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Karen Sadoff wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am 70 and lately I have seen mentally-retarded people receive Holy Communion.

I grew up being educated that the age of reason (age 7) was the time one receives Holy Communion.

  • What is the reasoning now on when someone can receive Holy Communion?

Thank you,

Karen S.

  { What is the reasoning why mentally-retarded people can now receive Holy Communion? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi Karen,

The (USCCB) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Disabilities in 1995. In it (107-110) it says that the ability to distinguish ordinary bread and the Bread of the Eucharist is to serve as the key when determining whether to admit a disabled child to the Eucharist.

They go further to state that the ability to distinguish may be evidenced through manner, gesture, or referential silence rather than verbally.

Fr. Jonathan

Eric replied:

Hi, Karen —

Some mentally retarded people may, in the judgment of the pastor, be able to make use of the faculty of reason and thus may be eligible to receive the Eucharist. I am not aware of the policy on the Eucharist in the Latin Rite changing.

In the Eastern Rite, even infants can receive Communion and so the policy would be more generous with mentally-retarded people as well. My recommendation is to not worry about it and assume good faith on the part of the people involved.

Hope this helps,


Karen replied:

Dear Fr. Jonathan and Eric,

Thank you so much for this explanation.


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