Everyone should be able to receive Communion at Mass, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has said, even as “there are some who quite comfortably think of themselves as worthy, while judging others to be unworthy.”
Speaking at Knock on Sunday afternoon he said “I would seriously question whether I as a bishop, or you as a member of the faithful, have any business in classifying any group of people as unworthy; cancelling the invitation issued by Jesus.”
The mission of the Church was “to bear witness to the love of God, made present in Jesus, and to make sure that everyone knows that there is a place for them at the table,” he said.
It was “the sacred responsibility of pastors to explain the teaching of the Church clearly and sensitively. It is for priests, in the privacy of the confessional, to help people to make an honest judgement of conscience. In the final analysis, it is the responsibility of each woman or man, to follow his or her well-formed conscience in deciding whether or not to come to Holy Communion. Nobody, as Saint Paul wrote, should receive the body and blood of the Lord unworthily. But nobody should stay away unnecessarily,” he said.
In the US, Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone has said he will no longer allow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi receive Communion in the archdiocese, of which she is native, because of her support for abortion rights. Last June, however, she received Communion in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
Last year US president Joe Biden, another Catholic who supports abortion rights said, after meeting Pope Francis in Rome, that the pontiff told him to continue receiving the sacrament even as debate continued among US bishops whether the president should be refused Communion.
Referring to the recent synodal process in Ireland, which led to the national synthesis submitted to Rome last week by the Irish Catholic Church, Bishop Doran said “many of us sat around tables with people we never met before, and had conversations such as we have never had before.”
The idea was “that by reflecting prayerfully in our hearts, by speaking honestly and by listening respectfully, we can come to a deeper understanding of what steps the Holy Spirit wants us to take to become more fully the Church that Jesus intended.”
During the synodal conversations “it became very clear that, for many Catholics, the Eucharist (or what we usually call the Mass) is essential to their sense of well-being, both socially and spiritually. It was equally clear, however, that many Catholics for various reasons, feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at the Eucharist.
“This is not just a problem for them; it is a problem for all of us, because without the Eucharist we cannot be one body in the way that Jesus intended us to be,” he said.
“The reality of Church in Ireland, much of the time, is of people walking away and the rest of us taking it for granted, or worse still, not even noticing. This first stage of our synodal process is about sitting up and taking notice,” he said.
“When the Eucharist is thought of as a prize, there seem to be winners and losers,” he said. He continued: “I want to be clear! There are times when a person cannot honestly accept the invitation to come to Holy Communion, because he or she has done something gravely wrong with full knowledge and full consent. Even then, the invitation is not cancelled.”
Frequently it was “the hope of returning to Communion that leads us to seek forgiveness. There are some who can be quite casual about coming to Communion, but there are others who judge themselves more harshly than Jesus would,” he said.
Last week Bishop Doran was singled out for praise by former president Mary McAleese for his contribution to the synodal process among Catholics across the island of Ireland . In particular she referred to the LBGTI+ focus group in his diocese which prepared its own uncompromising report, published with but separate from the Elphin report. That focus group report had since “gone viral” she said, while “its powerful voice drew particular attention in the national synthesis document”.
She congratulated Bishop Doran for his integrity in publishing that focus group report in its entirety, as agreed with its participants, and for ensuring it would go to Rome as written. “What he did was courageous in the extreme,” she said.