Q. My father is 86 years old and was raised in the Catholic Church. He was considered an intellectual and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy. He became a nonpracticing Catholic and in fact rejected the church, although he had a thirst for justice and continued to treasure the church’s teachings on human rights.
Now he has dementia and has begun to join me at Sunday Mass. Last week, he followed me up to Communion and received the Eucharist. I feel conflicted and am unsure as to whether I should encourage him to do this. Please advise. (Peachtree City, Georgia)
A. I would let your father take the lead; if he is inclined to take Communion, he is entitled to do so. Let me offer some background.
In the present-day Latin-rite Catholic Church, one must have the use of reason to receive holy Communion. (Eastern-rite Catholics are given Communion as infants, and this was also true in the early centuries in the Roman rite.)
In 1995, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a document titled “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities,” which included the following statement: “The criterion for reception of holy Communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture or reverential silence rather than verbally.”
Quickly that same document goes on to note that “cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament.” Since it likely is difficult to ascertain exactly what your father comprehends, I would award him the benefit of the doubt and encourage him to take Communion, if that is what he wants.
(Nor would I “grill” him on just what he understands the Eucharist to be; after all, how does it hurt anyone for him to be receiving reverently?)
If, on the other hand — and I have seen this on a couple of occasions in nursing homes — someone were to take the host in and out of their mouth repeatedly and not consume it, I would not offer that person Communion again and would simply give a blessing instead.
Q. Recently I went to confession because I felt that my big sin was that I had utter disdain for our country’s leader, Donald Trump. (Admittedly I am a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party.)
I told the priest that I had been so traumatized by the presidential election that I had become physically as well as emotionally ill — and that I had, in fact, been compelled to undergo a heart catheterization and an echocardiogram.
The priest proceeded to tell me in the confessional that my party had had its way for eight years and that it was the Republican Party’s turn. (He also said that I was being selfish.)
I have prayed about this and have asked God to forgive me. The priest absolved me from my sin, but I continue to be haunted by the whole experience. I would appreciate your thoughts so that I can put my mind and my heart to rest. (Illinois)
A. Assuming that you heard the priest correctly and have conveyed his comments accurately, the priest was out of line and I apologize on the church’s behalf. A priest — from the pulpit, in the confessional or anywhere as a public representative of the church — must take care to advocate only for issues and not be seen as endorsing or opposing particular candidates or political parties.
As for yourself, I’m not sure what you thought your sin was; people’s response to public figures runs the gamut and is not necessarily sinful. But your health should be your paramount concern, so maybe you need to shield yourself a bit from the daily avalanche of political news.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr. Albany, New York 12203.
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Penitent’s need for a heart catherization would more than likely have been
In process for a long time. That need did not happen over night. I think he was wanting sympathy for something that had nothing to do with the election. The timing just happened to work out that way.
The democrats were expecting to win and they did not. That was a shock for many. However, they have acted so badly and unfairly over the win. God is working with Trump in HIS own way. We need to pray for him, for our country,
and try every day to spread the flame of love throughout our country!
Watching the news can be upsetting in many ways. We see too much bad news. Trump has done a lot of good things in short time. God bless him.
Also, God bless this penitent now and always.
Was the priest out of line in saying “that my party had had its way for eight years and that it was the Republican Party’s turn”? This doesn’t sound like favoring one party over the other. He was trying to counsel the person to not take it so seriously. The Bible says to be anxious for nothing. This is sound advice.
Good point Peter! What you wrote: “He was trying to counsel the person to not take it so seriously. The Bible says to be anxious for nothing. This is sound advice. ” WOW– I agree. That the chairman of the Democratic Party said just recently that all Dem candidates ought to support abortion is one of the reasons I think practicing Catholics ought to leave the Democratic party.
Traumatized by the election? When else in history have you heard that? We need to help these “snowflakes” buck up” and face reality. Not everyone gets a trophy and there isn’t a safe place to go just because things don’t go your way. I believe in empathy but this is getting crazy. He should thank God he’s not a Coptic Christian.
AMEN Stephen! Great observation! How about we who had to endure the years of obama!??? It was horrible to see how he conducted his terms in office! AND–the first policy he GOT RID OF was the Mexico City Policy while the March for Life was going on! This policy required all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion services as a method of family planning with non-US government funds in other countries. obama overturned THE POLICY that so abortion services would FREELY continue. THANK GOD President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy!
When Obama defeated McCain I was beyond traumatized, I would sound hysterical and unstable to describe my horror fully, so lets skip that. At the time I asked God WHY would you let me suffer this horrible temptation to kill myself over something so in-passing and transient as my country turning to Obama for leadership! What Good could ever come from enduring such a horrible temptation ad that? 8 years later I now see the Good … namely that I can comprehend and empathize with those who feel so betrayed by Trump’s winning the country’s choice. Those who are so deeply troubled by Trump’s victory should be reminded that God alone is sovereign and we must sometimes persevere that which we cannot comprehend for God’s love and mercy to be seen more clearly in the long run.
Tough call. This election was one of extremes, vitriol, little substance, and half of voters were probably duped. Your advice was sound.