Fr. Jonathan Mitchican: Denying Communion as an Act of Love

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By Fr. Jonathan Mitchican, First Things, Nov. 5, 2019

Fr. Jonathan Mitchican is a Catholic priest in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He is Chaplain of St. John XXIII College Preparatory in Katy, Texas.

In 2004, I was an Episcopalian seminarian. During one class, I and the other students debated the merits of the rubric in the Book of Common Prayer that says a priest can deny Holy Communion to someone who is living a “notoriously evil life.” None of us felt comfortable with this authority. If someone desires Communion, shouldn’t we honor that impulse? Isn’t that what Jesus would do? To refuse someone Communion did not seem loving.

Then our professor told us a story from his boyhood. A priest in a nearby town had withheld Communion from a Ku Klux Klan leader who had refused to repent for his public racism and violence. The priest nearly lost the congregation over it, but he believed it was the right thing to do. When the professor finished this story, our privileged objections seemed silly. Fifteen years later, I am no longer Episcopalian—I am a Catholic priest—but I have never forgotten that lesson. ….