|Q: A question was raised by one of our Deacons. Here is the scenario; the Deacon is taking communion to the hospital and the person he visits is listed as Catholic. He identifies himself as a Deacon and he has communion if they wish. The person says they are Catholic but have not been to church in a number of years. |
I realize there are a number of circumstances or possibilities: Does the Deacon offer to have a priest come to hear their confession? Is the person willing? Is there time? What is their condition? Are they in the active process of dying? or just an overnight stay for testing?
Is a priest not available? Does the Deacon, out of compassion or “Who am I to judge” have him say an act of contrition (but tell the person HE cannot absolve them from their sins) but then give the person communion. Offer to pray with the person but deny the person the Eucharist.
Is the person looking to come back to active participation in the Church?Is the deacon acting out of the “Letter of the law” or the “Spirit of the Law” Then the follow up question is Does the answers change if it is a Deacon or a Lay Eucharistic minister?
Your guidance is appreciated.
A: You may need the opinion of a specialist in moral theology instead of me, but I would cite this from the Cannon Law:
Can. 916 “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.”
Of the options you list, leading the person in a perfect act of contrition is probably the best solution for any deacon or lay minister in the situation.