On Our Duty, Sins of Omission and Communion in the Hand


I was engaged in a lengthy discussion (ok - it was more than a simple heated argument) with a modern Catholic friend.

We touched on a number of points and a couple I'd like to bring out some issues that I think could have been explained better or in more detail.

This will probably be a long post, so bear with me!

Firstly, what is sin?  I know people who state "that's a big sin" for actions that ... well really aren't sinful. So We need to start off with an understanding of what actions are sinful.
Sin is nothing else than a morally bad act (St. Thomas, "De malo", 7:3), an act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law. God has endowed us with reason and free-will, and a sense of responsibility; He has made us subject to His law, which is known to us by the dictates of conscience, and our acts must conform with these dictates, otherwise we sin (Romans 14:23). (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The key element is in the first sentence, a sin if a morally bad act that violates Divine Law.

Secondly, while a person may commit a sinful act they may or may not be guilty.  This is because sin is in the will and you need to know that an act is sinful in order to be culpable.  This speaks to the difference between material and formal sin.
This distinction is based upon the difference between the objective elements (object itself, circumstances) and the subjective (advertence to the sinfulness of the act). An action which, as a matter of fact, is contrary to the Divine law but is not known to be such by the agent constitutes a material sin; whereas formal sin is committed when the agent freely transgresses the law as shown him by his conscience, whether such law really exists or is only thought to exist by him who acts. Thus, a person who takes the property of another while believing it to be his own commits a material sin; but the sin would be formal if he took the property in the belief that it belonged to another, whether his belief were correct or not. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Thirdly, it is a sinful act to omit the performance of a good act. This is a scary part of Catholic teaching.  The neglect of the good we ought to do is a way in which we can offend God.
"Omission" is here taken to be the failure to do something one can and ought to do. If this happens advertently (Tradical: in a deliberate manner) and freely a sin is committed. Moralists took pains formerly to show that the inaction implied in an omission was quite compatible with a breach of the moral law, for it is not merely because a person here and now does nothing that he offends, but because he neglects to act under circumstances in which he can and ought to act.(Catholic Encyclopedia)
Fourthly, we all have duties responsibilities to others - I think of it in a simple hierarchy:
  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Acquaintances
  5. Strangers
The lower a person is, the lesser the responsibility.  However, there is still a duty of charity towards our neighbour.
All our duties towards others are implicitly contained in Christian precept: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". God wills the welfare of all men; hence the obligation of making His will the rule of mine binds me to will their welfare, and to order my conduct towards them with a due respect to the rational nature which they possess, and to the obligations which that nature imposes on them. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

At the root of this crisis of the Church is the fact that Catholics are neglecting their duty.  From the Pope down to the laymen, Catholics are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

By way of example,  I mentioned to my friend that, as he has a strong relationship with another person, he has a duty to let him know of the issues surrounding communion in the hand and encourage him to receive on the tongue.

This is when things got heated.

On reflection, I think that my friend is mixing up means and ends.

While I was speaking about an obligation to perform an action - an ends, my friend immediately jumped to the means. The 'ends' is to help his friend cease to perform an action that is sacrilegious. 
Sacrilege is in general the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege.  (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Just a quick recap of why communion in the hand leads to sacrilegious actions in general practice:
  1. It is sacrilegious to mis-handle something that is holy.
  2. The Blessed Sacrament is Holy.
  3. Particles of a Host are left on surfaces after handling.
  4. Not taking due care of the particles left in ones hand after receiving communion according to the indult) is an act of sacrilege.
So the end is to help his friend cease to objectively commit a sacrilege, because by not purifying his hands properly after receiving communion in the hand results in the mistreatment of the Blessed Sacrament.

Courtesy of the Remnant

My friends reaction was ... significant in that he started to focus on means.  For me, as long as the means are licit and the ends are obtained, I'm not really to concerned.

The objective fact is that communion in the hand results in the deposition of particles (each of which is contains Our Lord Jesus Christ in Body, Soul and Divinity) on the recipent's hands. They have an obligation (even under the wretched indult) to take proper care of these particles.

The state of the person receiving communion in the hand is an entirely subjective. Meaning that it depends on the individuals intentions.  This is not the same as the 'intention' of a priest confecting a sacrament.  More on this later.

That is between them and God.

As a Catholic, I deal with the objective realities.

However, my friend seemed to jump into the millions of subjective possibilities with various examples of instructing another person.  Ok it wasn't millions, but they all exist and he provided about three or four analogies.

I don't know the core reason for his angst but we then embarked on a dizzying tour of issues.

This culminated in a curious statement concerning Daniel's reference (12:11) to the perpetual sacrifice. My friend seems to be of the opinion that if the local bishop order's his priests to provide communion to protestants (ala Germany etc), that would render the Masses invalid.  If this becomes wide spread, then the ceasing of the perpetual sacrifice would result in the apocalyptic scenario.

This comes down to the concept of 'Intention'.  Now, the architects of the Second Vatican Council and new Mass had the intention (aim or plan) to undermine Catholic Dogma, Doctrines and Principles.

This is a separate kind of 'intention' than when dealing with the valid confection of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. (see Tradicat: Form, Matter and Intention for collection of Church Teaching)

The intention of the Neo-Modernists to subvert the Catholic Church is not related to their intention as part of performing the Sacraments. 

Here is what the Church has Dogmatically taught concerning the intention of the celebrant of a sacrament:
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that, in ministers, when they effect, and confer the sacraments, there is not required the intention at least of doing what the Church does; let him be anathema. (Council of Trent: 7)
Further, the Church teaching is that if the Form is correct, then the intention is assumed.  This applies for the Sacraments in general (there are some specific details), including the Novus Ordo, Black Masses, etc.

If the Form, Matter and Intention are all in place, then the "Mass" is valid and Our Lord Jesus Christ is present.

This applies irrespective of the intention to commit sacrilege after the fact.

Again, before the Second Vatican Council, the Mass said was the Tridentine Mass said with the intention to 'do what the Church does'.  This is independent from their intention to change the Church to suit their beliefs?

Back to the means vs ends.

The prevention of objective sacrilege is a good end.  I believe it becomes is a duty when we can do something about it and bring about a the good end.

The means employed must also be good - in the case of explaining this to another Catholic, it needs to be done in the exercise of virtue. I am NOT advocating giving scrupulous people license (permission) to correct every person they meet.   I AM advocating that we employ the means that God gives us to help our fellow Catholics. These means include the words we use, the timing and Grace.

All of which God will provide in His Divine Providence.

We need to simply recognize the grace of the opportunity when God provides it, seize the grace and act upon it.


Further Reading:
1P5: The True Story of Communion in the Hand
Catholic Encyclopedia: Sins of Omission
Catholic Encyclopedia: Sin
Tradicat Series-Communion in the Hand 
Remnant: Communion in the Hand - The Floor is Stained with His Blood
Tradicat: Form, Matter and Intention 


Popular Posts