Catholics/sacraments and burial

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Question
Hi. I have a seminarian friend who told me that it is against Catholic canon law to deny anyone a sacrament.
My question:
1) is this law true?
2) if so,
a) why would a baby, whose mother supported abortion, be denied baptism? This is a real case where the priest argued that the baby's upbringing would be contrary to Catholic teachings (assuming the baby accepted the mother's views). But, the baby is innocent of anything, including her parentage and views
b) a teen in NJ committed suicide (supposedly over bullying). A tragic case which occurs far too often. Supposedly, the Catholic Church does not refuse burials to suicides yet it did in this case.
i) how do you reconcile canon law with this refusal?
ii) how can you know whether it was suicide/murder/an accident (not always clear, particularly at time of burial)
iii) how can you claim to judge someone (left to God) based on what you think their state of mind was when they died?
What I was trying to say is that I can not understand why the Catholic Church can, at times, act as a judge (this person committed suicide and was in a free state of mind) when no one can know for sure. Let God judge them not the Church. Please expalin.

Answer
Hi Gerry,

Thanks so much for your question! Also, thanks for the carefully structured manner in which you asked your question(s) as well. I think it'll make it easier for me answer as I'll provide answers according to the numbers.

1) First, Canon Law is an extremely difficult area of study. This is due, in part, to the language that is used. I'm not sure how far along your friend may be with his seminary studies, but I will say that I know some veteran priests who will answer questions regarding canon law with extreme caution and, in many cases, will defer the questioner to a Canon Lawyer. And, yes, this area of study is so in depth that there are actual Canon Lawyers.
  To speak more directly to part one of your question, I believe that your friend may be speaking based on a misinterpretation of [Can. 843 1] "Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them."
Who would be prohibited by law from receiving the sacraments?
[Can. 842 1] A person who has not received baptism cannot validly be admitted to the other sacraments.
[2] The sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the blessed Eucharist so complement one another that all three are required for full christian initiation.

2)(a) I'm not familiar with this particular instance, but I can say that in order for a baby or child (anyone who has not yet reached the age of reason) to receive the Sacraments, the parents must agree to raise the child in accordance with the Doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church. If the parent, or parents, hold views that are publicly adverse to some of the fundamental doctrines of the Faith, the priest, or administering clergyman, could be liable for giving rise to scandal. The code of canon law has this to say about scandal:
[Can. 277 2] Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.

2)(b) If I'm not mistaken, the notion of earning an automatic one-way ticket to hell for committing suicide is a pre-Vatican II concept.
I would encourage you to read what Catechism of the Catholic Church says about committing suicide. (a href="http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P7Z.HTM">Catechism on
suicide</a>)
Most importantly paragraph 2283, which states: [2283] We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
Although I believe I may be familiar with this instance you speak of in part 2.b of your question, just to be on the safe side, I would like to abstain from commenting directly. But, I will say that regardless of the circumstances surrounding this alleged incident, as members of the Faithful, we should all continually pray for the soul of that poor teenager as well as all outcasts and less-fortunate members of society, both alive and deceased.

Gerry, I hope I have done a good job in answering your question(s). I have done so to the best of my ability, and if you need anything else, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Pax Christi,
Walker

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Walker Franklin

Expertise

I am prepared to answer questions on general apologetics, teachings, and beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Experience

I am a member of the St. Lawrence Parish Council, 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, and a Secular Franciscan in formation.

Organizations
St. Lawrence Parish Council, Knights of Columbus, Secular Franciscans

Publications
Catholic Nucleus, Paul & Peter's Blog

Education/Credentials
I am a Catechist and RCIA sponsor who attended Catholic parochial schools for twelve years.

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