Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ad sacram communionem ne admittantur: The Roman Ritual, the Pio-Benedictine Code, and Canon 915 of the Code of 1983

The first post on this subject referred to c. 855 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Pio-Benedictine). The language of c. 855 which requires that the minister refuse communion to public sinners was virtually identical to that of the Roman Ritual of 1614 published by Pope Paul V. (Rituale Romanum, Editio princeps (1614), ed. Manlio Sodi, SDB, and Juan Flores Arcas, OSB [Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican City, 2004]).

Archbishop Burke traces the development of the Roman Ritual on the administration of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He discusses the historical background of the canon from the origins in decretal law and the reforms of the Council of Trent. He then goes on to draw out the relationship of the ancient and traditional teaching to canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici [Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican City, 1983]) which states: “The excommunicated and interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who remain obstinately in manifestly grievous sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Archbishop Burke presents the conditions for exclusion from the sacrament and demonstrates with decisive authority why the minister bears the burden for the proper administration of Holy Communion and why in some cases the minister must refuse to give the sacrament.

The canonical discipline and the canonist’s explanation of the law given by Archbishop Burke is persuasive. At the same time, moral theology can help clarify the moral meaning behind the law in a way that is perfectly consistent with Archbishop Burke's expert legal analysis. Indeed, in order to fully appreciate the law’s instruction to the minister of the Eucharist to refuse Holy Communion to those who persist in manifestly grave sin, one must consider the principle of material cooperation mentioned in the earlier post. As we shall see, the law of the Church not only seeks to bring back an errant sinner, it protects the moral integrity of the minister. The sacred minister, like all others, is morally required to avoid evil including the participation in another person's sin. Since one who is known manifestly to have commited grave sin also commits a sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion, under most circumstances the minister is bound to avoid participation in that sin.

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