Communion and autism

Communion and autism

The most recent media outrage at the insensitive, rule-bound Church in Phoenix came out of a story that an autistic boy was being refused First Communion because he is incapable of consuming it himself. Apparently the 10-year-old would receive the Host then spit it out because he didn’t like the taste. The boy’s father offered the “compromise” of letting the boy put it in his mouth, spit it out, and then the father would consumer it. Um, yeah, not showing the reverence due to the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Ed Peters looks at the situation from a canon law standpoint and says that while reasonable efforts must be expended to accommodate the special needs boy, there a limits to the accommodation.

But a clear canonical preference for sacramental access, augmented by the accommodations that special needs persons deserve, does not amount to a “reception under any circumstances” rule. There are other important values that need to be considered here, and some of these necessarily guard against the profanation (intended or not) of the Eucharist. Both the parents and pastoral ministers in this case have, it seems, sincerely tried to find a way to let this boy receive the Eucharist and avoid profaning the Host. Still, the bishop, among whose duties is to monitor the celebration of the Eucharist in his territory (See, e.g., 1983 CIC 389, 392, and 838), has determined that those efforts were not successful. That is a reasonable conclusion within the scope of the bishop’s authority.

Ed says that no one should doubt the good will of anyone involved in this case. I agree, except I might doubt the good will of the media outlet that apparently intended to use the situation in an inflammatory way against the Church.

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  • I know of a few autistic kids who receive Holy Communion. But with these kids it’s apparent they know they’re in church and they know Who they’re receiving.

    If the kid’s spitting out the Host, he shouldn’t receive communion.

    It’s a no-brainer, right?

  • Since we are good Catholics who believe that the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity are contained in either species, why doesn’t the kid just recieve communion from the Chalice?

    Also I don’t see how or why the parents think that putting the host on the Childs tongue constitutes recieving communion, the command was “accipite et manducate” take and eat (chew literally) not “accipite et gustate.”

  • Why not give him the smallest possible visible particle of the Host?  So small that he doesn’t perceive its presence?  Christ, after all, is fully in present in the smallest visible particle.  That’s why our priests are so careful (hint! hint!; nudge! nudge!) with their “crumbology”, as one disenchanted ex-seminarian from the 1950s put it.

  • The Arizona Republic has been after Bishop Olmsted’s throat ever since he privately reprimanded the 10 priests who supported the homosexual movement (the majority of whom are no longer in ministry) and ever since he has shown his support for the prolife movement here.

    May God abundantly bless the good Bishop!

  • “Why not give him the smallest possible visible particle of the Host?  So small that he doesn’t perceive its presence?  Christ, after all, is fully in present in the smallest visible particle. “

    To my knowledge, administering the Eucharist to those unable to perceive it is not our practice.  Does anyone have information to support Jeff’s suggestion?

  • Just reread Jeff’s suggestion and realized that he may not be suggesting “sneaking” the Eucharist in such fashion that the boy doesn’t know he’s receiving it.  Still, the linked article refers to administering the Eucharist to the comotose.  Anyone ever heard of this being done?

  • Yes.  I meant not that he wouldn’t KNOW of it’s presence, but that he wouldn’t sense it.  Give him a tiny enough particle and he wouldn’t be able to feel its weight or taste it at all.  Or so it would seem to me.

  • I understand, Jeff – thanks!

    Now, how about the reference in the linked article – anyone ever hear of this being done?

    “Rice said she never has seen a similar case. The closest would be people who are in vegetative states, in comas or near death. In those cases, a tiny flake of the host or a drop of wine often is given.”

  • The Arizona Republic takes every chance it can to take a swipe at Bishop Olmsted, as Brian said.  Another recent example is the Bishop’s recent statement on the pro-marriage amendment that may be on the November ballot.  The Republic only took excerpts from the statement.  Then two days ago on the editorial page they printed a letter-editorial from two liberal ministers in its entirety blasting the bishops and the Catholic Church (two other bishops signed it, also). The Republic is now owned by Gannett. It was a great paper while owned by the Pulliam family (Dan Quayle’s family).  No longer, now just birdcage liner.