Bp. McGrath’s letter on sacramental service

In the Light of the Law

In 1977, during the darkest period of canonical confusion that ran from the end of the Second Vatican Council until the promulgation of the 1983 Code, then-Fr Patrick McGrath earned a doctoral degree in canon law from the Lateran University in Rome. Now-Bp Patrick McGrath of San Jose is surely aware, then, that multiple canonical requirements for sacramental participation exist and he would, I imagine, be distressed to learn that his recent letter, implying that “good faith” is the only criterion for admission to the sacraments, could be pastorally misleading.

A key—not the only, but a key—norm controlling the administration of sacraments to the faithful is Canon 843 § 1 which states: “Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.” Phrased negatively (because, given the fundamental right of the faithful to…

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