The scandal that is eating the heart out of the Catholic Church in America
Monday, March 24, 2014 - By Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

Here is the text of Canon 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Several American bishops have made statements to the effect that a bishop must exercise “discretion” regarding whether to “impose the penalty” of denial of Communion. Among them: Chaput, Dolan, O’Malley, and Wuerl.

All bishops who refuse to “impose the penalty” are participating in a lie. Namely, that denial of Communion is a penalty.

Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty.

So? What is the import of this fact?

It means that denial of Communion is not an option that MAY be chosen. It is MANDATED by Canon 915. No bishop, priest, or other minister of Communion is free to disobey Canon 915, for the simple reason that the action Canon 915 forbids is ALWAYS gravely sinful.

It needs to be emphasized that Canon 915 is NOT a canon that may be “applied” or “not applied.” Canon 915 can only be obeyed or disobeyed. And disobeying Canon 915 is always gravely sinful.

Canon 915 exists precisely because giving Communion to a person “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” is always gravely sinful. Doing so is always to give grave scandal, and to participate knowingly in a sacrilegious act.

Let that sink in. Always gravely sinful.

In terms perhaps more familiar to the laity: To give Communion knowingly and deliberately to ANYONE delineated in Canon 915 is ALWAYS a mortal sin.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has been the most outspoken of those bishops who refuse to obey Canon 915, but all of them are on record, as he is, as endorsing the commission of MORTAL SINS by their priests and other ministers of Communion. Cardinal Wuerl has even punished those who have obeyed Canon 915.

Of course, this is something he has no right to do, because no bishop has the authority to command anyone to commit a mortal sin!

“Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.” Cardinal Wuerl and many other bishops have been doing PRECISELY what they are EXPRESSLY forbidden to do by this statement from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts!

They have also emanated specious arguments. Here are some of Cardinal Wuerl’s preposterous, irrelevant statements, made in these or very similar words:

That’s not my style.

I follow a “pastoral approach” rather than a “canonical approach.

”We need to find out if the canon was written for the purpose of bringing politicians to heel.

I will not deny Communion to anyone who has not been formally excommunicated.

Now, that is a stunning statement, because the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried are not excommunicated. Yet, does anyone doubt that, were Cardinal Wuerl to direct all ministers of Communion in his jurisdiction to give Communion to the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried, the news would flash around the world, and Rome would take action within hours?

But Canon 915 mentions no particular SPECIES of sin! That is, the KIND of sin in which a would-be communicant is publicly involved is of no account!

In other words, Cardinal Wuerl’s long-standing determination to give pro-abortion people Communion is precisely as outrageous and scandalous as would be a directive to give Communion to the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried. Yet, there is no evidence that this massive scandal has attracted the attention of Rome.

It is said by many, including Cardinal Wuerl, that Communion should not be used as a political weapon.

Absolutely true. And the reception of Communion is being used as a political weapon—by pro-abortion politicians. As long as they are permitted to receive Communion, the bishop (e.g., Cardinal Wuerl) endorses their claim to be “ardent Catholics” whose promotion of abortion is NO SIN

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the statements: You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. Cardinal Wuerl and other bishops appear to be relying on the truth of these observations. It appears that it has been left up to the laity to demonstrate the truth of Lincoln’s further statement: But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

If this scandal is to end, Rome needs to hear a great deal more noise from the laity. As Pope Francis told the youth of Brazil: “Raise a ruckus.” 

For further reading on Canon 915, please see the following links:


A native of Washington, DC, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fargo.


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prolife momma | 2015-03-26 11:30:25
Father is dead-on in this article! If every priest withheld the Precious Body and Blood from the scandalous pro abortion politicians, they would be following canon 915, and doing the souls of those obstinate folks a favor! Woe to the dissident priest that condones abortion by rebelliously giving the Blessed Sacrament out in such a spirit. 60 million butchered babies since 1973 legally and 1/3 estimated from Catholic women and girls. If every priest and the USCCB stood firm to the Magisterium there might perhaps not be such confusion in our Church.
Joseph A. Apicella | 2014-11-22 12:41:04
The individual Catholic can always use his conscience and is bound to follow it. When he faces God on judgment day he must take full responsibility. I can only assume these politicians are following their conscience.
jesusforever | 2014-04-10 22:38:04
As Saint Agustine (Church Father) said: "No man ought to sever himself from the unity of the Church before the time of the final separation of the just and the unjust merely because of the admixture of evil men in the Church". It is true that is becoming increasingly difficult for orthodox catholics to endure the apostates within the Church, it is also true that the final judgement and separation belongs only to the Judge of Judges. He better find us in His Church if we entertain some hope of salvation. All those bishops who hid pedophile priests and covered for them and did nothing to stop the abuses will have to answer to the Shepperd Himself, I would not want to be in their shoes, because even if Church justice fails here, all their evil works will be exposed and become clear as light, condeming them and thrusting them in hell.
Steve Jacobson | 2014-04-09 23:00:25
Speaking of Abraham Lincoln...Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has expressed support of a priest who refused Holy Communion to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who supports abortion. In a letter responding to a Springfield Parishioner: Dear Mr. [name redacted], Senator Durbin was informed several years ago by his pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish here in Springfield that he was not permitted to receive Holy Communion per canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law. My predecessor upheld that decision and it remains in effect. It is my understanding that the senator is complying with that decision here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Paprocki has been an ardent enforcer of the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life and marriage.
childofGod | 2014-04-09 19:08:41
Mere mortal - you left the church because of men. We stay in because the Catholic church has the fullness of truth, even when the mere men falter. Do some research - a fewer percentage were involved than any other 'profession' yes, it's worse because they are priests, however changes and protections for victims are being made. We cannot walk away from the Eucharist as the gospels tell us, many did.
Mary Beth Dixon | 2014-04-09 12:05:13
please give us good shepherds who will fulfill their sacred obligations and protect our dear Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of His love. the faithful,especially our poor children, are truly being scandalized by this and are being led astray. the thought of millstones and being thrown to the bottom of the sea is vivid in my mind.
Tom | 2014-04-09 11:07:36
They're receiving Holy Communion anyway. Excommunicate the priests who give them the Holy Species. Formally.
Meremortal | 2014-03-31 18:52:13
I was raised in the Church, 12 years of Catholic school, altar boy, Sodality leader and so on. I left the Church when it attempted to cover up the abuse of children by priests. How anyone can remain a member of teh Church at this time is beyond me. The hierarchy must be cleansed of corruption before I will worship as a Catholic again.
Magdalene | 2014-03-28 07:03:14
In fact Cardinal Wuerl has been rewarded and is among those who choose new ("pastoral"?) bishops and the holy Cardinal Burke was removed; he apparently was 'too conservative'. This, too, is scandal when prelates like this not only are taken to task for the scandals but rewarded. Yet, as mentioned, the priests that do uphold the Eucharist are punished.
THOMAS JOSHUA | 2014-03-27 15:08:34
i just published the link for this article on my website: LifeOfTheMotherOfGod.org, the Catholic Links page. Thanks for publishing it.
THOMAS_JOSHUA | 2014-03-27 14:43:32
kenneth m puleo | 2014-03-26 12:11:54
Lynda | 2014-03-25 20:30:21
Thank you, Father, for speaking the truth! It brings tears to my eyes to hear a priest speak the truth without fear or favour. How beautiful is the truth! How beautiful is the love of God who has provided the best means for our attainment of holiness and heaven through Holy Mother Church. Blessed Michael protect us in battle ...