The Great Holy Communion Debate of 2021

In the Year of our Lord 2021, in the 8th year of the pontificate of Francis, many centuries after the reign of the last Roman Emperor, and half a millenium after the Council of Trent, in the far western reaches of the One Holy Roman Catholic Church, in a region known as the New World, and during the chaos which had consumed that Church for more than half a century since the close of the Second Vatican Council, a new controversy erupted among the bishops of that region.

It seems that the Caesar of that region of the New World stridently declared himself a Catholic of the greatest devotion, more than worthy of the title “devout.” However, certain bishops, who were apparently not aware of the pastoral presumption toward inoffensiveness holding sway in the Church in those days, decided that Caesar’s political positions and decisions were not in accord with the teachings of the Church: in fact, these bishops thought that Caesar typically acted in direct contravention of the requirements of faith and morals held to be compulsory by the Church. These bishops were particularly concerned with the Catholic Caesar’s adamant support of the malodorous practice of the taking of innocent life in the womb, a behavior tragically prevalent in that era, and they therefore sought to deny Caesar the reception of Holy Communion. One such bishop proclaimed:

“Persons who do not believe in the Real Presence, who ignore or do not accept Church teaching, or who are otherwise objectively in a state of serious sin, should not present themselves for Communion. It’s that simple and that serious. If they do, they not only put their own souls in grave jeopardy, but—just as grievously—they also violate the rights of Catholics who do seek to live their faith authentically. This Eucharistic discipline, the coherence of Catholic belief and the behavior it requires, is rooted both in Scripture and constant Church practice. It applies to all Catholics, not merely public officials, and it applies all the time and everywhere.” [1]

Other bishops, those who possessed greater social awareness and pastoral delicacy, and were wise in the ways of progressivism, demurred in making such a harsh judgment, and instead argued that the Church cannot be seen to be lacking in diversity, inclusiveness, and willingness to engage in dialogue. The One Holy Roman Catholic Church must be a welcoming Church, they said, accepting of many viewpoints, merciful, always willing to exercise restraint, and eager to accompany all, even those who find it difficult to accept wholeheartedly the authority of the Church. To bar the Catholic Caesar from Holy Communion would be to politicize and degrade the Eucharist:

“ . . . the Eucharist must never be instrumentalized for a political end, no matter how important. But that is precisely what is being done in the effort to exclude Catholic political leaders who oppose the church’s teaching on abortion and civil law. The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.” [2]

Even the Holy See intervened, warning the bishops that an extensive process must be accomplished prior to any exercise of authority on this issue:

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has urged the U.S. bishops to proceed with caution in their discussions about formulating a national policy ‘to address the situation of Catholics in public office who support legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils.’ Cardinal Luis Ladaria, congregation prefect, reiterated what he said he had told several groups of U.S. bishops during their 2019-2020 “ad limina” visits, namely that ‘the effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.’” [3]

And so it stands, a vexed question indeed, here in the midst of the Year of our Lord 2021. That which on the surface appears to be a straightforward matter of the simple application of the very most basic principles of the One Holy Roman Catholic Church, has instead been revealed to be quite a complex subject, one which must involve prolonged dialogue, dialogue which must even include those such as Caesar himself, who regrettably have fallen grievously afoul of the teachings of the Church.

However, quite unexpectedly, a solution has now unveiled itself from within the depths of Catholic history. We are often told these days that we must recapture the teaching of the Fathers, and we must get beyond the strict and uncompromising formalism, indeed rigidity, that had congealed in the moral teaching of the Church with the predominance of neo-Scholasticism prior to the Second Vatican Council. [4] And fortunately, it turns out that I have accidentally stumbled across a homily of one of the greatest of those Fathers, who has already spoken directly to this exact question, with the most lucid of possible explications. Without doubt, the Saint’s refined and subtle style, coupled with his nuanced approach, most certainly will accommodate the complex sensitivities of modern man. St. John Chrysostom has been down this road centuries before us, and as those who have admonished us to return to the Fathers have so presciently reminded us, that wisdom remains decisive and conclusive:

“Wither let there draw nigh none brutal, none cruel, none merciless in good sooth, none unclean. I speak to all that take that Holy Communion, and to you also, O ye that do administer the same. To you now I turn my speech, to warn you with how great care that Gift is to be given. No slight vengeance is that which awaiteth you if ye admit for a partaker at the Lord’s Table the sinner whose guiltiness ye know. At your hands will his blood be required. If a man be a General, a Governor, a crowned Monarch, yet if he come there unworthily, forbid him, thou hast greater power than he. To this end hath God exalted you to the honour ye hold, that ye may judge in such matters. This office is your dignity, this is your strength, this is all your crown, this, and not the going about in white robes and glittering vestments. And thou, O layman, when thou seest the Priest making the oblation, think not that He Which is then the real Worker is such a Priest as thou seest, but know of a surety that it is Christ’s Hand Which is stretched out, albeit unseen by thee.” [5]

Methinks we need not trouble ourselves any further with this matter. The Saint has made the answer clear.


1. Chaput, Charles J. “Making The Wrong Kind Of Mess.” First Things. May 20, 2021.

2. McElroy, Robert W. “Bishop McElroy: The Eucharist is being weaponized for political ends. This must not happen.” America Magazine. May 5, 2021.

3. Ladaria, Luis. “Cardinal Ladaria cautions U.S. bishops on politicians and Communion.” Catholic News Service. May 10, 2021.

4. White, Thomas J. “Inevitable Scholasticism: A Review of Introduction to Scholastic Theology.” First Things. April, 2011.

5. St John Chrysostom. Divinum Officium Matutinum, Monday in the Octave of Corpus Christi, 60th Homily, Reading 5.