ROME, Nov. 6, 2012 (Zenit.org) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In a program to help prepare parents of children who are to receive first Communion, a father asked about his child who has had a serious illness from birth. She cannot eat or drink normally but receives nourishment through her stomach directly by way of PEG [percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy] tubes. She attends normal school, speaks with difficulty, but is intelligent and leads a normal life. How can she receive Communion? Is it at all possible for her to receive the sacrament without being able to eat and drink normally? — A.A., Dundee, Scotland
A: In all probability yes, but with special permission. During the late 1950s and early 1960s the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) granted several indults to Catholics to be able to receive Communion, specifically the Precious Blood, through a stomach tube (Canon Law Digest 5, page 434; 6, pages 562-565). A similar request for Communion through a nasal tube was denied.
These indults were granted before the publication of current Code of Canon Law, which grants wider faculties to bishops. Hence some canonists argue that it is now within the power of the local bishop to grant such an indult based on the knowledge of established practice of the Holy See.
At the same time, it would be a good idea for the chancery office to present the case for consultation to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. In this way officials could more clearly determine the practical aspects of administrating Communion under these special conditions so as to ensure proper respect for the sacred species.
Communion received in this way retains all of the grace and union with the living Lord that is obtained by oral reception.
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Follow-up: When a Baptized Child Enters the Church
Following our Oct. 23 comments on receiving a child into the Church, a reader wrote: “My grandson was baptized by a Maronite priest — his father being of that rite — and confirmed at his infant baptism.”
This was perfectly legitimate. According to Canon 29.1 of the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches:
“A son or daughter who has not completed fourteen years of age is ascribed by virtue of baptism to the Church sui iuris to which his or her Catholic Father is ascribed; or if only the mother is Catholic, or if both parents are of the same mind in requesting it, to the Church sui iuris of the mother ….”
That the child received confirmation is also common practice in these rites and hence, also perfectly legitimate.
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Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.