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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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli