|A story published today by the Irish Independent reports that
a young unmarried mother claimed yesterday that her parish priest threatened her with
excommunication if she went "anyway near the altar" at her daughter's first Holy
Communion on Saturday.
Caroline Leen wept as she recalled the
moment her parish priest informed her she could not receive communion on her daughter
Sarah's big day.
Fr. Pat McCarthy unavailable for comment yesterday gave the young
mother of two the stern warning when she went to the parish church to talk to him along
with a fellow single mother who faces the ban on Saturday.
"About three or four weeks ago he (Fr McCarthy) went to see a
couple to explain they wouldn't be allowed receive communion on Saturday because they were
not married, are living together and have a child," explained Caroline.
"The girl was very upset and rang another girl in the same
position, who rang me. Two of us went to the church to talk to him after mass. I wanted to
know if it would be the same situation for me and he said it would. He said we were not
married and were living in sin."
"I told him I received communion all along and wish to receive
it on Saturday. He said if I went anyway near the altar I would be excommunicated."
"I wanted to receive the host at the altar with Sarah and he
said 'no.' He said he only would allow the child's godparent or grandparent to be at the
altar for the first Holy Communion but not us."
A compromise has since been reached that will see first communion
recipients arrive at the altar on their own as their parents continue to sit in the
congregation. However, the ban on unmarried parents who live together receiving communion
at Saturday's celebration remains.
"All I want is to be by Sarah's side and receive communion with
her. Surely that's not too much to ask? My only hope now is that she is oblivious to all
this on the day."
Caroline's friend and neighbor Linda McCarthy, whose daughter Kim is
due to make her first communion in neighboring Lixnaw on Saturday week, has found herself
in the same boat after parish priest Fr Richard O'Connor confirmed he will be applying the
same catechism ruling.
In a much softer approach on the issue last night, a spokesperson
for the Diocese of Kerry stepped back somewhat from the strict line being taken by the two
parish priests by stating that in administering pastoral duties, priests must be
"sensitive and compassionate."
"The teaching of the Church is that anyone who has a serious
sin should not be encouraged to go to communion. But at no time is it suggested that
someone should be publicly refused a sacrament." the spokesperson added.
"We encourage that people be treated with the greatest
sensitivity and at no time would they be publicly refused holy communion. But in offering
people pastoral guidance it is important to stay faithful to the teachings of the Catholic
Church and that is where problems sometimes arise."