Chewing gum and holy Communion

Q. At a recent Mass I attended, I noticed a teenager seated near me who was chewing gum during the Mass. I was not overly alarmed because I have seen other people (of all ages) chew gum at Mass. But I was appalled when I watched that young man parade forward to receive holy Communion while still chewing his gum. Should the priest have refused to give him Communion? (West Linn, Oregon)
A. Canon law (Canon 919.1) tells Catholics that they are to abstain from all food and drink (with the exception of water or medicine) for at least one hour before receiving holy Communion. The reason, of course, is to remind us how special the Eucharist is, nourishing us for life eternal. Nowhere does canon law define precisely what constitutes food and what does not.
Some, I suppose, might argue that since sugar-free gum has no nutritional value, it does not qualify. But I would tend to differ; in my mind, gum of any kind profanes the mouth as a receptor for Communion and should be avoided.
As to your question, though, I would not as a priest refuse to give the young man holy Communion. Why take the risk of embarrassing him and having him feel uncomfortable at that church or, perhaps, at any Eucharist?
Why not instead seek him out after Mass and chat with him as to the appropriateness of chewing gum before receiving Communion? And if the problem is as common as you indicate, perhaps an occasional reminder in the church bulletin might help.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoy[email protected] and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.