Unusual Canon Law Situations #1

by Jimmy Akin

in Canon Law

You may have heard about a case in the Diocese of Phoenix in which there is controversy over a 10-year old autistic boy’s ability to receive Communion.

The boy’s autism apparently causes him to spit out things with certain textures, and a typical Host has such a texture. Neither can he swallow the Precious Blood, according to his father.

The solution that the family has arrived at is for their son to receive Communion in the form of the Host and, after a few seconds, for the boy’s father to take the Host and consume it himself.

The family argues that this practice was approved by the diocese in Pennsylvania when they lived there, though this is disputed.

The matter was referred by the pastor of their current parish in Arizona to the bishop, who indicated that the family’s current practice could  not be approved but that the diocese wanted to work with the family to find a solution that would allow their son to receive Communion, perhaps using differently shaped Hosts.

Now the family is up in arms and the media has got the story.

GET THE STORY.

Fortunately,

ED PETERS OFFERS SOME CANONICAL COMMENTARY ON THE SITUATION.

This issue involves the intersection of three related fields: canon law, liturgical law, and sacramental theology.

I don’t have a solution on this one about what the law or theology definitely requires. It seems to me that the law is not designed to address this kind of situation and the matter may ultimately have to be decided by Rome if a mutally agreeable solution cannot be found on the diocesan level.

But let’s examine some of the relevant considerations that the involved parties (including potentially Rome) would want to consider.

Ed covers the canonical aspect, which centers on the boy’s presumptive (but not absolute) right to receive Communion and the bishop’s responsibility to enforce liturgical law and regulate the liturgical life of the parishes in his diocese.

Liturgical law is engaged on the subject of how Communion is distributed. Thus the General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:

161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely.

And the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum provides:

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

The Diocese of Phoenix has apparently appealed to these two documents in explaining the bishop’s decision, and these seem to be the two relevant passages.

You will note that the passage from Redemptionis Sacramentumdoes not specifically address the situation of the boy’s family. Since the father consumes the Host before leaving the presence of the priest "no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand." However this passage may contain a principle that the bishop is attempting to unearth and apply pastorally. (Or I may have the wrong passage; or the diocesan representative may have misspoken in referring to this document.)

The GIRM passage, however, does address the situation assuming that the word "consumes" has its usual signification, which would include not just placing something in one’s mouth but swallowing it as well.

But is that what is meant in this passage? It seems that a case can be made that what the text means is that the communicant is to put the sacred species entirely into his mouth. It doesn’t mean that he has to swallow it immediately after receiving it. If he allows it to dissolve in his mouth, or if he waits to chew and swallow until the host is softened and he is back in his seat, that is permitted (it could be argued) by this passage. So "consume" may not entail swallowing in this passage.

Certainly, by parallel, the passage in Redemptionis Sacramentum does not mean that the communicant must swallow the sacred species in the presence of the priest. It just means he has to put them in his mouth.

There’s also a dimension of this that goes beyond the law and engages sacramental theology:

What does it mean to receive Communion?

Jesus told the apostles to "take and eat" the species, and eating normally involves swallowing. But is swallowing the species necessary to receive Communion in all circumstances?

What about the widespread practice of individuals who allow the Host to disolve in their mouths before they swallow it. Since the process of letting the Host dissolve means that it no longer has the appearance of bread, this would mean that the Real Presence has ceased by the time they swallow. Yet the Church has not traditionally said that such people have not received Communion.

Further, what about people who are medically unable to receive more than a few drops of the Precious Blood? In the case of their reception of Communion, the Real Presence may also cease before they swallow as the sacred species are corrupted by the saliva in their mouths. Yet the Church does not deny these people Communion or say that they have not received Communion in these situations.

Whenever anyone receives Communion, the Real Presence ceases at some point when the action of their bodies sufficiently corrupts the species that the appearances of bread and wine are no longer present. In some people’s cases this happens in the stomach, and in some people’s cases it happens in the mouth. Where it happens does not seem to be determinative of whether the person has received Communion.

Further, the process of digestion actually begins in the mouth, as the saliva starts to soften the food we eat and our enzymes start working to decompose it. (Chewing also softens the food.) So even though a person hasn’t swallowed the food while it’s still in his mouth, anthropologically the process of consumption or eating has been initiated.

In the boy’s case the process of digestion is not carried through to completion, but then the Real Presence vanishes from everyone before the process is carried through to completion since the species never survive long enough as the body breaks them down.

A case can be made that what Communion fundamentally involves the oral ingestion of elements containing the Real Presence. If one has done that then, regardless of what happens afterward, one has received Communion. It isn’t necessary for the elements to be swallowed or fully digested.

Indeed, if–immediately after you received Communion–someone went into your stomach and retrieved the elements while they still had the Real Presence then we would not say that you had not received Communion. We would say that after you received Communion that someone took the elements before the Real Presence ceased.

That’s the closest analog to what is happening here, except that it’s occurring while the elements are still in the boy’s mouth rather than in his stomach.

A case thus can be made that the boy is receiving Communion in a fashion that would be recognized by sacramental theology as a reception of Communion, even if his father is then taking the elements and re-consuming them.

This, it seems to me, is where the real issue may lie. It may not be a question of "Is the boy receiving Communion even though he doesn’t swallow the elements?" A good case can be made that he is, as with people who are comatose and receive a few drops of the precious blood without swallowing them.

The question may be: Does the Church’s liturgical praxis allow–to prevent the desecration of the elements (by being spit out)–another person to re-consume the sacred species after they have been received by someone else?

I can’t recall a clear answer to that from canon or liturgical law. If there isn’t one already established then Rome may need to weigh in on this issue if the family and the diocese cannot come to a mutual agreement.

Let’s hope the latter happens.

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{ 66 comments }

Ruthann March 8, 2006 at 6:29 am

Jimmy, this is exactly the reason I read your blog. Interesting, sightful, deep. Thanks.
‘thann

Jamie Beu March 8, 2006 at 6:40 am

I’m wondering if maybe a smaller version of the host might be helpful for the boy.
Since when we are cleaning the ciboria, we have to be sure to get every speck and crumb, because they are all the Body and Blood of Christ, I’m wondering if crumbling the host (just in this instance) would be acceptable and get by the texture problem the boy has. If he has “Eucharist crumbs”, or some similarly small fragments, would this help?
Just my $0.02.

AMM March 8, 2006 at 6:47 am

Why not home baked (valid recipe of course) bread? A small piece could be placed with the hosts if not baked for the whole community. The texture would be different. Did I miss a reference to this in the articles which I read quickly? They had to have thought of doing this.

Jeremy March 8, 2006 at 7:08 am

A few comments on the arguments:
1. When the host dissolves in someone’s mouth, it has not lost the appearance of bread: it simply has the appearance of mushy bread.
2. With regard to people who are medically unable to swallow the host and receive a few drops of wine, it is true that the Church does not deny that they have received communion–but does the Church make ANY clear statement about whether they receive communion?
3. (a) Saliva does begin the process of digestion, but how fast does that work? If the boy does not leave the presence of the priest before the host is removed, has the saliva actually done anything more than water-sog the host? (b) As your swallowing-followed-by-surgery example points out, we don’t really assume that actual digestion is the requirement for reception of communion, so whether the saliva corrodes the bread may not be relevant.
4. It is true that if someone swallowed a host which was then immediately surgically removed then we would say that he had received communion. But this could just as well be an argument that swallowing is what constitutes reception of commuion.
None of this is meant in a mean-spirited way, as though anyone doesn’t want the poor kid to receive communion. But it seems to me that the only strong argument here is the one based on comatose individuals receiving a few drops of consecrated wine without swallowing: if the Church has said anything clear in this case, it could be helpful.

Tony March 8, 2006 at 8:07 am

I wrote about this on my blog, but my focus was more toward the bias of the newspaper. I thought this was a case of yet another parent with a special needs child wanting the Church to “do it his way”.
Your discussion has gotten me thinking.
If the son puts the host in his mouth, and there is no swallowing requirement, then the father swallows it, does he receive also from the same host that his son received from? (In other words, can one host do double duty?)
I was a bit uncharitable in my analysis, and you’ve prompted me to re-think my position on this.

anonymous March 8, 2006 at 8:19 am

Sorry to be uncharitable, but this story is very, very strange. So the boy “spits out” things with a certain texture (odd, but from my own study of autistics, not imposible), but apparently eats other food – he is not being fed intravenously.
What exactly is the so-called “texture” of a host if it is in PARTICLE form? What other foods does the boy spit out at home – if any? He must eat something – does he eat mushy foods? Then a particle with a drop of wine would be mushy.
What does he drink at home that makes it literally IMPOSSIBLE that he swallow a drop of wine?
Sorry, this whole thing sounds really fishy. Again, I do not mean to be uncharitable, and I know I am an outsider without all the information, but it seems that this boy’s really
“allergic” (well “autistic”) reaction is to the Church and the Sacrament. IF so, it’s a bigger problem.

anonymous March 8, 2006 at 8:24 am

Wow – after reading several articles with quotes from the parents, I am even more convinced of what I said in my previous post. They are apparently VERY angry, VERY combative, and VERY insulting to a bishop that seems to be bending over backward to try to figure out a good response. They were also really quick to run to the MSN to b*tch and complain. Again, what the heck does the bow do at home when he has to swallow a crumb?
Seems like a setup to me.

Jean March 8, 2006 at 9:03 am

I shook my head over the article because the writer did a VERY good job of explaining what Catholics believe about the True Presence – and then let that so-called Catholic theologian have the last word, calling the Eucharist a “symbol” of unity or community.
It did strike me as terribly odd that such a devoted family would go running off to the media. But then again, I know that some parents of children with disabilities get so invested in caregiving that they don’t get their children new treatments or therapies. Somehow they feel that changing a way of doing something makes them look like bad parents who were doing something wrong before.

Rosemarie March 8, 2006 at 9:20 am

+J.M.J+
As the mother of an autistic child, I wish I could add something helpful to this discussion. But one of the maddening things about autism is that it takes so many different forms, so it’s hard to generalize from ones personal experience with one child.
I don’t think my daughter would have a problem with the texture of a host. Granted, I never gave one to her and so don’t know for sure, but she doesn’t have too many sensory issues when it comes to food. Yet I know that many children with autism do have sensory issues like that, so this story is quite probable. As far as the attitude of the parents, I admit I didn’t read all the articles so I don’t know enough to comment.
I, too, wonder why they can’t just give the child a tiny particle of the host – one so small that it would melt quickly and no texture would be discerned. Or perhaps just a single drop of the Precious Blood from a dropper? Though I guess the priest would then have to “purify” the dropper….
In Jesu et Maria,

Steve March 8, 2006 at 9:20 am

“Sorry, this whole thing sounds really fishy. Again, I do not mean to be uncharitable, and I know I am an outsider without all the information, but it seems that this boy’s really
“allergic” (well “autistic”) reaction is to the Church and the Sacrament. IF so, it’s a bigger problem.”
You certainly are being uncharitable. Many autistic people have extreme sensitivities to certain textures. Likely the boy only eats a small number of food items at home. My autistic son only eats 5 or 6 different items. This is a neurological issue, not one of willful behavior. While perhaps the parents should not have gone to the media, one can emphathize with the fact that the boy had been receiving communion and this likely was a major milestone and accomplishment for the boy & his family

Anonymous March 8, 2006 at 9:50 am

Would he be able to receive the Eucharist in say a Ukranian church or some other eastern church that uses leavened bread? The texture might be just enough different that he might be able to swallow it.

anonymous March 8, 2006 at 9:58 am

Steve, I apologize and do not mean to be uncharitable, but you are comparing apples and oranges when you compare this with your son (I worked with autistic childrn and am not completely uknowledgeable). We are not talking about food items, but about particles and drops, and ALL food/drink items turn into particles and drops. And we are not talking about merely turning in desperation to the MSN, but anger, criticisms, remarks bordering on the sarcastic etc by the parents – in fact, the whole litany we’ve come to expect. The threat of screaming temper tantrums and disruption of mass if the boy doesn’t get his way makes me wonder if he (or the parents!) even understand what is going on. This doesn’t get into the whole quetsion of the requirement that people must be in a certain state to receive. Since it is none of my business to ask what goes on in the confessional, and none of my business whether to even speculate whether the parents ask for absolution for disobedience, or the boy asks for absolution for disrupting the mass, I will bow out of the conversation. But I repeat that I truly did not mean for my remarks to be taken badly, and that I do have experience, extremely close to home, that makes me sympathize with the vast majority of cases. Just not this one.

Tim J. March 8, 2006 at 10:14 am

The headline of the article (“Church Denies Communion to Autistic Boy”) should give everyone a clue as to the reporter’s angle on the whole thing.
It would have been more accurate and even-handed to say “Boy Has Trouble Receiving Communion”, but that lacks the sensationalism necessary for a modern newspaper. The press never misses a chance to dust off the “Cold & Unfeeling Church vs. the Little Guy” template.
The truth is that the Diocese is trying to determine whether or not the boy has really been receiving Communion at all.
I also found the parents less than charitable in their response. One can hardly blame the priest or bishop for trying to find a better way.
They may find there is no other way, but it sounds to me like they are trying to accomodate this family.

Trubador March 8, 2006 at 10:25 am

Agreeing with Anonymous, this sounds like a set-up. I just don’t buy the idea of not being able to consume one droplette of wine/precious blood under the tongue. This reminds me of Mr. Schiavo not allowing his wife, Terry, to consume the body and/or blood of Christ… not even one droplette under the tongue nor even in an IV.
I smell an agenda here, IMHO. But I guess that’s just me.

Tim J. March 8, 2006 at 10:35 am

I don’t know that this is a “set up”, but the parents and others do seem to have bought into the idea that the Church is like any other business, and it’s members are to be treated like customers.
So, they demand service and complain when it doesn’t measure up to their expectations.
The Consumer Culture is about more than just material greed. It is a mindset.

Don March 8, 2006 at 11:03 am

One consideration that I have not seen mentioned, is that the father in this case is self-communicating, which is not permitted. Assuming that the boy can be said to “receive communion” by having it placed in his mouth, and also assuming that the single host can be received by more than one person, it would be necessary for the father to receive that host from a minister rather than “taking” it himself.

Tom March 8, 2006 at 11:15 am

Isn’t someone supposed to have the right disposition to receive Communion — can this boy make a confession? Does he even know what’s happening? Giving drops of the the Precious Blood to someone in a coma doesn’t sound right to me either.

Steph March 8, 2006 at 12:08 pm

“Giving drops of the the Precious Blood to someone in a coma doesn’t sound right to me either.”
Wasnt Terri Schiavo given the Eucharist via a feeding tube?
I dunno… sad situation though… will be sure to keep the family, and those responsible for a solution in my prayers.

Jason March 8, 2006 at 12:24 pm

Isn’t someone supposed to have the right disposition to receive Communion — can this boy make a confession? Does he even know what’s happening? Giving drops of the the Precious Blood to someone in a coma doesn’t sound right to me either.

Consider Eastern Catholics receive their first holy communion as babies.

Dr. Eric March 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm

I also think that the solution would be for the family to attend an Eastern Catholic Church. The Eucharist is in a slightly different form and the priest could spoon in into the boy’s mouth so that he wouldn’t spit it up. Or he could spoon a few drops of the Precious Blood into his mouth practicallly unnoticed like he would do for a baby.

Don March 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm

I find your line of argument unconvincing.
1) I think your reduction of consuming the host to merely dissolving it does grave injustice to the intent of Christ. Christ says “I am the bread of life…that a man may eat of it and not die.” Jn 6:48-50. Paul says “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup…For any one who eats and drinks…” 1 Cor 11:26-29.
The word in the Latin text is “sumi”, which my Latin dictionary translates as “to eat, consume.” Further definitions show a fuller meaning: “to take up; to put on; to assume, appropriate.” In respect to food, this fuller meaning can only attained by assimilation of the food, by a true consumption. We are formed in Christ by eating Him.
Reception of the Eucharist is more than just a token symbolic act of what is essentially licking it in this case and which is what you are basically developing in your “dissolving argument.” This sounds a lot like Clinton’s “IS” discussion. The obvious intent of “consumption” is to eat and swallow. We are to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ. Spitting it out is not being nourished. Show a Church document or Doctor or Father advocating playing with the Host in your mouth for a while. Show a reference in Church documents to substantiate your suggestion that the intention of the Church is not that the Host is to be swallowed expeditiously.
2) The fact that priests allow people to leave in the midst of swallowing the Host for the sake of letting the people process through quickly so they can get back to NFL football does not mean the priest has actually adequately discharged his duties to see that the Host is consumed. Therefore, your suggestion that people can properly go back to their seats to finish jawing on the Host does not follow from the fact that they do.
3)”What about the widespread practice of individuals who allow the Host to disolve in their mouths before they swallow it.” What widespread practice? Even if true, the fact that a practice is widespread hardly recommends it. Arianism was also widespread. Show a Church statement to back up your claim that the Church approves of this practice.
4) “Further, what about people who are medically unable to receive more than a few drops of the Precious Blood? … Yet the Church does not deny these people Communion or say that they have not received Communion in these situations. ” A few drops is sufficient. The Church administers such a tiny amount to prevent just the sort of situation that we are talking about.
5) “if–immediately after you received Communion–someone went into your stomach and retrieved the elements while they still had the Real Presence then we would not say that you had not received Communion. We would say that after you received Communion that someone took the elements before the Real Presence ceased.” To begin with, this is an absurd example. Secondly, I don’t think you can say that a person who had the elements retrieved from the stomach can be said to have truly received communion any more than if someone snatched it off their tongue. The fact that it made it further down the alimentary canal is irrelevant. I would say the reception was interrupted, much like someone’s prayer can be interrupted by others or a sacrament can be rendered invalid by disruption of the form.
6) You should have read Redemptionis Sacramentum just a wee bit further. In [94] it says: “It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice. Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.” (quoting the GIRM). It is objectively shown that the Host is being passed from one faithful to another. This is not licit. It is also quite sloppy under the circumstances. Redemptionis Sacramentum is very concerned with the proper treatment of the Eucharist. This is God after all. I’d hardly believe that the Host is being transfered intact back to the father. Note the concern for fragments in [93.] “The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.” Note the concern against the faithful practicing intinction: [104.] “The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand.” The concern is that no speck, no fragment, no liquid be profaned by not being totally consumed. How is the father going to extract a Host from the mouth of a child without some spillage?
This is a teaching moment about the absolute dignity of God in the Eucharist. There’s room for some catechesis on its profoundly sacred nature. He might also be taught the Act of Spiritual Communion as an immediate remedy.
If a tiny speck of Host can not be administered without the boy rejecting it (however unwillingly), then the Bishop has no choice in this matter. The boy has to restrict himself from the Eucharist. And note that I say the boy must do the restricting–not the father, for we are assuming that he understands what is taking place and the need for great reverence. It’s a requirement: [87] ““Children who have not attained the age of reason, or those whom” the Parish Priest “has determined to be insufficiently prepared” should not come forward to receive the Holy Eucharist”
I’m sorry this is a painful experience for the family. But ultimately it’s the due reverence to God that is paramount. Even more than obedience, God delights in humility. If the boy were to humbly withhold himself from communion out of respect for the Eucharist and offer an Act of Spiritual Communion, I wouldn’t doubt it would be very meritorious and could even be rewarded with great graces.

Chris-2-4 March 8, 2006 at 1:07 pm

The question may be: Does the Church’s liturgical praxis allow–to prevent the desecration of the elements (by being spit out)–another person to re-consume the sacred species after they have been received by someone else?
I think you can cut through the entire discussion of when does the real presence cease. Clearly the profanation involved in spitting out the host is the real issue. If not, it should be. All the rest is guessing about the real presence.

Chris-2-4 March 8, 2006 at 1:09 pm

When I mentioned the “real issue” above, I don’t mean the re-reception by someone else. That too, is incidental. The real issue is “Do you give communion to someone who you know is going to spit it out”? Regardless of the intentions. It seems like an unashamed, “No”.

Maria Ashwell March 8, 2006 at 4:19 pm

I do not have a child with any type of disability, so I cannot say that I know the challenges big and small that come about every day. I do know the joy I have experienced as my children make their First Communion, knowing that they now can receive the miraculous gift of Our Lord in the appearance of bread. I know I would be greatly saddened if my child could not share in this great gift.
That said, when I first read this my reaction was if he “spits it out” then he should not present himself for the sacrament. Nothing about this method of receiving sits right with me. Its bizarre. Besides that, do you suppose the Bishop may be concerned about what this all looks like at the Sunday Mass when father and son come up to receive? I wondered.

Dr. Eric March 8, 2006 at 6:27 pm

Maria,
Just like some of our protestant choir members here at the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in my town. The boy should come up with arms crossed and receive a blessing.
That way there is no scandal, even our catechumens receive a blessing with no scandal, no one need know the difference.

Anonymous March 8, 2006 at 10:10 pm

If some of you uncharitable people want to know what severe autism is like, please go to this website:
http://www.gettingthetruthout.com

bill912 March 9, 2006 at 3:55 am

Care to explain how any of us is uncharitable, or was this just an irrational, drive-by comment?

Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 4:59 am

If you don’t already know, it won’t help to explain it.

Tim J. March 9, 2006 at 5:38 am

Anonymous, do you believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

bill912 March 9, 2006 at 6:15 am

“If you don’t already know, it won’t help to explain it.” Allow me to translate: “No, I can’t explain how any of you is uncharitable; I’m just engaging in name-calling.”

Frances March 9, 2006 at 6:43 am

Anonymous, it is not a question of being uncharitable, nor is it a question of how difficult it is to live with severe autism. That is neither here nor there. The question is, can someone receive Communion (according to canon law and tha Catechism) if he spits it out, doesn’t see throwing a temper tantrum as sinful (something to confess) etc. It would be the same question NO MATTER the disability.
The parents set something up that they personally liked (the spit out, father consume routine) which the Bishop, trying to working something out, had to admit was not within the rubrics, as any thoughtful person would. The parents not only chose not to obey, but to throw their own MSM temper tantrum. A sad, sad story all around.
But grace comes in many ways: blessings; Eucharistic Adoration; prayers; etc. ad infinitum. There is nothing uncharitable about suggesting these (or saying that something is wrong if a boy can swallow minute crumbs at home but not while in a Church! Maybe he needs an exorcism!).

Tim J. March 9, 2006 at 7:47 am

Frances-
Suggesting that an autistic person (whom you have never met) really needs an exorcism strikes me as uncharitable.
I was right with you, up until that remark.

Steve March 9, 2006 at 8:03 am

As is this ignorant comment:
“doesn’t see throwing a temper tantrum as sinful (something to confess) etc”
Glad so many here are so quick to make sure that no mental invalids get the idea that they are full members of the body of Christ. Somehow I do not think Jesus would turn the boy away from his table.

Tim J. March 9, 2006 at 8:25 am

“Somehow I do not think Jesus would turn the boy away from his table.”
Steve-
Please understand, no one wants to turn the boy away from His table.
But there is a legitimate question about whether the boy is capable of receiving the Eucharist at all. Is holding the consecrated host on the toungue for a few seconds truly receiving? I don’t know. It’s a good question to ask.
There is also the question of giving proper reverence to the Body of Christ. I don’t know the situation intimately, but those who are responsible (the priest and bishop) are the ones to trust with that determination.
To cast this as mere callous disregard for the family is a gross injustice. The priest involved is responsible not only for the boy and his family, but for the whole church and the integrity of the Blessed Sacrament.
The defensive attitude of the family does not help. If there is a genuine problem, they need to admit that and humbly try to help find a suitable solution, rather than insisting that there is no problem.
They, and others, need to understand that this is not an attack on their son, or other disabled people.

Steve March 9, 2006 at 8:34 am

Tim,
You wrote:
“But there is a legitimate question about whether the boy is capable of receiving the Eucharist at all. Is holding the consecrated host on the toungue for a few seconds truly receiving? I don’t know. It’s a good question to ask”
This is fine and it is a legitimate issue. The family did themselves a disservice going to the press, particularly as the diocese appeared to be working hard to resolve the issue.
What I am objecting to the slew of ignorant comments like:
-comparing the boy receiving to someone in a coma
-that somehow a temper tantrum is a grave sin
-that he needs an exorcism
-“does he even know what is happening” when the article was clear that the boy was an active particpant in Catechesis

Tim J. March 9, 2006 at 8:40 am

Chalk it up to ignaorance, Steve. Most people have no knowledge of autism, and I guess few care to find out.
This is a good opportunity for folks to learn more about it.

Maria Ashwell March 9, 2006 at 9:02 am

I just wanted to add one more note to my previous comment. I do know what autism is like having worked with many disabled children. I do not want my concerns about this method of receiving the Eucharist to be associated in any way with any comment that would suggest he needs and excorcism or that he should go to confession for having a tantrum. But, why can’t it be stated that sadly, his inability to receive the Eucharist right now (who knows, this may change for him as he grows) is a sacrifice he must bear for the moment and his parents be secure in the knowledge that great grace is poured out to bear this.
For three years I was married outside the Church and could not participate fully in the sacrament. I do know that pain.

Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 9:15 am

I sincerely and truly apologize for the exorcism remark; because it was out of a context that I understood but could not convey, for a variety of reasons, it was uncalled for, andI am sorry.
However, unless you know me personally, it is also unfair to assume I am ignorant of autistics. You have no idea whether or not a dearly beloved member of my own family is autistic, nor whether, out of love and suffering, I have spent years studying and reading and in general being knoweldgeably involved.
I did once, however, see a person who screamed hysterically when they could not get their way in church. It was beyond painful. This kind of tantrum apparently only occurred while approaching the Host with the person’s parents – and at no other time. Sometimes it is actually MORE charitable to presume that an exorcism would be the best help in a case which apparently cannot be helped any other way. The immediate assumption that “exorcism” is a pejorative rather than a reference to one of the church’s great graces, accepted throughout the tradsition and to this day is uncharitable indeed.
I ask forgiveness for those I have offended, but understanding as well.

Frances March 9, 2006 at 9:16 am

Sorry, I meant to sign the above, and I meant tradition, obviously, not “tradsition.”

anon4 March 9, 2006 at 9:27 am

In all fairness to the different posters who have mentioned temper tantrums, various press stories described them; they did not originate in these comment boxes. Not a judicious comment, but we’re shooting the messenger.
As for exorcisms, the Vatican this year approved these rites:http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9901/26/exorcism/

Tim J. March 9, 2006 at 9:38 am

Frances-
When I said that your exorcism remark struck me as uncharitable, I was trying to look at it from the perspective of parents of the disabled.
If I had trouble controlling my child (disabled or not) at Mass, and someone suggested that I might want to consider an exorcism, I would find that deeply hurtful, regardless of the fact that exorcism is “one of the church’s great graces”.
If you didn’t mean it that way (which I am sure you didn’t) you should understand how it sounded and how it was received.
I thought that chalking it up to ignorance was the charitable thing to do. If not necessarily ignorance of autism, then ignorance of how your remark might be perceived by others.
I’m sure you didn’t say it out of callousness or a mean spirit.

Karen March 9, 2006 at 1:20 pm

Letting a Host acquire a soft, saliva-saturated texture in your mouth doesn’t “dissolve” it any more than chewing it up into a softer, saliva-saturated chewed texture–the outcome is the same. Either way you’re saturating it with enough saliva so that it’s more “dough” than bread, but isn’t dissolved. (You have to do one or the other, in order to be able to swallow it.)

anonymous March 9, 2006 at 5:05 pm

I guess man’s law trumps Jesus: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14).

Naomi March 9, 2006 at 6:21 pm

I wonder to what degree the parents have tried progressive desensitization using unconsecrated hosts.
I would cheerfully pay for a vox of hosts to allow for such a program.
(Yes, I do have a degree in special education and am therefore not simply speaking through my hat.)

DJ Francis March 10, 2006 at 10:12 am

Don,
I’m hardly “jawing” the Host, and there’s probably more of us around than you think. It started with my First Communion. The Host was too much to swallow immediately, and biting/chewing Jesus seemed at the time to me a sacrilige, so I’ve always softened the Host. This has gone on for almost 47 years, and I see no rational reason to change.
If you can swallow the Host whole, that’s great. If you chew, that’s certainly none of my affair. This might sound harsh but it’s not intended to be: you can practice your personal piety and I’ll practice mine.
Isn’t it strange that the Eucharist is a sign of our unity, yet there’s this ongoing battle between tongue-ees and hand-ees, standers and kneelers? If that wasn’t enough, now we have to have one between soft-ees and hard-ees.
Lord have mercy on us.

anonymous March 10, 2006 at 11:23 am

For those who don’t understand what is involved in how to teach an autistic child with texture problems to eat aversive textures, here is the program the child has to go through:
Purpose:
When infants and children are unable to eat due to physical or behavioral conditions, serious health problems result. The Children’s Institute provides evaluation and treatment, on an inpatient and outpatient basis, for children with feeding difficulties. The Functional Feeding Team also provides specialized services for infants with feeding concerns through our Functional Feeding Clinic.
The Functional Feeding Team:
A team of professionals dedicated to resolving feeding-related problems in infants and children will provide the care and therapy your child needs. Our treatment teams are multi-disciplinary and can be structured to best meet the needs of each patient.
The typical treatment team is made up of a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist, a Behaviorist and a Dietitian.
Depending on your child’s age and condition, the following are among the team members who could be involved in your child’s evaluation, treatment plan and therapy:
* Behavior/Feeding specialist
* Case manager
* Nurse
* Dietitian
* Occupational therapist
* Physician
* Psychologist
* Recreational therapist
* Speech language pathologist
* Social worker/Family support
Who Can Benefit:
Children may not be eating for various reasons. Our services address different types of feeding-related problems including:
* an aversion to eating as a result of an anatomical defect or physiological condition
* an avoidance of eating as a learned behavior
* an inability to wean the child from tube feeding because oral feeding intake is inadequate
* an inability of the child to progress to eating foods of various textures
Sometimes a child may have a feeding disorder as a result of an existing condition. Some diagnoses that may cause secondary feeding disorders are:
• autism
• genetic issues
• behavioral or psychological issues
• gastrointestinal issues
• broncho-pulmonary dysplasia
• neurological impairments
• cardiac issues
• pulmonary issues
• cerebral palsy
• sensory integration dysfunction
• developmentally delayed adults and children
• small bowel transplant
• down syndrome
• syndromes
• failure to gain weight/failure to thrive
The Functional Feeding Services team provides help for children through a feeding clinic for infants, an outpatient clinic and inpatient care. Our treatment team can design and implement a treatment plan for children who have not responded to other treatment programs.
Potential Outpatient and Inpatient Goals:
* increasing variety of foods eaten
* increasing volume of foods eaten
* self-feeding
* cup drinking
* mealtime structure
* tolerating oral diet
* chewing foods
* weight gaining and growing
* managing and/or discontinuing tube feedings
* regulating sensory processing
* increasing tolerance of textures through sensory play
* decreasing oral and/or facial hypersensitivities
* identifying appropriate sleep/hunger cycle
* decreasing avoidance and disruptive behaviors at mealtime
* generalizing eating habits to the home and community endeavors
The Process
Evaluation:
The first step in the evaluation is for family members to complete and return to The Institute a case history form, provided to you by the Functional Feeding Team.
The family then will visit The Institute’s Squirrel Hill location to undergo an outpatient evaluation. We suggest you bring with you your child’s preferred and challenging foods.
During the evaluation, you can expect the following:
* Team members will talk with family members to gain a better understanding of your child’s situation.
* The primary caregiver will feed your child.
* The Functional Feeding evaluation team, including speech language pathologists, nutritionists, occupational therapists and behavioral psychologists, will observe the child’s eating process.
* Team members then confer to provide a thoroughly integrated assessment of the child.
* If the Feeding Team believes a medical condition is contributing to your child’s difficulty, the team will involve a physician.
* In addition, the Feeding Team will develop recommendations for the family, so that you can return home with ready-to-implement suggestions for beginning to improve your child’s eating process.
* As a result of the evaluation, the Feeding Team will recommend a course of therapy for your child. Options include outpatient care, inpatient treatment and ongoing follow up.
Outpatient Feeding Treatment
The Functional Feeding Team members who will provide outpatient treatment to your child may include an Occupational Therapist, a Speech Language Pathologist and/or a Dietitian. Outpatient feeding treatments are provided at The Institute’s Squirrel Hill location and at The Institute’s satellites in Green Tree, Monroeville and Wexford.
If the Functional Feeding Team recommends outpatient care for your child, you can expect the following:
* Your child’s Functional Feeding Team may include a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist and a Dietitian. A Behaviorist is available, if needed.
* Your child typically will receive treatment on a weekly basis. The frequency of treatment can vary, depending on the family’s needs.
* Treatment planning between caregivers and clinicians occurs on an ongoing basis.
* Caregiver participation and commitment is essential to carryover of goals and progress.
Inpatient Treatment
If the Functional Feeding Team believes your child would be best served by daily care, your child will be admitted to the Functional Feeding inpatient unit at The Institute. You can expect the following:
* Your child’s Functional Feeding Team can include a Behaviorist, a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist, a Physical Therapist, a Dietitian, a Recreational Therapist, Cognitive and Behavioral Learning Environment (CABLE), with additional support from nursing, physicians, social workers and case managers.
* Your child will receive treatment on a daily basis.
* Your child will be seen for therapies and meals.
* During therapies, the Functional Feeding Team will work on individual skills, including
o oral motor skills
o communication skills
o sensory input/messy play
o motor skills
o exposure to a variety of foods and liquids
* During meals, the Functional Feeding Team will work on mealtime structure and routine, including
o identifying meaningful incentives to motivate your child
o decreasing avoidance and disruptive behaviors
o increasing acceptance of preferred and non-preferred foods and liquids
o training and education of caregivers
o adjusting intake and calorie boosters
* Your child’s treatment will progress in accordance with the discharge plan, which may include transition to outpatient services and connecting with other resources and community support services as needed.
Functional Feeding Clinic
Children less than one year of age with feeding challenges can undergo assessment and receive treatment through the Functional Feeding Clinic. Infants are evaluated and treated, if necessary, for feeding and nutritional concerns.
Team members assesses your infant’s feeding skills and you can expect the following:
* Your child’s Functional Feeding Team includes a Speech Language Pathologist, Dietitian and Physician. A Behaviorist is available, if necessary.
* Your child will be seen as needed on an outpatient basis. Frequency can range from weekly to quarterly.
* The focus of the Clinic is
o educating and training family members
o increasing oral motor and feeding skills
o improving weight gain and growth
For The Family:
The Functional Feeding Team provides support by teaching families a variety of techniques and skills to help you understand that you can manage your child’s feeding program. This support continues through discharge planning, outpatient consultation and follow-up care.

Tim J. March 10, 2006 at 11:46 am

I agree with DJ.
I The truth is, people should feel free to receive either on the toungue or in the hand, to let the host “dissolve” or not, to stand or kneel, without being made to feel they are doing it “wrong”.
I find that the Mass Police generally come more from the Left than from the Right, nowadays. Weird, huh?

Ann March 10, 2006 at 12:13 pm

“The Host was too much to swallow immediately, and biting/chewing Jesus seemed at the time to me a sacrilege, so I’ve always softened the Host.”
I have to say, this is what kept me from receiving Communion in the Byzantine Rite for a few years when I was a post-first-Communion-child. I thought you *couldn’t* chew the Host since the Western Rite Host dissolves so well in your mouth.
My Father is Byzantine Catholic and my Mother is Roman. We went to the Roman church about 2/3rds of the time and to a Byzantine church 1/3 of the time. When I tried to take Communion in the Byzantine Church for the first time (after having celebrated my first Holy Communion in the Roman Church), I ran into a problem.
The Byzantine Rite host is leavened and designed not to dissolve readily in liquid, since it is given by intinction. Since it wouldn’t dissolve in my mouth and I thought chewing was bad, I tried to swallow it whole and I pretty much choked on it. I did eventually swallow it, but the whole process was extremely traumatic.
After a few attempts at receiving with the same results, I figured that choking on God was not something I should be doing, so I refrained from taking Communion on the weekends my family went to Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy. It was something I decided (and figured out) on my own… not something my parents decided for me.
Later, I realized that I could chew and not defile God, and I was able to take Communion in both Rites.
I could never explain to my parents why I would choke… because it never occurred to me that one could chew! I figured everyone swallowed the Host whole, and I just had issues with swallowing larger items. Which I did have. (Made taking larger vitamins very hard.)
Yes, I felt bad that I couldn’t receive. Yes, I wanted to take Communion. But I felt that until I could take it properly in a reverent manner, I should refrain. Choking the host down was obviously not the proper way, so I had to refrain.

Sean March 10, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Once one gets into the details of the human digestive process, one loses sight of the bigger and more important picture. If a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality (St Augustine?), then what is the visible sign that Jesus instituted? It seems that by choosing food and asking us to eat it, that Jesus’ chosen sign culminates in physical nourishment, which both causes and reveals a spiritual nourishment through invisible grace. Jesus did not call his flesh edible, chewable, digestible, or any other term short of being something that feeds. That is the most relevant part of the sacrament. Jesus also gives a comparison to the manna in the desert, which was also food that nourished people.
If the consecrated bread or wine does not physically nourish the person, then it seems like the sign is incomplete and would not effect its spiritual fruits, i.e. no sacrament has been received. This is somewhat independent of whether the digestion took place through mouth saliva or stomach acids. The Eucharist must be incorporated into the body of the person for that person to have Jesus’ eternal life incorporated into them.
I think that this way of looking at things fits intuitively well with the test cases given by others. A few drops of consecrated wine, despite almost immediately being diluted by saliva, would still be incorporated into the recipient’s body for valid reception. The removal of a host from someone’s stomach after it has been swallowed would only interrupt the sacrament if every last trace of the host were able to be removed from the person’s stomach without any portion being incorporated into the person’s body (is that even possible?). The cases where the host is softened or dissolved in saliva while in the mouth before being swallowed would be fine. The case where the host is dissolved in saliva while in the mouth before being spit out would not be okay. Note that if the real presence is gone once the host is dissolved, one would not technically be mishandling a consecrated host at that point. However, I doubt this practice of dissolving and spitting out would sit well with anyone. My intuitions agree with all of these cases. Do any of you have different intuitions?
One more point. No matter which way this ends up, since it is at present questionable whether the boy’s practice constitutes receiving the Eucharist, shouldn’t all parties be searching for a solution that is clearly and indisputably valid? Wouldn’t you want to know for sure that you were actually receiving the body and blood of Christ?

Mudge March 11, 2006 at 3:26 am

Anonymous, I am not sure what endless details about an autistic’s problem with feeding adds to the discussion. It simply makes it even more likely that the boy is not properly disposed to receive. He is not physically disabled in the sense of his mouth/digestive system being nonfunctional, as he eats “particles” (devoid of recognizable texture) and “drops” (only “texture” is “liquid” as with all other liquids). The screaming at Mass his own mother reports adds to the argument.
As for the canard that “man’s law trumps God’s law:” this is NOT refusing to “let the little children come.” We don’t “let them come” before the age of reason, for example (they come for blessing) nor if they haven’t gone to confession (at least they cannot receive PROPERLY at that time). At some times in history, First Communion has been much later than the age 7 that is common here. I’ve read many saints biographies, and you don’t hear them whining that little children were being denied because they were not allowed communion before the were ready!
(I also note that Jesus was not referring to the Eucharist but coming for blessing, teaching, etc.)
So wait a few years. The parents would be tecahing their child an important lesson in obedience. Oh, but wait….that’s the very point. They do not WANT to do that. Their self-stated – though not in these words – GOAL is to create a public scandal, deliberately mislead the press and public, call attention to their own personal demands rather than the sacrifice of the Cross, etc. ad infinitum.

anonymous March 11, 2006 at 6:28 am

Mudge, I was trying to educate people like you on how difficult the neurological process is for autistic people. One of the reasons you are seeing such a reactive tone from parents of autistic children is exemplified by your statement that “he is not physically “disabled”. That is what we deal with everyday. The scorn and frowns and condescention of people because our children do not outwardly show a physical disability because its neurological. They are not misbehaving, the brain didn’t form the proper neural connections during early childhood. There are mutations in the 15q gene as well as the 7p and 13q. Because people are so use to associating disability with a physical manifestation, they cannot understand a neurological disorder. I invite you to learn a little more about this disorder. Simply go to gettingthetruthout.com. Many parents wish that instead of autism their child had a physcial disability because society would treat their children much differently. Autism has risen in recent years from 1 in 10,000 to now 1 in 166. You will see more of these children in the future and the church will be forced to educate itself. If you were in my shoes, you would feel much differently. You need to hear from the perspective of those who live with this disorder. Otherwise, you are pontificating about a disorder you know nothing about and by speaking like you do, you contribute to the suffering of others. While you think that the parents goal is to create a public scandal, I see it as breaking new ground and standing up for society’s most vulnerable. Your attitude is very similar to what we saw in the civil rights movement, when defenders of Jim Crow laws stated the very same types of arguments. Maybe this isn’t your intention, but it is how it comes across to us. I posted the information about autistic eating disorders to educate. You should take it in that spirit. I would be curious if you or others would expect a blind child to see, a deaf child to hear, a para to walk? If your answer is no, then you shouldn’t expect an autistic person to be able to rewire his brain and act “Neuro-Typical”. Why don’t you want to educate yourself? Why are you so concerned with how this is portrayed in the media if you are not embarrassed? Perhaps since you think that this disorder has something to do with “teaching the child obedience”, perhaps you can visit some of your state’s mental institutions where the majority of the population is autistic and train those patients on obedience so they can be active and productive members of society. Then maybe, we will solve this disorder. Perhaps gene mutation, neural dendrite deformaties can all be solved by a little obedience training. I sure if you were successful, you’ll win the Nobel Prize in Science and in the process, you’ll win many converts to the Church. Or you can go on and on about how these are bad parents, the child has a disobedience problem and as another poster said do an exorcism.

Anonymous March 11, 2006 at 7:23 am

Midge,
I’m sure you are unaware of the historical implications of “blaming the parents”. You should read about the person who is responsible for this atrocity, “Dr.” Bruno Bettleheim. When you make references to such things, we autism parents realize just how far we still have to go to overcome this type of ignorance and prejudice. Many children were seized by the state and institutionalized and subject to electro shock treatment because of “Dr.” Bettleheim’s theory that parents were to blame. Parents were told that they were responsible for the child’s autism and thus were unfit to raise their children. After Dr. Bettleheim’s suicide, it was discovered that he was a fraud. Woody Allen even made a film about it called Zelig. Now, thanks to genetics and DNA testing, we can prove scientifically that autism is the result of gene mutation. However, it depresses me that my child will have to face the types of attitudes displayed on this board. I cry every day thinking about how my child will have to lead a life in a world that will not understand him and I worry that when the rest of the world sees him, they will see a “normal” child who doesn’t listen, is rude and without manners, or is poorly behaved and will judge him/us accordingly. There will be no empathy or understanding, just scowls, cruel remarks and judgments. I worry that he will be tormented and teased, neglected and/or abused (and, he won’t be able to tell anyone).

Mary March 11, 2006 at 9:31 am

If I had trouble controlling my child (disabled or not) at Mass, and someone suggested that I might want to consider an exorcism, I would find that deeply hurtful, regardless of the fact that exorcism is “one of the church’s great graces”.
As Jimmy observed in an earlier post this year, one test of possession is whether the person can distinguish between a consecrated host and an unconsecrated one. I think it would be something to investigate if Mass, and only Mass or other holy things, inspires such behavior.

mudge March 11, 2006 at 10:11 am

“Your attitude is very similar to what we saw in the civil rights movement, when defenders of Jim Crow laws stated the very same types of arguments.”
Anonymous, I am backing out of this conversation. This is so far off the wall, I am stunned. It deserves no response.
“You need to hear from the perspective of those who live with this disorder. Otherwise, you are pontificating about a disorder you know nothing about and by speaking like you do, you contribute to the suffering of others.”
I am not ignorant; I have a beloved niece who is autistic whom I have been a second mother to for many years. You cannot imagine the books, articles, web searches, newsletters etc. I have read. My sister and her daughter have lived with my family for five years. Enough said.
I was wrong to say “not physically disabled” if you took it the wrong way, but I only meant in regard to eating – in other words, the child was not being fed intravenously and could indeed accept the “texture” of drops of liquid.
I’m sure you are unaware of the historical implications of “blaming the parents”.
I have never once blamed my sister for my niece’s condition. Nor, if you read my post, did I blame the parents in this case. I said the parents were making a spectacle of themselves, but emphatically did NOT say they caused their child’s condition.
Or you can go on and on about how these are bad parents, the child has a disobedience problem
I did NOT say screaming at Mass is aDISOBEDIENCE problem – but it DOES say the child is not disposed to understand and take Communion. There is NO shame or blame to this…it is merely a descriptive fact.
As I said, I am logging off this thread permanently; you are simply making up stuff. Nothing you said was true; you are arguing against arguments you have heard from OTHER people, not from me – you are using me as your straw man, but it won’t wash.
Because of my sister, I do understand the emotional strain you are under and the desire to lash out at people, accusing them of the most onerous crimes, of ignorance, of being like the racists who enacted the Jim Crow laws, etc., but it’s not me you are lashing out at – you are lashing out at the truly ignorant who have hurt you in the past and you really DID say the things you falsely put in my mouth . You owe me an apology but I won’t get it. I will pray for you.

Also anonymous March 11, 2006 at 10:13 am

Anonymous, I believe the name-calling and personal attacks you are indulging in are forbidden by the rules of this blog, but I’m not the blog owner.

DB March 14, 2006 at 8:15 am

Jimmy says that allowing the Host to dissolve in the mouth is traditionally held by the Church as still receiving Holy Communion. But I find the following to the contrary: In “Moral Theology” by Jone – Adelman, 1961, p. 348: “If the Sacred Species are retained in the mouth until They are dissolved one does not receive the Sacrament.” In “Handbook of Moral Theology” by Prummer, 1957, p. 266: “ a person who retains the sacred species in the mouth until they are dissolved or a dying person unable to swallow do not receive the effects of this sacrament. On the other hand, a person who vomits after receiving the sacred species into the stomach has truly received the Eucharist and therefore the gift of grace.” In “Dictionary of Moral Theology” by Roberti, et. al., 1962, p. 262: “The Council of Florence summarizes the effects of Holy Communion by stating that it produces a spiritual nourishment similar to the nourishment which the body receives through ordinary food and drink.” To me it seems that to have this spiritual nourishment implies that the Eucharist has to be received into the stomach. And at http://www.catholic.net/baltimore_catechism/template_channel.phtml?channel_id=14
can be found lesson 22 of the Baltimore Catechism which states: “the particle that is given to the people is about the size of a twenty-five cent piece, so that they can swallow it before it melts. In receiving Holy Communion you must never let it entirely dissolve in your mouth, for if you do not swallow it you will not receive Holy Communion at all.”

Ed Peters March 14, 2006 at 9:14 am

DB: check your post button.
anyway, nice job, i was wondering when somebody else was gonna find that; you can find the same point made in another highly-regarded author, Halligan, Administration. i think it recasts the question considerably, but i refrained from posing till i could find the time to look at it canonically. this needs to be thought out very carefully.

RC March 14, 2006 at 12:12 pm

There are three Eastern Catholic parishes in Phoenix, all of them following the Byzantine liturgy and using leavened bread.

Marlee March 14, 2006 at 12:57 pm

Long ago, when I made my First Communion in 1954, we were taught by the dear Nuns that we were NOT to chew the Host, because it was Jesus. We were taught to allow it to dissolve, and SWALLOW. Dissolving did not fulfill the reception of Communion.
A liquid held in the mouth for a short time, such as a few drops of wine, as well as being swallowed, at times has some of its elements enter the body via the bloodstream. Tablets that dissolve under the tongue (like nitro) are tiny, and the entire saliva is eventually swallowed. (Not spit out)
The child did not “spit it up” as a baby does sometimes with a burp, but spit it OUT. There is a difference.
Someone mentioned Terri, and I don’t think that this situation can be compared. Terri did swallow saliva all the time (she did not drool). She did not have IV’s, and even if she did, it could not be delivered IV. Her way of taking food was via the tube. The tube was mentioned at the end because the ‘reason given’ for her not being allowed was that she could not swallow food. (The tiny amount of Consecrated Host or the tiny drop of Consecrated Wine would not have caused her any problem.
A baby was mentioned as being given Communion as an infant in the Eastern Rite. Again, it is a tiny amount, and that baby will swallow it. Care is given, I am sure, that it is NOT an amount that would not be able to be swallowed. I am sure that the reverence held by the Eastern Rite for the Body and Blood of Jesus would prohibit them from doing this if all the babies simply spit it all back out.
That whole long list of how to teach an autistic child is a process that the parents would have been working on for a long time already, and the final statement made is that the goal is for the parents to eventually be able to work with their child at home (manage the child’s eating program). So, this same technique can then be used to assist this child to swallow a tiny portion of the Eucharist under either form. (Someone suggested using unconsecrated hosts in order to help facilitate this process.)
I, too, have worked with autistic children. And I, too, think that the parents wanted their child to be ready. But the child is not yet ready.
As for Viaticum–
Can. 922 Holy Viaticum for the sick is not to be delayed too long; those who have the care of souls are to be zealous and vigilant that the sick are nourished by Viaticum while fully conscious.
A person who is so close to death that he/she cannot swallow is more often (based on my experience with many dying patients) not given the Eucharist at that point. I have also never personally seen a priest offer the form of the Consecrated Wine when they are at this point.
I am sorry that anonymous is personalizing this as an affront. It is not that many cannot understand autism, or don’t want to. It is the question as to whether or not this child is even receiving the Eucharist or not. Based on what I was taught long ago, and what I have read in Canon Law and other places, he is not at this time.

Autistic and Proud March 14, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Perhaps the child can pay an “indulgence”. Does the church still allow that? Perhaps the parents should choose a denomination more tolerant of his special needs. I think that would eventually make all sides happy. The church won’t have to deal with a disabled child and the parents and child will find acceptance in a spiritual setting where acceptance is fostered.

Catholic and Proud March 14, 2006 at 4:59 pm

If the parents would leave the Catholic Church over this, then their faith was doubtful to begin with.
Even if I could never again receive the Lord in the Eucharist, I would never consider leaving His Church.

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Prof. Antonio Basto April 28, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Regarding the Host dissolving in the mouth and the teaching of the Baltimore Cathechism, one must remember that in the pre-Vatican II Roman Rite (Tridentine or Pian Rite), people received Communion kneeling, and were told not to touch the Host with the hands but only with the tonge, and not to bite the Host with teeth. Many people still avoid using the teeth to consume the Glorious Body. So, what was done and is still done is to let the Host inside one´s mouth for not more then a few moments, so that the Host would be moistered by saliva and lost its original shape, so that it could be swallowed. This is totallly different from leaving the presence of the priest while carrying the Host, because the Host is already in the mouth, and will not leave the body of the recipient because it will be swallowed in a few moments. Also, this practice does not mean that the Real Presence has vanished, because the bread is still bread. Bread only ceases being bread when it is digested, and a little bit of saliva will not be able to digest the entire bread, but will only moister it so that it can pass through. Also, one should recall that, while there is one bit that still preserves the appearence of bread, it is still the Real Presence.
In Terri´s case, she took Communion because she consumed the Precious Blood, and even one drop suffices, for it contains the entire Eucharist.
As for this boy, I have a hard time in accepting that he cannot even drink one single drop of the Precious Blood. That, of course, would be true and perfect communion.
It seems to me that, in the manner things were being done, he did not actually received the Glorious Body under the appearence of bread, because some moistering with saliva wouldn´t be hardly enough to disconstitute the apperearence of Bread (the mollecular structure of wheaten bread), so that, in his case, the Real Presence remains.
Further to that, I would just like to point out that I once read an article in the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia stating that, if Viaticum were given to a person, and this person died immediately thereafter, the priest was required to check the corpse´s mouth. The Tridentine Rite had severall norms of this sort, as an expression of its deep care for the Eucharistic Species. Another example of norms of this kind is the chaper “On Defects” that was found in the Roman Missal, dealing with what to do if the precious blood were to fall on the ground, or if the Mass had to be stopped before or after Consacration. According to the Encyclopedia, if the recipient died with the Host still in his or her mouth, then the priest was directed by the norms of the Church to remove the Host from the corpse´s mouth, store it with himself, and later place it in a glass of Holy Water, untill it was totally dissolved. One then asks? Why take all this measures: Because the Church believes that the Real Presence is still there untill the Host is TOTALLY dissolved.
So, applying this to this child´s case, I believe that he always failed to receive communion and I also think that his father cannot just pick the Host himself and then consume it.

Anonymous April 28, 2006 at 7:02 pm

The key here is reverence of the Blessed Sacrament. An extraordinary minister of the Eucharist when caring for the sick, consumes what may be left over when there is a situation when one expected to receive can not. So, the spirit of the law is what is important. The boy has baptismal right to the Eucharist, every part of the host and every atom of the Precious Blood is the Body and Blood of Christ. So, under these circumstances as long has the boy receives, the rest properly consumed would be in my opinion in harmony with canon law.

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