Feeding the Hungry

A Look At The Communion Line

Whenever I read an article that advocates refusing the Eucharist to people whose public politics conflict with church teachings, it worries me. I find I have a lot of questions. Why, for instance, does the controversy seem to center only on one hot-button issue? I wonder, too, how anyone could possibly be comfortable making the judgment call on who gets served and who does not. Don't they worry about usurping the role of the One Who Alone Gets To Judge?

There's another thing that troubles me. I know that there are legitimate ecclesiological and canon-law issues surrounding the question of prochoice Catholics who present themselves for Communion. But as a pastor on the front lines, so to speak, I want to know what the proper etiquette is when denying someone the Eucharist. Do I simply shake my head and call out “Next!” like that Seinfeld character the Soup Nazi? Do I ask the uninvited to cross their arms over their chest and receive a blessing, along with my fervent prayer that they will one day come around to the correct way of thinking? Or do I just glare at them until they go back to their seat? What really is the proper way to withhold Communion? And will those church leaders who recommend awarding “refusal status” to some of my flock offer any practical tips to help me do it?

How did it all get this complicated? I remember the very first time I distributed the Eucharist, three decades ago. A first-year seminarian home for Christmas break, I went...

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About the Author

Fr. Nonomen (a pseudonym) is the pastor of a suburban parish. He has been a priest for more than twenty years.