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The question of whether a priest should ever withhold communion from a Catholic has become the subject of heated debate in recent years. Some believe that priests should deny communion to prominent politicians due to their stance on certain issues, especially the legality of abortion. Others argue that no one who is baptized into the faith should ever be denied communion, since the sacraments should not be weaponized, and humans should not attempt to control divine grace.
Catholics believe that once a priest consecrates the bread and wine it becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity.” In the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:56).
The Catholic Church teaches that those who are in a state of grave sin should not receive communion until they have gone to confession and received absolution. But to be cut off from communion is to be cut off from divine grace. This is why denying a Catholic communion is a serious matter. It is not merely a gesture of disapproval. It has profound theological and spiritual significance.
On today’s episode of Glad You Asked, hosts Emily Sanna and Rebecca Bratten Weiss talk to Claretian Father Paul Keller about whether a priest should ever refuse to give communion to a Catholic. Keller is a frequent contributor to U.S. Catholic on issues relating to pastoral ministry, public policy, theology, and ethics.
You can learn more about this topic in these links.
- “Can a priest withhold communion from a Catholic?” by Father Paul Keller, C.M.F.
- “A case study in communion for the divorced/remarried,” by Father Paul Keller, C.M.F.
- “The Reception of Holy Communion at Mass,” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- “Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops About Denying Communion To Supporters Of Abortion Rights,” by Sylvia Poggioli
- “San Francisco archbishop denying Pelosi Communion over abortion rights,” by Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis
- “Pastor’s denial of Eucharist to Biden stirs up recurring debate,” by Peter Feuerherd
Glad You Asked is sponsored by the Claretian Missionaries.