Video of San Francisco's Archbishop George Niederauer giving Holy Communion to two transvestites from the homosexual group "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" provoked controversy and an apology from the archbishop. The archbishop asked forgiveness for giving Holy Communion to group members and rebuked the group for the disrespect its mock religious dress shows for religious sisters. The San Francisco Chronicle reports some reactions from the city’s Catholics.
"It's been all the news in Catholic circles," said Bill May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good. "Catholics are hurt, frustrated and a bit angry because nobody is standing up and saying this is not right. This is a desecration of the Eucharist. They were there to make a statement and embarrass the archbishop and, in doing so, they desecrated what is most sacred and dear to every Catholic in the world."
Fr. Jim Bretzke S.J., professor of moral theology at the University of San Francisco, claimed certain principles should be at work in the distribution of Holy Communion. "The general sacramental principle is that you don't deny the sacrament to someone who requests it," he said. "The second principle is that you cannot give communion to someone who has been excommunicated."
He said such people are designated "manifest public sinners" in canon law. "This is someone who violates in a serious way one of the Ten Commandments or one of the important laws of the Church," Father Bretzke explained. He continued: "the sisters do not meet the criteria the church has for denying Communion. Over-accessorizing and poor taste in makeup is not an excommunicable offense."
In fact, manifest public sinners are not necessarily excommunicated. A 2004 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examined the matter. In the document, called "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion," then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, explained that the minister of Holy Communion must refuse the sacrament to someone obstinately persisting in "manifest grave sin" even if he or she has not been excommunicated.