USA Priest: Canon 915 Mandatory & Failure to Apply, Mortally Sinful

USA Priest: Canon 915 Mandatory & Failure to Apply, Mortally Sinful

To read the source of the following article, click on the image. All emphases in the original.

A Father Vincent Fitzpatrick, of whom I am totally unfamiliar, has penned a piece for the American Life League that castigates all that great swath of bishops in this country who, for more than 40 years, have refused to enforce Canon 915 by denying the Blessed Sacrament to sinful pro-abort politicians.  According to Fr. Fitzpatrick, enforcement of Canon 915 is not just a duty, it is not an option, it is so mandatory that failing to do so is gravely sinful.

ImageFr. Fitzpatrick (I add emphasis): Here is the text of Canon 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Several American bishops have made statements to the effect that a bishop must exercise “discretion” regarding whether to “impose the penalty” of denial of Communion. Among them: Chaput, Dolan, O’Malley, and Wuerl.

All bishops who refuse to “impose the penalty” are participating in a lie. Namely, that denial of Communion is a penalty.

Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty.

So? What is the import of this fact?

It means that denial of Communion is not an option that MAY be chosen. It is MANDATED by Canon 915. No bishop, priest, or other minister of Communion is free to disobey Canon 915, for the simple reason that the action Canon 915 forbids is ALWAYS gravely sinful.

It needs to be emphasized that Canon 915 is NOT a canon that may be “applied” or “not applied.” Canon 915 can only be obeyed or disobeyed. And disobeying Canon 915 is always gravely sinful.

Canon 915 exists precisely because giving Communion to a person “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” is always gravely sinful. Doing so is always to give grave scandal, and to participate knowingly in a sacrilegious act.

Let that sink in. Always gravely sinful.

In terms perhaps more familiar to the laity: To give Communion knowingly and deliberately to ANYONE delineated in Canon 915 is ALWAYS a mortal sin.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has been the most outspoken of those bishops who refuse to obey Canon 915, but all of them are on record, as he is, as endorsing the commission of MORTAL SINS by their priests and other ministers of Communion. Cardinal Wuerl has even punished those who have obeyed Canon 915.

Of course, this is something he has no right to do, because no bishop has the authority to command anyone to commit a mortal sin!

I believe he is absolutely correct in this.  Canon Law is Canon Law, and Canon 915 is crystal clear.  For a prelate to so fail in duty that he abrogates a very significant portion of Canon Law is objectively mortally sinful if only from the standpoint of the massive scandal it causes alone.  But add to that fact the reality that the Blessed Sacrament is thus received unworthily, and you add sacrilege and blasphemy on top of the grave scandal.  It seems a pretty clear cut case of objective mortal sin, to me.

Unless one wants to argue that our prelates are so badly formed they are ignorant of the nature of the Blessed Sacrament, scandal, sacrilege, and all the rest.  One might actually have an argument there, which is a scandal of the first rank in its own right.

But really, these men have been corrected so often on this matter, from above and below (including the relegating of then Cardinal Ratzinger’s instruction to enforce Canon 915 by Cardinal McCarrick to the memory hole), that claiming ignorance is to extend a charitable appreciation of the matter beyond the breaking point.

One more point from Fr. Fitzpatrick:

It is said by many, including Cardinal Wuerl, that Communion should not be used as a political weapon.

Absolutely true. And  the reception of Communion is being used as a political weapon—by pro-abortion politicians. As long as they are permitted to receive Communion, the bishop (e.g., Cardinal Wuerl) endorses their claim to be “ardent Catholics” whose promotion of abortion is NO SIN.

Again, I totally agree.  There is no question in my mind that it is the pro-abort sinners and their episcopal enablers who are politicizing the Blessed Sacrament.  They are also committing sins more severe than even the worst heretics of the past.

One sad fact is that the article lists Fr. Fitzpatrick as a retired priest.  Of course, no active priest could write a missive like this because they would be cashiered instantlySource


We’ve had this discussion before, of course, regarding the negligence of priests and bishops who refuse to enforce Canon 915. However, since the “chestnut” moral issues persistently present themselves as a challenge to the clergy and hierarchy, seemingly intent on keeping their heads buried firmly in the sand, it might be useful to give the subject another airing. Is Fr Fitzpatrick right in his claim that “pro-abort sinners and [the bishops] who enable them, are committing sins more severe than even the worst heretics of the past”? And what about “To give Communion knowingly and deliberately to ANYONE delineated in Canon 915 is ALWAYS a mortal sin.” – who are they… those (apart from pro-abortion Catholics) “delineated in Canon 915”?

Comments (29)

  • leprechaun

    Madame Editor,

    Before this thread gets to far under way may I ask you to clarify for my own enlightenment your statement that “Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty.”?

    I understand the word “penalty” to mean “a punishment for breach of law, rule or contract”, and the giving of Holy Communion to sinful politicians who are demonstrably pro-abortion is a breach of Canon Law.

    So in what way is the denial of Communion NOT a penalty? Personally, if I were to be denied Holy Communion for whatever reason, I should certainly feel that I was being punished – that I had incurred a penalty.

    It is relatively early in the morning and I may not yet be “with it” so I would appreciate your putting me right please.

    March 29, 2014 at 8:08 am
    • editor


      Firstly, it is not I who is speaking in the above article – except in the comment, typed in blue at the end. Fr Fitzpatrick is the author of the blog article, kindly emailed to me by Leo, for which sincere thanks.

      The point Fr Fitzpatrick seems to be making is this: Canon Law describes withdrawal of Holy Communion as a “penalty” – but it is not a “penalty” which – like most other penalties – may be applied or withheld at the discretion of those judging the case. In other words, Catholic Member of Parliament, Mr John Jones MP or Hamish McScunner, Member of the Scottish Parliament, is logged in the public record as having voted for abortion legislation or same-sex marriage. His priest has no option but to withhold Holy Communion. It’s not like a parking ticket, the penalty for parking in the wrong place, which we may appeal and which may be overturned, depending on circumstances – because it’s not intrinsically wrong to park in the wrong place. Human beings made that rule, not God. However, voting for abortion or living in a publicly scandalous situation which is, in fact, a counter-witness to the Gospel (which includes the teaching of the Church) means that the penalty MUST be applied, because it is God, not human beings, who “made those rules” to put it simply.

      I hope that clarifies. If not, remember, it’s (very) early in the morning for me, too 😀 I only found out recently that the day begins before noon…

      March 29, 2014 at 9:07 am
      • leprechaun

        Madame Editor,

        Thank you for making the distinction for me. Let the thread be spun.

        I see on this morning’s news that same sex marriage became legal at midnight, and that David Cameron (who is reported to have subsequently regretted pushing through the legislation) is now quoted as saying in “Pink News” that: “This week-end is an important moment for our country” – not half! Politicians of all major parties are reported to have hailed the change in the law.

        Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says that the Church of England will now drop its opposition because Parliament has spoken. Well, I guess that makes everything all right then.

        Point is, will Catholics who have contracted same sex marriage present themselves for Holy Communion and seek publicity for it, and will Catholic priests then deny them Holy Communion for being in breach of Canon 915 of Canon law? Or will those priests ask: “Who am I to judge . . . ?”

        March 29, 2014 at 9:32 am
      • editor

        Excellent post, Leprechaun. The “who am I to judge” is being quoted all over the place, as is “all you need is love” with no distinction ever made between ordered and disordered love.

        Folks are pretty quick to understand that paedophilia is disordered love, yet there is a growing movement, using the same arguments as the “gay” rights movement, to legalise paedophilia. If all that matters is love – no matter how disordered – then we can look forward to that scandal being the next milestone for the sex-obsessed minority groups. Bestiality rights is also a movement awaiting its day. Now that marriage has been redefined to suit one minority group, why not another… and another… Lock up your children – pronto! And your dogs! It will be amazing to watch “society” justify the legalisation of these evils, now that consciences have been further sapped by the same-sex marriage legislation.

        Priests are essentially weak characters when it comes to what they regard as “confrontation”. Very few, if any, will inform public sinners that they cannot receive Holy Communion. As a result of all the talk of pastoral care (falsely understood) priests think they are being charitable by turning a blind eye to the public scandal and not annoying the public sinner. Instead of saying politely enough and privately: “Church law requires me to explain that due to your publicly known situation, we are unable to give you Holy Communion. When that situation ceases, and you’ve received absolution, we’ll be delighted to restore the sacraments.” If they take offence and walk off, then the priest has to follow the example of Our Lord is John 6 when some of His disciples threw their rattles out of the pram and went off… allow them to go.

        March 29, 2014 at 11:33 am
      • catholicconvert1


        I think they only banned bestiality in the Netherlands a few years ago. There was also the ‘Paedophile Party’ that campaigned for (you guessed it) legalised paedophilia, porn of daytime TV and adult-child marriage.

        I for one am delighted that homosexual marriage has been legalised. It has provided an opportunity for me and my three girlfriends to get married (civilly of course- I wouldn’t want to take the Church to the ECHR). After all, marriage between two men has been legalised because of love, so why can’t I marry my three girlfriends?

        March 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm
      • Frankier

        You can’t marry your three girlfriends because your other girlfriends would object.

        March 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm
      • catholicconvert1

        Not my girlfriends!!!!

        March 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm
      • leprechaun

        Because you are not muslim – anyway, you need four of them

        March 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm
      • Frankier

        The story of the dog reminds me of the court case in Ireland only a few months ago where a man was charged for advertising the fact that his dog was available for sex to anyone interested.

        A woman replied, making a date for an appointment, and evidently
        died the day after having sex with the dog.

        The gentleman was found not guilty of manslaughter by the courts.
        Probably because the women used her own free will as well as the dog.

        I don’t believe for one minute that this was the only person who answered that advert and I’m sure it won’t be long now until this
        fine gentleman will be arranging marriages for his dogs and partners of both sexes.

        I read recently where Gerald of Wales in the twelfth century wrote:

        They live on beasts only, and live like beasts. They have not progressed at all from the habits of pastoral living. This is a filthy people, wallowing in vice. Of all peoples it is the least instructed in the rudiments of faith.

        It seems to me that Ireland has turned full circle, especially regarding the rudiments of faith.

        March 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm
    • Frankier

      A football team here was recently deducted points for entering administration.

      They are still complaining about being harshly and unfairly punished because of that points deduction.

      They were not punished, they only had the rules applied. I would think that anyone saying denial of communion was a penalty or some form of punishment was wrong in saying that.

      March 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm
    • greatpretender51


      This might help clarify also:

      (Just to give away the clue, “me” in the URL is short for “mercy” – so, it is not a punishment, according to Bishop Egan, it is an act of mercy.)

      March 29, 2014 at 11:16 pm
  • Graeme Taylor

    I remember the discussions of clergy when the Nuncio was in Scotland, so many of them said no the priests would not accept this one or that and that their views would be heard by the Nuncio. That period was an education for me and the we got ++O’Brien ( later made Card.).
    The priests were then very clear (about who they would and would not accept ) so are we to understand that they are just as clear about ignoring Canon 915?

    March 29, 2014 at 10:44 am
    • editor


      You highlight a key issue – pick ‘n mix “obedience”.

      The fact is that priests are routinely disobedient (e.g. following the bad example of their bishops in ignoring Vatican instructions on the liturgy ) and yet they will use “obedience” as their excuse (can’t disobey the bishop, the pope is different!) and then, as you say,blatantly threaten disobedience when it suits them.

      March 29, 2014 at 11:48 am
      • Graeme Taylor

        we need to beg Almighty God for bishops who are men of faith. Men steeped in prayer who will lead us out of this disaster.

        Thank you for your important work.

        March 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm
  • catholicconvert1

    I am delighted that this Priest has had the courage to speak out against the actions (or indeed lack of them) on the part of the mostly spineless US Bishops. In no other country has the Catholic Church been so riven down the middle in the culture wars, with many Priests and laity being in favour of abortion, ss marriage etc, with an opposing front of Priests and laity being diametrically opposed. These two groups hate each other, all the while their lily-livered Bishops sit twiddling their thumbs. Cardinal Burke was the only Bishop to enforce 915, and he said he would refuse Communion to John Kerry et al, and he would also refuse to bury Edward Kennedy. No denying that I’m a Cardinal Burke fan. He should have been Pope.

    March 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm
    • Josephine

      I agree about the priest, Fr Fitzpatrick, who spoke out but it does say in the article that he’s retired. The priests in harness just won’t break ranks for fear of what will happen to them – being sent out to the sticks, I suppose. That’s such a pity as it leaves us laity without leadership.

      I was a Cardinal Burke fan until he dropped out of the Pro Ecclesia conference in London after pressure from liberals. However, I admit that It’s good that he’s taking a stance on Canon 915.

      March 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm
  • Benedict Carter

    More evidence (as if it was needed). The Church is in full schism. Just that the schismatics haven’t left.

    March 29, 2014 at 4:40 pm
    • catholicconvert1

      An American Priest, Fr. C. John McCloskey III, a member of Opus Dei, once said if ‘70% of American Catholics support contraception and abortion, then they should leave the Church. We have a word for Catholics who oppose Church teaching- Protestants’.

      Never heard a truer word spoke have I!!!!

      March 29, 2014 at 5:38 pm
  • 3littleshepherds

    Cardinal Burke’s great strength is his love and defense of the family.
    I wish that he would consecrate the United States to the Immaculate Heart. The patron of the US is the Immaculate Conception and the US is consecrated to Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception, but since now is the time to ask graces through the Immaculate Heart it seems an easy remedy for a lot of problems. Please say a prayer that Cardinal Burke will publicly consecrate the United States to the Immaculate Heart.

    March 29, 2014 at 4:54 pm
    • catholicconvert1


      Can Cardinal Burke actually do that without Papal consent, or without the agreement of the other US Bishops? I too share your admiration for Cardinal Burke when it comes to defending the family, but I also admire him for celebrating the TLM, and for his closeness to the FSSP and the ICKSP. I received a personally letter from him. It was really moving, especially when he said, ‘I entrust your intentions to Our Lady of Walsingham, St. Joseph and St. Michael the Archangel’. A wonderful man.

      Whilst we’re on the topic of consecrations, do you think there is a chance of Cardinal Nichols consecrating England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart?

      March 29, 2014 at 5:44 pm
      • Margaret Mary

        Catholic Convert,

        I’m sure he could do that without papal consent but I can’t see God being very pleased about all these consecrations of various nations when the one he asked for is not consecrated.

        March 29, 2014 at 6:46 pm
      • 3littleshepherds

        Catholic Convert,
        I think it possible that any Bishop or Cardinal would do the Consecration. They need prayers and sacrifices to help them, some would need a miracle, but it’s true that some like Cardinal Burke have a love for Our Lady and that makes it so much easier.

        March 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm
      • 3littleshepherds

        I disagree and think God would be very pleased with any Consecration to the Immaculate Heart. In fact, after the Pope consecrates Russia I believe he will consecrate each country in the whole world. Cardinal Burke would definitely consecrate Russia in union with the Pope but he only has so much jurisdiction by himself.

        March 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm
    • greatpretender51


      Not sure about this, and I can’t find the answer on line, but I do not believe that a bishop can consecrate a nation by himself unless he is the only bishop of that nation. Typically that episcopal act is performed in union with all the bishops of that nation, e.g. most recently, the Philippines:

      March 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm
      • 3littleshepherds

        I know a Cardinal consecrated England during World War I, but I don’t know who joined him.

        March 30, 2014 at 12:03 am
  • greatpretender51

    Of the five prelates cited by Fr. Fitzpatrick (Chaput, Dolan, O’Malley, McCarrick and Wuerl), McCarrick and Wuerl are notorious homosexuals; Dolan is a buffoon who publicly approves of sinful disordered acts and whoops it up annually with Barack Obama at the Al Smith Dinner & Photo Op in New York, O’Malley is a liberal, and Chaput is no friend of Tradition. Good work, Father, you couldn’t have picked better targets to expose as utter disgraces…though perhaps you could have added Roger Mahony in there somewhere….

    March 29, 2014 at 11:25 pm
  • Leo

    Smoke of Satan alert

    Just how difficult is it for Bishops nowadays to figure out what Saint Paul meant when he warned the Corinthians about sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion?

    “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.”

    March 31, 2014 at 8:31 pm
    • editor

      I’ve just spotted this comment Leo – unbelievable. Who is this numpty Greg Pope, and who made him the Head of Parliamentary Relations at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (of England and Wales)?

      He has ZILCH authority to tell MPs to ignore Canon Law in ANYTHING!

      What an arrogant man. From what I’ve read on the Angelqueen link HE should not be receiving Holy Communion himself.

      Things are worsening by the minute, Leo. By the m I n u e t !

      April 4, 2014 at 12:05 am
  • Graeme Taylor

    how bad can it get when the “bishops” own (paid for by the Catholic peasants) spokesman talks for satan?
    Almighty God show us Your Mercy with a Damascus strike on these agents of the devil. Amen

    April 3, 2014 at 11:38 pm

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