada, “Reflections on Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion”, 34/7 Origins (1 July 2004) 101-105; see also William Keeler, “Summary of Consultations”, Origins 34/7 (1 July 2004) 105-109.

  • Abp. Donald Wuerl, "Reflections on Faith and Public Life", Origins 38/2 (30 April 2008) 19-21.

Part Four

Scholarly Commentaries on the Law


Besides various citations under cc. 915, 915-916, and 916, etc., in Canon Law Abstracts, here, The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index, s.v. “Communion, sacramental (exclusion)”, and various pan-textual canonical commentaries, see:



 Raymond Cdl. Burke

  • Edward Peters, "Participation in holy Communion by unworthy Catholics", Christifidelis 30/7 (25 dec 2012), 1, 4-8, in PDF here.

  • Edward Peters, "Fencing the Altar", First Things (November 2012) 19-21.

  • Edward Peters, "The Cuomo-Communion Controversy", Catholic World Report (May 2011) 33-35.

  • Edward Peters, "Withholding of Holy Communion by Extraordinary Minister", 2008 Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions 80-83. See below.

  • Raymond Burke, "The discipline regarding the denial of holy Communion to those obstinately preserving in manifest grave sin", Periodica 96 (2007) 3-58, on-line here; see also Brian Mullady, “Communion for dissenting politicians”, Homiletic & Pastoral Review 108/11 (Aug/Sep 2008) 78-80, and E. Peters blog post Abp. Raymond Burke on Canon 915 (10 Sep 2007).

  • B. Welding & J. Farnan, "Denying Communion for Obstinate Sin", Ethics & Medics 31/5 (May 2006) 1-4, on-line here.

  • K. McMahon, "Politics, Abortion, and Communion", Ethics & Medics 31/1 (Jan 2006) 1-4, on-line here.

  • John Beal, "Holy Communion and unholy politics", America (21-28 June 2004) 16-18, on-line here; see also E. Peters blog post Fr. Beal's America article, (scroll to 18 Jun 2004).

  • Raymond Burke, “Prophecy for Justice”, America 190/20 (21-28 June 2004) 11-15, on-line here.

  • Ignatius Gramunt, "Non-admission to holy Communion: The interpretation of Canon 915", Studia Canonica 35 (2001) 175-190. French abstract below.

  • William Smith, "Public sinners?", Homiletic & Pastoral Review 101/3 (Dec 2000) 72-74.

  • Edward Peters, “Denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians”, Homiletic & Pastoral Review 91/1 (October 1990) pp. 28-32, 48-49, on-line here.

Part Five

Dr. Peters' Blog Discussions of Canon 915

  • Compared to Malta the Germans seem restrained, emphasis on 'seem' (2 Feb 2017)

  • Maybe 'adjusting' Canon 915 is not such a good idea after all (25 Jan 2017)

  • Three ways to not deal with Canon 915 (24 Jan 2017)

  • Discussing law with people who don't know what it actually says (16 Jan 2017)

  • The Maltese disaster (13 Jan 2017)

  • Is Keller's essay really the way Amoris should be read (7 Jan 2017)

  • On the Buenos Aires directive (13 Sep 2016)

  • If even Protestants think the time has come (12 Aug 2016)

  • Some canonical thoughts on VP Biden's recent deed (3 Aug 2016)

  • The law before 'Amoris' is the law after (10 Apr 2016)

  • Clergy have consciences, too (12 Dec 2015)

  • A license to sin (24 Nov 2015)

  • CDF is even more correct than people realize (14 Nov 2014)

  • Say it's so, Joe, say it's so (16 Oct 2014)

  • Bp. Tobin's thoughtful column deserves some thoughtful replies (17 Sep 2014)

  • These day it helps to be from Missouri (14 Apr 2014)

  • Today, normal is newsworthy (4 Apr 2014)

  • The human price of theological chatter (24 Feb 2014)

  • A brief note on Cuomo and Communion (19 Feb 2014)

  • Nancy Pelosi will not change on her own (20 Mar 2013)

  • Remarks on the Catholic Standard editorial (3 Mar 2012)

  • A thought exercise occasioned by the lesbian/Communion controversy (1 Mar 2012)

  • Note on the lesbian Communion case (29 Feb 2012)

  • Does the pope favor admitting divorced-and-remarried Catholics to Communion? (27 Feb 2012)

  • Nancy Pelosi deserves to be taken seriously. Very seriously (7 Feb 2012)

  • A reply to Fr. William J. O’Malley’s comments on Canon 915 (1 July 2011)

  • Questions over Canon 915 are not going away (28 June 2011)

  • What canonical consequences might Andrew Cuomo face now? (26 Jun 2011)

  • Reprise of the Cuomo-Communion Controversy (11 May 2011)

  • Communion, Canon Law, and Pastoral Practice (11 Mar 2011)

  • (Holy) Wars and Rumors of (Holy) Wars in the tabloid press: such things must happen (5 March 2011)

  • Is the Cuomo-Communion case about conduct, law, or lawyers? (2 Mar 2011)

  • Again re Winters and Canon 915 (28 Feb 2011)

  • Brief reactions to Fr. Reese's characterizations of my position on Canon 915 (27 Feb 2011)

  • Michael Sean Winters' column “Peters v. Cuomo”: a reply (25 Feb 2011)

  • My brief replies to Albany's brief response (23 Feb 2011)

  • Andrew Cuomo and holy Communion: the CNS interview (21 Feb 2011)

  • Cuomo’s concubinage and holy Communion (4 Jan 2011)

  • One canon 915 case at a time: Nancy Pelosi (25 Mar 2010)

  • Abps. Dolan and Listecki on holy Communion for pro-aborts (12 Mar 2010)

  • Bp. Tobin, Rep. Kennedy, and Holy Communion: First question (22 Nov 2009)

  • Some thoughts on Abp. Sheehan's recent comments regarding Eucharistic discipline (28 Aug 2009)

  • A response to Abp. Wuerl's claims that canon law supports inaction in regard to Pelosi (7 May 2009)

  • Abps. Wuerl (c. 916) & Burke (cc. 915-916) on admission to Communion (31 Mar 2009)

  • The Pewsitter Petition on Canon 915 (19 Feb 2009)

  • Canonical options for dealing with Catholic legislative support for FOCA (23 Nov 2008); also in French, Respublica Christiana 1 (Jul-Sep 2009) 66-67.

  • Bp. Kicanas on Catholic pro-abortion politicians (14 Oct 2008)

  • About Biden, let's ask the right questions well (23 Aug 2008)

  • Was Prof Douglas Kmiec really denied Communion? (16 May 2008)

  • Staunching the wound of Bleeding Kansas (10 May 2008)

  • Four cheers for New York's Cardinal Egan (28 Apr 2008)

  • Letter to the Ottawa Citizen re Abp. Prendergast (12 Mar 2008)

  • Civility, yes, but fairness and accuracy too (8 Nov 2007)

  • In re the Eucharist: Cdl. McCarrick vs. Abp. Burke (15 Oct 2007)

  • Abp. Raymond Burke on Canon 915 (10 Sep 2007)

  • Well, since you asked, Yes, pro-abortion Catholics are still Catholic (27 May 2007)

  • Memo to Frances Kissling: Find a new canonist (22 May 2007)

  • Toward clarity on abortion, excommunication, and the Eucharist (16 May 2007)

  • A primer for those who prefer knowing to opining (11 May 2007)

  • Legislating in mid-air? First thoughts: possible, but not likely (19 May 2007)

  • Denial of Communion to a lesbian couple (9 Apr 2007)

  • Denial of Communion is not Excommunication (16 Jan 2007)

  • Fr. Beal's America article, (scroll to 18 Jun 2004)

  • The Cardinal and the Canons (scroll to 18 May 2004)

  • Getting the details and the big picture right (scroll to 8 Oct 2003)

  • Pro-Life bishops vs. pro-abortion politicians (scroll to 4 Oct 2004)

Some other blogs wherein I have posted comments related to Canon 915 include:

Part Six

Other Items

  • J. Zuhlsdorf, Nancy Pelosi (7 Feb 2012)

  • P. Lawler, Canon 915 comes first (1 Mar 2011)

  • J. Boyle, Communion, Cuomo, Bishop Hubbard, Peters, (28 Feb 2011)

  • E. Peters, Cybercast News interview re Andrew Cuomo and Communion (21 Feb 2011)

  • V. Bertrand, Priest-canonist supports Bp. Tobin in Kennedy flap (25 Nov 2009)

  • D. Hudson, Closing Ranks on Canon 915, (30 Mar 2009) on-line here.

  • C. Brugger, Denying Pro-Abortion Politicians Holy Communion (Dec 2008) on-line here.

  • E. Peters, The case for applying Canon 1398 to politicians is very weak (30 May 2007)

  • E. Peters, Since when is Rudy Giuliani excommunicated? (15 Mar 2007)

  • E. Peters, Alzheimer's, the Eucharist, and The God Squad (7 Mar 2007)

  • American Life League, Petition asks bishops to hold politicians accountable (2 Feb 2007); and J. Buckley, Catholic Teaching - Canon 915 (no date)

  • E. Peters, Excommunication for deliberate embryo destruction? (29 Jun 2006)

  • C. Wilson, Pro-Abortion Catholic Politicians: Another Approach, Christifidelis 22/1 (19 Mar 2004) 1, 7-8, on-line here.

Advisory Opinion

Edward Peters, "Withholding of Holy Communion by Extraordinary Minister",

2008 Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions 80-83.


Canons 230 and 915


Withholding of Holy Communion by Extraordinary Minister


Under what conditions, if any, may extraordinary ministers withhold Holy Communion? (1) My roommate regularly lets her boyfriend spend the night with her in our apartment. I have objected to this behavior, and have been told to mind my own business. If she comes to me for Holy Communion on Sunday, must I give it to her knowing what I do about her conduct? (2) A prominent, pro-abortion Catholic politician belongs to our parish. I am very uncomfortable giving him Holy Communion. May I withhold it?  (3) A man with an obscene tattoo came to me for Holy Communion. When I saw it, I told him to cover it up. He did, and I gave him Holy Communion. Later I wondered whether I had any right to say anything, but I also wondered whether I should have given Holy Communion to him knowing what I did about what was under his shirt sleeve. Can you advise?




Analysis of these three questions turns primarily on Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law: “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.” Nothing in this (or any other) canon exempts extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion from the duty incumbent upon all ministers of the Eucharist to protect the Blessed Sacrament from objectively scandalous or sacrilegious reception. Put another way, extraordinary ministers are responsible before ecclesiastical authority, and eventually before God, for their administration of Holy Communion. That said, however, extraordinary ministers are unlikely to know what canonists take for granted, namely, that Canon 915, even though it is a sacramental disciplinary norm and not penal law, requires a very careful reading for proper application. Huels, CLSA New Comm 1110-1111. We begin with an overview of the rights of the faithful in regard to the reception of the sacraments in general and the Eucharist in particular.


A complex of canons upholds the faithful’s fundamental right to receive the sacraments. Canon 213 asserts the right of the faithful “to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word [81] of God and the sacraments”; Canon 843 § 1 forbids ministers (including extraordinary ministers) from withholding sacraments from those “who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them;” and Canon 912 states that “any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.” Moreover, Canon 18 requires that any law that restricts the exercise of rights (as Canon 915 certainly does) be strictly interpreted, that is, that the restrictions be construed as narrowly as reasonably possible. Considered individually or as a group, then, these are strongly pro-reception norms.


Turning to Canon 915, and prescinding from the rarely encountered excommunication and interdict situations and from cases wherein a bishop or pastor has made a specific determination, we see that four distinct conditions must be simultaneously satisfied before any minister of Holy COmmunion, ordinary or extraordinary, may withhold the Eucharist from a member of the faithful; indeed, verification of these four conditions directs withholding of the Eucharist. To occasion withholding the Eucharist under Canon 915, the conduct in which a would-be communicant perseveres must be:  (1) obstinate, (2) manifest, (3) grave, and (4) sinful. Let’s look at these requirements in reverse order.


Sinful. To be “sinful”, one’s behavior must be objectively contrary to the dictates of faith or morals. CCC 1849-1853. Conduct that is offensive, irritating, distasteful, and so on, might or might not be sinful, yet, as the legislative history of Canon 915 makes clear, only sinful behavior triggers consequences for reception. Peters, Incrementa in Progressu 837. Canon 915 does not demand verification that would-be recipients are subjectively guilty for sinful behavior before withholding Holy Communion  (canon law hardly expects ministers to read souls), but it does set out that one’s conduct must be sinful in the eyes of the Church (not necessarily those of the minister in question) to justify withholding the Eucharist. While extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are likely to have some sense as to what kinds of behavior are “sinful”, they are unlikely to have the background necessary for illuminating factually close cases.


Grave. Having established that conduct must be sinful to render one potentially liable to the withholding of Holy Communion, the conduct in question must be gravely sinful. CCC 1854-1864.  The requirement of “gravity” is an amplification of the requirement of “sinfulness” that serves to underscore that one’s behavior must be [82]  seriously disruptive of ecclesiastical or moral order to justify the withholding of Holy Communion. Again, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not likely to be in a good position to make these kinds of judgments on their own.


Manifest. The additional requirement that gravely sinful behavior be manifest prior to withholding the Eucharist distinguishes Canon 915, which operates in realm of public order, from Canon 916, which informs one’s personal responsibility to receive the Eucharist worthily. Reception of Communion at Mass is a public action in service to rendering liturgical worship to God; it is not the place for the proclamation of behavior. However sinful, conduct that is not already widely known in the community is not manifest. In something of a parallel to Canon 1340 § 2 (which prohibits imposing public penances for occult transgressions) and Canon 1330 (which prohibits penalties in cases where no one has perceived the offense) the withholding of the Eucharist for little known sins, though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law.


Obstinate. As a final protection against arbitrary denial of the Eucharist, Canon 915 demands that even those who are in manifest grave sin be in such a state obstinately, that is, that they remain in their sin notwithstanding genuine efforts to warn them of the spiritual dangers they face and after they have been given a suitable time to repent. In most cases, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion would not be privy to these kinds of outreach efforts which, assuming they have even taken place, would almost certainly be conducted at a higher level of ecclesiastical administration. This is not to argue that Holy Communion may be withheld only consequent to a direct exchange between ecclesiastical authority and an alleged public sinner, nor that a pre-determined time for repentance must always be given. It is only to argue that, unlike pastors or bishops, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not usually in a position to assess accurately how the requirement of “obstinacy” might have been satisfied in a particular case.


Now, returning to the first two cases proposed above, it is easy to see how the first (that wherein the roommate’s sexual behavior is at odds with the demands of Christian chastity) does not justify the withholding of Holy Communion, for the conduct is not “manifest” to the community. The second case (that of the pro-abortion politician) does not justify an extraordinary minister withholding Holy Communion because he or she cannot determine whether the particular politician’s stance (which itself might or might not be “sinful”) is canonically “obstinate”. The third case, however, (that of the obscene tattoo) requires more attention.


Canon 915 is drafted in a way that seems to assume that ministers of Holy Communion will have sufficient time and the information necessary to reach conclusions about administration of the sacrament. But sometimes, life is not [83] so cooperative; sudden, on-the-spot decisions might need to be made regarding one’s eligibility to receive Holy Communion. The most likely way this question will present itself is in regard to deportment or dress. For example, a neo-Nazi, in brown shirt with swastika armband, may appear one day in the Communion line; a woman dressed in a way that, according to prevailing social norms, seems intended to provoke sexual arousal in men, may present herself for the Eucharist; activists for causes at odds with Church teaching might wear distinctive garb or accouterments as a way to imply their right to Holy Communion despite their ecclesially contrarian stances. In each of these cases, it is likely (and indeed, it may even been intended) that a minister of Holy Communion will have little time to reflect on the situation and make an informed decision.


It would easy, and I think defensible, to fall back on the analysis offered above and conclude that a minister’s lack of certitude about, say, a subject’s degree of obstinacy justifies the administration of Holy Communion under such circumstances. But a good case can be made for exactly the opposite response as well. How so?


In the cases described, a suddenly-confronted minister has only the information (here, based on dress, but other examples such as offensive speech are not unknown) presented to him or her. Now, in a free society, deportment and dress are determined largely by individual choices; thus, demonstrative or provocative dress may be assumed to be expressive of one’s beliefs, and in many cases, the content of those beliefs can be assessed by adult Catholics as being inconsistent with ecclesial good order. Thus, in the few seconds a minister has to evaluate the individual message being sent by dress and demeanor, and recalling that all ministers are responsible for the protection of the Eucharist entrusted to them, the decision to withhold Holy Communion might well be the prudent choice. Applying to this cases of the extraordinary minister confronted by a man with an obscene tattoo, I believe that the minister was correct to direct the covering of the tattoo (which had the effect of making the symbol no longer a projection of the individual’s current attitudes) and that when such was done, Holy Communion could be licitly administered. Had the would-be recipient refused to cover the obscenity, I think the minister would have been justified in withholding Holy Communion.


Edward N. Peters, J.D., J.C.D.


Full citations: Edward Peters, Incrementa in Progressu 1983 Codicis Iuris Canonici: A Legislative History of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (Wilson & Lafleur, 2005); J. Beal, et al., eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press, 2000).


Gramunt Abstract

Ignatius Gramunt, "Non-admission to holy Communion: The interpretation of Canon 915",

Studia Canonica 35 (2001) 175-190. English article, French abstract.


Plusieurs opinions contrastantes ont été émises au cours des dernières années quant à l'accès à la sainte communion pour les divorcés remariés. L'A. revoit ici les normes gouvernant cette question épineuse en se basant, en premier lieu, sur l'interprétation de la loi à partir du droit divin (positif et naturel) et du droit humain dans l'Église. Il rappelle que seul le Magistère peut interpréter authentiquement le droit divin positif. À partir de ces considérations, un retour sur la théologie et la discipline sur lesquelles s'appuie le canon 915 rappelle que les normes restrictives s'adressent aux ministres de la communion et en donne les critères d'application. Il cite quelques écrits récents du Magistère réitérant l'interdiction aux divorcés remariés et en exposant les assises théologiques. Étant donné le remous entourant la réception de ces normes, la Commission pontificale pour l'interprétation des textes législatifs émettait une déclaration le 24 juin 2000 à l'effet que le canon 915 trouve son origine dans le droit divin dont personne ne peut dispenser et en répétait les principes fondamentaux: l'obstination persistante et manifeste dans un péché grave. Dans un souci pastoral, le refus public du sacrement est à être évité. La solution de for interne ne peut en réalité être acceptée car elle équivaudrait à une exception à la loi de l'indissolubilité. Ainsi, le mariage étant une réalité publique, la nullité en conscience d'un premier mariage ne peut être acceptée. L'A. termine en invitant, comme le font les documents du Magistère, à la charité envers toutes les personnes en situation pénible sans pour cela oublier la fidélité due à la doctrine de l'Église.