“Ask a Priest: What If Someone Isn’t Receiving Communion Worthily?”

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Q: This question has been weighing on my mind for some time. In my parish, there is a woman who committed adultery a few years ago with her neighbor. The situation is quite complicated, for this woman’s husband committed adultery with the neighbor’s wife. Consequently, both marriages ended in divorce, and this woman then married the man she committed adultery with. She has children by her first marriage as does the man she married. I am 99.9% sure that there has been no attempt made by any of the parties to have their first marriages annulled by the Catholic Church. She married her second husband in a civil ceremony only. This woman has participated in receiving Communion on every occasion that she attends Mass. Under Church law, she is committing a grievous sin by doing so. My question is this: Should I say anything to our parish priest, or is it on her conscience/soul the consequences of her actions, namely, taking holy Communion when she should not? It seems to me that she is either ignorant or acting in defiance of Catholic Church teachings. I am by no means without sin and realize I need to take care of the plank in my eye instead of concerning myself with the sliver of another’s. Please tell me what should I do — mind my own business? -M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is admirable that you want to see the fullness of the Church’s teaching on marriage, divorce and Communion lived out.

What is tricky, though, is trying to evaluate individual cases, for God alone knows the heart of a person. Especially tricky is the area of receiving Communion. Our first concern should be whether we ourselves are worthy to approach and receive the Eucharist.

A few observations might be helpful.

First, always try to assume the best of a person. It is not uncommon that we have incomplete information about other people. Enough said.

Second, if your description of the situation is correct, then the next question might be: Is the case well known in the community? If it is, then there is a chance of scandal if other people notice who is in the Communion line.

In that case you might be justified in approaching the pastor discreetly. But after you state your case, let the issue pass. It is the pastor’s prerogative to broach the matter with the woman. Whether he does or not, is his decision – he need not tell you of his decision. And if he does approach the woman, and if the woman is in fact in an irregular situation, then the next decision is hers. She will be responsible before God for what she decides. In any case you should drop the matter.

You might consider, of course, praying for the woman and all the people involved. You won’t go wrong there.

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