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Non-Catholics and Communion
Question from Cheryl on 4/11/2013:

My sister passed away three years ago from cancer and is survived by her husband and 10-year-old daughter. My sister had a Catholic wedding and attended marriage classes. My brother-in-law is a Lutheran. I am a godparent to my niece and know my sister wanted her daughter to remain Catholic.

My question is this: My other brother-in-law became Catholic on Holy Saturday. My deceased sister's husband came to Mass and took Communion. I don't think that is right as he didn't receive First Communion through the Catholic Church. I don't want to alienate him but I'm wondering if I need to tell him that he cannot take Communion in a Catholic church.

I plan to talk to him about having his daughter enroll in religious classes this fall so she can be confirmed eventually. He does not go to church at all but reads the Bible at home. He doesn't like "organized" religion. My brother-in-law is still grieving from the loss of my sister so I am very careful about what I say to him. I don't want to drive him away from the church. Later this year, I'm going to suggest that he look into the Catholic religion and become Catholic.

Am I obligated to tell him he can no longer take Communion in a Catholic church? I believe he thinks because he takes communion in a Lutheran church that he can automatically take it in a Catholic church. My sister never told him otherwise (maybe she didn't know?).

Answer by Catholic Answers on 4/12/2013:

Cheryl--

After reading your story, I was reminded of a question-and-answer I handled last year. After looking it up, I believe you are the same person who asked that question.

Given all that you've said here and in the previous question, I can only recommend that you look the other way whenever your brother-in-law chooses to attend Mass with your family. The man is a non-Catholic, hostile to religion, and is grieving his late wife. And yet he has enough respect for and love for his late wife to allow you to continue playing an active role in your niece's Catholic formation, and you have reason to believe that he might be amenable to allowing the child to take Catholic confirmation formation. Do you really want to risk all that by telling him he should not receive Communion?

Yes, it's true that non-Catholics ordinarily should not receive Catholic Communion. But given your tendency toward scrupulosity over the matter, and given your responsibility to ensure your niece's Catholic formation, I urge you to let someone else be the one to talk to your brother-in-law about the matter. (I don't mean that you should ask someone else to talk to him. I mean you should let the matter go and trust that God will eventually send someone else to your brother-in-law.) If your brother-in-law approaches you with questions about receiving Communion, then show him the Communion guidelines that are printed on the inside front-cover of most parish missalettes.

Recommended reading:

BOLO: Patrolling the Communion Lines by Michelle Arnold

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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