Did Jeremy Corbyn, as the New Statesman reported last week, take Communion at a funeral in August? It’s not a question his spokesman wanted to answer. The spokesman confirmed that Corbyn had been at the funeral of the trade unionist Mary Turner, at Sacred Heart, Kilburn. And, to be clear, “Jeremy has not converted to Roman Catholicism.” But beyond that there was silence.
This is understandable, given how serious the issue is – theologically and, as a consequence, politically. Non-Catholics are not supposed to receive Communion. (Though it is a little more complex than that – as we will see in a moment.) And even Catholics in a public state of serious sin should not receive Communion – which, even if he were Catholic, would sadly include the divorced-and-remarried, pro-abortion-voting Jeremy Corbyn.
If he did receive Communion, then, it would be a serious error. Presumably, he erred in ignorance. Nevertheless, misuse of the sacrament is something no Catholic can take lightly. As Clare Bowskill of the Latin Mass Society told the Telegraph: “Most Catholics would think that was disrespecting the faith quite considerably.”
Another Labour leader, Tony Blair, found out how troublesome the issue can be. Before asking to become a Catholic, Blair used to present himself for Communion – until Cardinal Basil Hume told him that this wasn’t allowed. Blair was also wary of how any Catholic sympathies might play with the public: when pressed, he would deflect the question. (Blair was received into the Church after leaving office, though without publicly renouncing his positions on embryo experimentation and several other matters.)
So Corbyn had good reason to keep quiet. And to be fair, the rumour is not absolutely confirmed. The story comes from the Mirror’s political editor Kevin Maguire, who wrote in the New Statesman that his anonymous sources saw Corbyn in the Communion queue. The priest who officiated at the funeral, Fr Terry Murray, told the Catholic Herald that attendance was about 2,000, and there were eight ministers of Holy Communion, so he was “not in a position to say” whether Corbyn had in fact come forward.
It is possible, of course, that the rumour came from someone’s overactive imagination. But the most likely explanation is that Corbyn just didn’t know the rules. That’s not uncommon at weddings and funerals.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection