Spokesman Mike McCurry said the White House was assured by the pastor of Regina Mundi Church in Soweto that baptized Christians could receive the Eucharist. Father Mohlomi Makobane, has said he gave Communion to Clinton because he did not want to risk embarrassing him by declining to do so. The White House insisted that a program distributed at the Mass said: "Father Makobane has stated that due to recent rulings from the South African Conference of Bishops, non-Catholics may take Catholic Communion. He has invited all non-Catholics present that wish to receive Communion may do so."
South Africa's bishops said Father Makobane ignored guidelines for non-Catholics receiving Communion, and should have at least asked his local bishop for guidance. "The local bishop had not been asked, as required by Church practice, whether in his opinion it would have been appropriate under the circumstances, to administer Holy Communion to the presidential couple," the bishops said in a statement this week.
Cardinal John O'Connor of New York responded to numerous inquiries from the faithful of his archdiocese in his homily on Sunday that it was wrong for President Clinton, a Southern Baptist, and his wife Hillary, a Methodist, to receive Communion. The White House said the cardinal's comments appear to be a matter of misapplication of doctrine. "Cardinal O'Connor may not be familiar with the doctrinal attitude towards the Holy Eucharist that the conference of bishops in South Africa brings to that question," McCurry said.