Msgr. Charles Pope: U.S. Bishops Must Clear Up This Communion Confusion

If one in a state of mortal sin — no matter what the sin — has not sacramentally confessed and been absolved, he must not receive Holy Communion. There are no exceptions.

Judge Sara Smolenski, Chief Judge of the 63rd District Court in Kent County, Michigan, was recently advised by her pastor, Father Scott Nolan, that she should not receive Holy Communion because she claimed to enter into a “marriage” with a woman. He did this privately, but she chose to make the matter public. You can read the full story here.

The priest’s actions were certainly proper. Judge Smolenski’s civil marriage is a public act, and because she is a public figure her actions were widely known. For the good of her own soul, as well as to avoid the scandal of apparent approval, the pastor was correct in requesting that she refrain from presenting herself to receive Holy Communion. Judge Smolenski is certainly a public dissenter from the Church’s constant teaching that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman. There is also the reasonable public perception that she is engaged in and approves of illicit sexual union — in this case, homosexual acts.

As expected, there are charges that this action is targeting the “LGBT” community. Judge Smolenski herself says, “This feels like selective discrimination. Why choose gay people and why now?” However, the standard for worthy reception of Holy Communion applies to all. Neither heterosexuals in invalid marriages nor those cohabitating outside the bonds of marriage may licitly receive Communion. No one may simply go on living in an invalid marriage (adultery) or in cohabitation (fornication) and still be worthy to approach for Holy Communion. Fornicators, adulterers and those who engage in homosexual acts may not licitly receive Holy Communion unless (and until) they repent and receive absolution in the sacrament of Confession.

No one person is singled out, nor is any group singled out — chastity is required of all. There is no place for sexual intimacy outside of traditional marriage. There are no exceptions.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids issued a statement in support of Fr. Nolan’s actions. Included in it were these essential points:

As Pope Francis explains in Amoris Laetitia, ‘The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church. Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members.’ (186) Lifelong Catholics would surely be aware of this.

Inclusion and acceptance have been a hallmark of Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Grand Rapids throughout the diocese’s history. They remain so. They presume, however, a respect on the part of individuals for the teachings and practice of the wider Catholic community. No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members. This is especially so on matters as central to Catholic life as marriage, which the Church has always held, and continues to hold, as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.

It is reassuring to see the diocese defend Fr. Nolan. Not every priest who has risked denying Holy Communion has been supported in this way.

As usual, Father James Martin tweeted comments that merely serve to obfuscate the matter:

…Why are parishes focusing only on issues of sexual morality? Are there no other issues in the moral life? Are those who refuse to pay a living wage to employees denied Communion? How about those who do not give to the poor? Those who do not care for the environment?

An obvious answer to why parishes may be “focusing” on sexual morality is the epidemic of sexual misbehavior in our culture.

Read the rest at National Catholic Register



  1. Contact your bishop and respectfully ask him to publicly denounce Martin’s statements and bar him from presenting in your diocese.

  2. Contact Cardinal Timothy Dolan and ask him to cancel Fr. James Martin’s LGBTQ+ Conference in the Archdiocese of New York.

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