Monday, April 26, 2004

Catholic Un-Answers

Welcome to Catholic Un-Answers, an apologetics and theology resource for your questions about the Catholic faith. It's time for our "Q&Un-A" program, where our staff of catechists and theologians un-answer your questions about Catholicism. Today's question is from Jim Noble. Jim's noticed that abortion-supporter John Kerry, while Catholic, is given communion at every Mass, and asks:
I am denied communion with my Catholic wife and Catholic children EVERY SUNDAY because I follow the request in the front of the missalette not to receive.

Why should I bother?
That's a great question, Jim! Let's hear from our staff! First up is Fr. Chris Coyne of the Archdiocese of Boston, Fr. Coyne?
The Archdiocese of Boston ``does not hold to the practice of publicly refusing Communion to anyone,'' said archdiocese spokesman Rev. Christopher Coyne. He said it was up to the individual to decide whether to receive Communion.
Thanks, Fr! Next is Bishop Sean O'Malley of Boston:
"It is not our policy to deny Communion. It is up to the individual."
Gee, what a great staff! Hold on, Jim, we have Mark Adkinson, a spokeperson for the Archdiocese of Washington, on the line. Mark, what do you think about Jim's question particularly about the Missalette, which says he shouldn't receive communion?
"What the Vatican came out with restated church teaching, and wasn't anything new," Adkison said. "The responsibility is on the individual to examine himself as a Catholic."
And we also have a noted Catholic layman, Ted Kennedy, with some thoughts on whether the author of the Missalette is worth listening to:
"He's a prominent figure in the Vatican circle, but he's not speaking for the pope," said Kennedy, whose brother John was the only Catholic to be elected US president. "That's a major difference."
Last up, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington! What response do you have to Jim's question?
"I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction," he said gently. "You don't know what's in anyone's heart when they come before you. It's important that everyone know what our principles are, but you'd have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.]" . . . "It's between the person and God,'' he said. . . . "What they do,'' he demurred, "is really their business and not mine.''
So, Jim, there you are -- it's up to you, the individual. Just examine yourself and decide whether you should receive communion. After all, withholding participation in the Eucharist should never be a "sanction" of your conscientious decisions to disagree with Church teaching. We don't know what's in your heart, and we're not sure your intent to receive would be malicious. What you do, is really your business and not ours -- so long as you realize that it's a consequence of the sad divisions in Christianity that we cannot extend to a general invitation to receive Communion. Reception of the Eucharist by Christians not fully united with us would imply a oneness which does not yet exist, and for which we must all pray.

Thanks for calling, Jim!


Actually, Jim, I sympathize with your complaint -- especially if you're a baptized Christian who agrees with Church teaching on abortion. My wife spent years submitting to the "scandal" of being refused communion because she was a Methodist, even though her pro-life record is much, much better than John Kerry's. One day, after being admitted to the Church, she went to Mass at our former parish, where it was known she was a Methodist. When the line for communion had brought her to the priest, he didn't give her the Host. Instead, he demanded to know if she was a Catholic. I didn't mind, really, although my wife was peeved. The priest is the guardian of the sacraments. It's just a pity to see the rules enforced as to people who wholeheartedly support the Church's struggle against abortion, and tossed out the window as to Presidential candidates who openly repudiate the authority of Christ and His Church to speak about the sanctity of human life. As I've said before, the Catholic Church isn't made up of Catholics. It's made up of about a billion people who are trying to be Catholic with varying degrees of success. Sometimes they're dumb. Sometimes they're cynical and cowardly. And sometimes they do the right thing. It's the same in every area of human life -- marriage isn't made up of couples who are (ultimately speaking) married, it's made up of couples who want to spend their lives trying, with varying degrees of success, to actually "be" married.

In reality, the only reason to be (or try to be) Catholic is what you will receive from the Church. Paying too much attention to what the Church gives everyone else can be a stumbling block. "Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the Kingdom of God." Continue to follow our Lord, and you will find Him fully in the Eucharist, even if others can't discern the treasure and judgment in the Host. It truly is a consequence of the sad divisions in Christianity that we cannot extend to a general invitation to receive Communion. Reception of the Eucharist by Christians not fully united with us would imply a oneness which does not yet exist, and for which we must all pray. It's sad, because we can't share the Eucharist with you, even though you may agree more with the Church about abortion than our own. It should be prayed about because, with respect to attitudes, the Catholic Church needs more Jim Nobles and fewer John Kerrys.

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