Canon 915 in detail

The authors of have collected some resources for the understanding of Canon 915, which states: ‘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’.

The reason for the attention to this text by the American website is in the first place the discussion about whether or not politicians who support, for example, abortion, should be admitted to Communion. It’s an issue that is very much alive in the Church in the United States, but many of the arguments and explanations also apply to other people who can’t or shouldn’t receive Communion. The Code of Canon Law talks about ‘grave sin’ in Canon 915, and doesn’t distinguish between the various sins there.

A very interesting and detailed resource.

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I'm a 36-year-old lay Catholic from the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. I write about the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. I not only enjoy bringing selected developments to the attention of readers, but I also think that it is sometimes important to allow a wider audience to read about the state of the Church in the Netherlands. That's why a fair number of posts about that topic will be translations of Dutch articles, episcopal writings and whatever else.

4 thoughts on “Canon 915 in detail”

  1. Thanks, it’s good to read the interpretations by the experts.
    I was surprised to read people who are persevering in manifest grave sin also shouldn’t go to to Mass, not only Communion (916).
    I wonder how that would or should be enforced, in the case prominent gay people like the late Pim Fortuyn (who was catholic) or Freddie Mercury – or am I to strict with the rules here?

    1. 916 concerns priests in a state of grave sin, not members of the congregation. Mass can and should always be open to anyone who wishes to attend.

      For a priests the same rules apply as for everyone else, but since he makes Christ’s sacrifice present, even acts in persona Christi in the Mass, they are ‘stricter’ than for you or me.

      1. Hi incaelo, thanks for your clarification, I indeed also thought Mass should always be open to anyone. I was perhaps reading it to literally here:
        “1983 CIC 916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord …”
        “Canon 711: A person who is conscious of serious sin is not to celebrate the Divine Liturgy nor receive the Divine Eucharist …”

        It is generally said: “priests celebrates the Mass”, but the congregation also “celebrates” the Mass and if so “A person” can also be read to be also a member of the laity next to priests? It is not made explicit, it says “a person”, not “a priest”. Why is this interpretation not correct, can you/someone help find the answer?

      2. I don’t think you can say that the congregation ‘celebrates’ Mass, at least not in English. Certainly, they actively participate (or they should), but they do not perform the actions at the altar; the consecration, for example, is not dependent on the congregation. That is not to deny the value or importance of the congregation, but a distinction must be made between what the priest does and what the congregation does.

        A priest celebrates or offers Mass, so when Canon 916 says: “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord,” it is clear that that person must be a priest, since no one else can celebrate Mass.

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