Archbishop Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer himself, has yet again shown himself to be a most effective and sincere shepard. Abp. Burke has illuminated Canon 915 pertaining to the denial of Holy Communion to those who obstinately persevere in manifestly grave sin. You can read the entire article here.
For those with less time…here are the conclusions the Archbishop draws (my emphasis).
First of all, the consistent canonical discipline permits the administering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion only to those who are properly disposed externally, and forbids it to those who are not so disposed, prescinding from the question of their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty.
Secondly, the discipline is required by the invisible bond of communion which unites us to God and to one another. The person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Thirdly, the discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.
Fourthly, the discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious matter. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under the discipline.
Fifthly, the discipline requires the minister of Holy Communion to forbid the Sacrament to those who are publicly unworthy. Such action must not be precipitous. The person who sins gravely and publicly must, first, be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion. The memorandum, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion”, of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in its fifth principle, gives the perennial pastoral instruction in the matter. This, in fact, is done effectively in a pastoral conversation with the person, so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict. It must also be recalled that (no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it); .
Finally, the discipline must be applied in order to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law. No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law. Confusion, of course, is one of the most insidious fruits of scandalous behavior.
I am deeply aware of the difficulty which is involved in applying the discipline of can. 915. I am not surprised by it and do not believe that anyone should be surprised. Surely, the discipline has never been easy to apply. But what is at stake for the Church demands the wisdom and courage of shepherds who will apply it.
The United States of America is a thoroughly secularized society which canonizes radical individualism and relativism, even before the natural moral law. The application, therefore, is more necessary than ever, lest the faithful, led astray by the strong cultural trends of relativism, be deceived concerning the supreme good of the Holy Eucharist and the gravity of supporting publicly the commission of intrinsically evil acts. Catholics in public office bear an especially heavy burden of responsibility to uphold the moral law in the exercise of their office which is exercised for the common good, especially the good of the innocent and defenseless. When they fail, they lead others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to be deceived regarding the evils of procured abortion and other attacks on innocent and defenseless human life, on the integrity of human procreation, and on the family.
As Pope John Paul II reminded us, referring to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Holy Eucharist contains the entire good of our salvation . There is no responsibility of the Church’s shepherds which is greater than that of teaching the truth about the Holy Eucharist, celebrating worthily the Holy Eucharist, and directing the flock in the worship and care of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 712 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches articulate an essential element of the shepherds’ responsibility, namely, the perennial discipline of the Church by which the minister of Holy Communion is to deny the Sacrament to those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.
God Bless Archbishop Raymond Burke!