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Refusing Communion from Lay Minister

Refusing Holy Communion From Lay Minister

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"Recently while in the Hospital, a Eucharistic minister came to my room to administer Communion. I refused politely, telling her that I am a Latin Catholic person, and that only a Priest can give me Communion because his hands have been sanctified for this. Was I right?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

You are right to reject 'Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion' (they should NOT be called 'Eucharistic ministers'!) as evidenced by these quotes...

"To safeguard in every possible way the dignity of so august a Sacrament, not only is the power of its administration entrusted exclusively to priests, but the Church has also prohibited by law any but consecrated persons, unless some case of great necessity intervene, to dare handle or touch the sacred vessels, the linen, or other instruments necessary to its completion. Priests themselves and the rest of the faithful may hence understand how great should be the piety and holiness of those who approach to consecrate, administer or receive the Eucharist." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The dispensing of Christ's body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because...he consecrates as in the person of Christ. But as Christ consecrated His body at the supper, so also He gave it to others to be partaken of by them. Accordingly, as the consecration of Christ's body belongs to the priest, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him. Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people; hence as it belongs to him to offer the people's gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"It is written (De Consecratione, distinction 12): 'It has come to our knowledge that some priests deliver the Lord's body to a layman or to a woman to carry it to the sick: The synod therefore forbids such presumption to continue; and let the priest himself communicate the sick.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

Unfortunately, this novelty has been tolerated by the Church in various areas in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Concerning this matter, we state on our site...

"Note that (except in grave cases - e.g. danger of death without Viaticum) the Church has always reserved the handling of the Blessed Sacrament to the consecrated hands of priests (see here). Unfortunately, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the modernists promote the concept of lay persons (even women) administering Holy Communion in the Church. Besides the thorough inappropriateness of lay persons handling the Holy Eucharist (see here), such practices contribute to abuse & profanation of the Sacrament, usurp the priestly role, and may even endanger the eternal salvation of the sick person. And, sadly, this practice occurs at a time when the sick person is most in need of (and possibly most receptive to) a priest. Not only does the sick person encounter a lay person (that they might not even know) daring to handle Holy Communion, but his (or her) presence there serves to deprive him of the comfort of the priest (if the priest sends a lay person, the sick person will probably not see a priest unless specifically requested - something which the sick may not have presence of mind to do or might be to embarrassed to ask) and may lead his mind to various negative thoughts (e.g. "I'm not important enough for the priest", "the priest doesn't have time for me", etc.). Also, if lay persons bring the Sacrament, how can anyone ever be certain it is actually a real Eucharist? Anyone - for whatever reason - could bring a wafer of bread and act as if it was the true Eucharist. Clearly, the priest alone is the most likely person to ensure the Sacrament is the true Eucharist. Further, the lay person's administration of Holy Communion may also make it difficult for the sick person to distinguish the Real Presence ("since it is given by a lay person, how can I be sure it is really the Blessed Sacrament"?) - and thereby the sick person may make a sacrilegious Communion, leading to his damnation ["For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11:29-30)]. And if that wasn't bad enough, it should be noted that the sick person who is "passed off to a lay person" may be deprived of the other sacraments (e.g. Anointing, Penance) - which may be validly received only from the hands of a priest - when they are most necessary to his salvation. Further, even if the lay person distributing Holy Communion is in a religious order, he or she (even brothers and nuns) may be improperly catechized with regard to the Holy Eucharist, leading to profanation and sacrilege [In one relatively recent case, a lay person gave Holy Communion to an atheist, after being told that the person was a non-believer]. If one claims to love God and their brother, why participate in a practice fraught with danger to the Body and Blood of Christ and potentially deadly to the soul of his brother? Rather, if lay persons sincerely desire to assist priests, they should find ways to assist which don't involve handling the Holy Eucharist. Rather, they can find areas to assist the priest which will free his time so that he may perform the duties which are proper to his office."

[Ref. Holy Eucharist/Viaticum (see here)]

For more on the topic of 'extraordinary ministers', please see here.

Personally, if I was in the hospital and had full use of my faculties, I would want to tell the person I needed to see a priest. Depending on the circumstances (and after acknowledging what I would presume to be their good intentions), I might also be tempted to instruct them about the Real Presence, the use of a paten (which they seemingly never would have!), sacred particles they drop on the floor, reasons they should not perform this 'service', etc. This is a prudential decision that must be made by each person. If I thought my comments would make the person disagreeable to getting me a priest, I would probably just insist on seeing a priest right away and not offer the other comments.

Should anyone ever feel uncomfortable refusing Holy Communion from a lay person, they should remember...

* Lay persons should not be handling the Holy Eucharist. It is not your fault if you face this situation, as this is a situation which should not occur to begin with.

* Refusing Holy Communion from lay people is respectful of the Holy Eucharist.

* Your refusal may serve to educate others (even non-Catholics nearby).

Should you have concerns, I would mention that refusing Holy Communion from a 'lay minister' puts you in very good company. We personally know a faithful, holy priest (now deceased) who refuses to take Communion from laity (even including nuns). Use him as your role model. Get a priest instead.

Hope that helps.

God bless you.


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Other Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

Holy Communion (Topic Page)

Sickness / Illness (Topic Page)

 

  

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