Can someone with a mortally sinful addiction, who does not have many opportunities to confess, receive Communion?


Full Question

If for many years one has had an addiction that is mortally sinful and is trying to work through it progressively in Christ, is he allowed to receive the Eucharist at Mass? I understand that we need to go to confession, but here it is offered only weekly. If one is going to confession weekly and slips back into his addictive sin between confession and Sunday Mass, should this person refrain from receiving Holy Communion?

Answer

There are those who would say that since the behavior is addictive the degree of culpability is questionable and one may receive Holy Communion so long as one confesses as soon as possible. I do not subscribe to such an opinion so readily. Addictions are not influenza or strep throat. Ordinarily one can control addictive behavior with the combination of personal honesty, God’s grace, proper motivation, and common sense. Certainly, there are severe cases where one’s culpability can be diminished partially or even completely. In such cases the confessor will inform the penitent that a sin has not been committed. Indeed, a regular confessor or spiritual director is a very real necessity in such extreme situations. But for most people addictive behavior is far less a threat to our freedom than our permissive, victim-oriented culture is inclined to have us believe.

Most of us are far freer than we think. The fact that one cannot receive the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin can be a further motivation to avoid the occasions where one is weak. It is also possible to ask a priest to hear one’s confession outside of the prescribed times.


Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.