A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

Excommunication - Contempt of Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, 9 JUL 1999 (ZENIT)

Made public yesterday was a note from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, signed by council president, Archbishop Julian Herranz, regarding the authentic interpretation of canons dealing with the care of the Most Holy Eucharist.

In the note, Archbishop Herranz recalls that the Eucharist is the center and root of the life of the Church. Consequently, "we can understand the care and commitment taken by the pastors of the Church so that this invaluable gift of God be deeply and religiously loved, safeguarded and surrounded by that cult which expresses, in the best way possible within human limits, faith in the real presence of Christ - blood, body, soul and divinity - under the species of bread and wine, even after the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice."

In contrast to this veneration of the Eucharist, cases exist "not only of deplorable disciplinary abuses, but even of acts of contempt and profanation by individuals who, almost diabolically inspired, presume to thus oppose that which is most sacred for the Church and the faithful, and what they most protect, adore and love."

After referring to acts "of hatred for and offense against the Holy Sacrament" that constitute "a very grave moral fault of sacrilege," Archbishop Herranz indicates that "in certain cases these acts of sacrilege constitute genuine and authentic crimes, according to the canons of ecclesiastical legislation."

The text of Canon 1367 of the C.I.C. reads as follows: "A person who throws away the consecrated species or who takes them or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if a cleric, he can be punished with another penalty including dismissal from the clerical state."

With regard to abuses against the species of bread and wine, the following doubt was expressed: "Whether in Canons 1367 of the C.I.C. and 1442 of the C.C.E.O. (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches), the word 'abicere' is to be understood or not as the act of throwing away." The Fathers of the pontifical council have replied: "Negatively and 'ad mentem.' "

They explain that the "mente" of the Canon is "Any voluntary action that is gravely contemptuous must be included in the word 'abicere.' "

"The verb 'abicit'," adds Archbishop Herranz, "must not only be understood in the strict sense of 'to throw away,' nor even generically in the sense of 'to profane,' but rather in the broader meaning of 'to have contempt for, to despise, to humiliate.' Consequently, a grave act of sacrilege against the Body and Blood of Christ is committed by anyone who takes and/or retains the sacred species for sacrilegious ends (obscene, superstitious or impious) or by anyone who, even without removing it from the tabernacle, the monstrance or the altar, makes it the object of any external voluntary and grave act of contempt. For anyone guilty of this act the provision exists, in the Latin Church, for the penalty of 'latae sententiae' (automatic) excommunication, the absolution of which is reserved to the Holy See; and, in the Oriental Catholic Churches, for major excommunication 'ferendae sententiae' (imposed)."

Finally, the document recalls that "the sin of sacrilege must not be confused with the crime of sacrilege; not all the sins committed in this regard are to be considered as crimes. ... The crime of sacrilege that is being dealt with here, must entail an external act, though not necessarily a public one."

The Holy Father, in the audience granted to Archbishop Herranz on July 3, was informed of the decision taken by the council, confirmed the decision and ordered its publication. ZS99070907

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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