On Melady on Politicizing Communion

This week the National Catholic Reporter had an article by Thomas Melady, "Politicizing Communion harms interests of the church". It seems that he disagrees with those bishops who have advised that politicians in their dioceses who support abortion rights not receive Communion. *note: I am glossing* This is what he considers "politicizing Communion".

This post will be a response in part to Mr. Melady, and in large part to the comments on his article's page.

His first datum is that "The vice president of the United States was told by the bishop of his native city that he should not present himself for Communion there. The full body of the U.S. bishops at its general meeting in November 2007 approved an election guide called “Faithful Citizenship” intended for all U.S. Catholics. However, the bishop of the vice president’s diocese said he did not regard it as “official.”" Statements of a bishops' conference do not override the authority of a bishop in his own diocese. We need remember that our particular church is our diocese. Our pastor is our bishop, and the only person really over him, is the bishop of Rome. Here in the diocese of Denver, am I bothered by what the bishops in Lincoln, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Wichita, Santa Fe, etc, say? I think not. They are not my bishop. My loyalty is not to the bishops of the United States, it is to the bishop of Denver, and the bishop of Rome. Biden's bishop is well within his rights to override the USCCB document.

Moreover, the document itself is flawed. From LifeSiteNews: "Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, named a document on the election produced by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that he said “led to confusion” among the faithful and led ultimately to massive support among Catholics for Barack Obama. The US bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,”..." As for me, I will trust Archbishop Burke's judgement over that of a layman politician.

Now on to my responses to comments on Mr. Melady's article.

A response to: "Who are you to judge Dan? Do you have total knowledge of the mind of God? If you refer to Corinthians - fine. Then find me a passage that addresses abortion in the New Testament! The link between non receiving communion and bringing condemnation is by people ignoring the needs of others and those who cause divisions in the Church. Do you think your comment brings unity or division?" He claims that the NT does not address abortion--we are Catholics. Even if something isn't explicitly in the bible, we might still believe in it. In CCC 2270-2275, abortion is clearly demonstrated to be an offence against the fifth commandment. It is grave matter. The 1 Corinthians reference is to 11:27-29. How do persons manage to ignore the fact that when someone does not believe what the Church believes, her unity is attacked? And doubly so, when someone who does not believe what the Church believes, and yet makes the pretense of doing so by receiving Christ in Communion. Standing up for the truth does not bring division; rather, it exposes the division that is already there, and does not allow the pretense of unity.

A response to:
I couldn't disagree more. The body and blood of Christ are the medicine for a sick and broken world, not the desert for the righteous. Jesus said "those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick." As a Catholic, I believe that the Eucharist has a healing power all its own that depends neither on the worthiness of the Priest nor on the worthiness of the recipient. If I love my brothers and sisters who are openly pro-choice, how can I withhold the medicine for their souls?St. John said "He who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." There is no love in denying communion to those who earnestly seek it; only hate. Jesus offered his blood and rent the curtain of the temple so that both saints and sinners could stand in the presence of God. It is no ones place to deny anyone the Bread of Life, for to do so is to deny the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice.
I agree that Communion heals us. It forgives our venial sins and increases our share in sanctifying grace. However, the sacrament for healing is not the Eucharist. Focusing on Communion as "medicine for a sick and broken world" and on its "healing power" obscures the sacrament which is our true sacrament of healing: Confession. Confession is the sacrament we use to be healed, not Communion. Communion is not "medicine for their souls"; Confession is. I am sure that no priest would withhold this medicine from someone who wants it. (And is able to receive it, naturally.) We need a bit less focus on Communion, and a great deal more on Confession. The denigration of Confession is linked to this view in which Communion is treated as something to which we have a right. Our brothers and sisters who are pro-choice do not think and love with the Church. They do not think and love with Christ, who Communion is. Worthiness for Communion does not have to do with holiness. It has to do with admission of sin. Persons who are in communion with the Catholic Church, in a state of grace, and who have not eaten nor drank for an hour are admissible to Communion. If you don't think and love with the Church, you aren't in communion with her, and you shouldn't pretend to be. Catholics do not have the right to love apart from the Church. We are bound to love what she loves.

I don't claim to be a particularly good or sinless person. I sin habitually. However, I acknowledge that the Church says what I do is wrong, and I go to Confession before I present myself for Communion. I submit myself to what the Church says, knowing that she is much wiser than I. I strive to think and love with her. This, I pray, is earnestly seeking Communion. Obstinately maintaining a pro-choice position, and earnestly seeking Communion, are two mutually exclusive activities. To be pro-choice is to reject what the Church teaches. How can someone claim that they earnestly seek Communion, while openly defying what the Church teaches?

Denying someone Communion does not deny the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice. These two things are entirely unrelated. Of course Christ's sacrifice is sufficient. He is God; his death has infinite value. He died for the sake of every human soul who will ever exist. However, we must participate in it. Just because he died for every soul, does not mean that every soul will accept it. Likely, some souls have rejected it. Obstinately maintaining a pro-choice position, believing that persons have a right to kill persons who are in the womb, when you have been taught by the Church that it is gravely wrong, is rejecting Christ's sacrifice.

Receiving Communion is a matter of integrity. If you do not think and love with the Church and Christ, then it does not make sense for you to desire Communion. Receiving Communion and maintaining a pro-choice position is a lie. I'm glad to have found that my comment on integrity echoes that of my own bishop (speaking of Biden): "I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion."

The hermeneutic which views the matter of denying Communion as "politicizing" Communion is flawed from the start. It ignores the concept of integrity. Receiving Communion presupposes that one is in communion with the Church. Bishops denying Communion to those who publicly take stances which are incompatible with what the Church teaches, when those persons will not deny Communion to themselves, is simply enforcing integrity. It is subordinating to Truth and Church teaching, how a member of the Church acts. It is saying X is an act that puts one who does it outside of communion; it is not politicizing Communion, even when X is a political activity. As members of the Church, all we do and think needs to be enlightened by, if not conform to, what the Church teaches. Where there is no room for plurality, a Catholic may not choose to act against the Church and expect to be admitted to Communion. Their acts must be subordinated to the Church; not the Church's teachings to political expediency in a pluralistic society.

Please, please realize, that denying Communion isn't being judgemental. It is rather requiring integrity of persons. In 2004, as Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to the US bishops:
When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2000], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin. [Emphasis mine.]
The view that everyone should be allowed to receive Communion is typical of cafeteria catholicism. Who cares what we believe, let's just all be friends and get along? This is so superficial. There was once a time when persons believed in the Real Presence, and trembled to receive Christ, lest they be doing so unworthily. What happened? What happened to the fear of God, and the sense of sin? Believing that persons who are pro-choice should receive Communion, is saying that it doesn't matter if you think and love with the Church. You can do whatever the heck you want, and it's ok.

Sincerely, that view is unloving. It gives the impression that everything really is ok. You can think X, and I'll think Y, and it doesn't matter than X and Y are incompatible. Jesus will let us all in to heaven.

Oh wait, no he won't. If you don't listen to him and accept what he says, and make an effort to live like him, and confess when you screw up, you're going to be on the goat side of the divide, and your body and soul will be in hell, tormented and apart from God, forever. The brave bishops are constantly derided as being unloving. In fact, they love their sheep more than we know. They care so much about the immortal soul of their sheep, that they are not willing to stand idly by while the sheep do something which might be endangering their salvation. To love someone is to desire their good. Taking steps to discourage someone from receiving unworthily is one of the most loving acts someone can do.

Denying Communion is a necessary step because people don't have the sense to not present themselves when they oughtn't. Back in the day, people feared receiving Christ unworthily. If there was any doubt in their minds, they refrained. They went to Confession right before receiving, just to make extra sure they were ok to receive. If people would do that, bishops wouldn't need to protect them from receiving unworthily.

That's right, "protect them". Not protect Christ from being received unworthily. This is not about protecting him, so much as it is about protecting them from damning themselves. Another commenter writes, "The very thought that a bishop or a priest can presume the state of a catholic's soul, and state that they should be denied the presence of Jesus is pure arrogance. Making a "thing" out of the mystery that is the eucharist, and using it as a tool for moral teaching is pure foolishness." Unfortunately, because Catholics now presume they are worthy no matter what, bishops have been forced to suggest that persons be denied Communion. Canon 916 reads, "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible."
Clearly, individuals have the responsibility to examine their conscience for grave sin, and determine whether or not they may communicate. There is such a thing as mortal sin. There are conditions under which a Catholic legally may not receive Communion. Someone conscious of grave sin (mortal sin, including the support of abortion) should not present themselves for Communion in the first place. However, if they do, the preceding canon deals with it. Canon 915 reads, "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion." Persons who act so as to support the "right" to procure abortion may well be "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin". I'm not sure. But, thankfully, I'm not a bishop. I don't have to interpret and apply canon law. But if a bishop reads canon 915, and makes a judgement about it, that is the law in his diocese. His act of denying Communion is truly merciful and loving. He is doing his best to make sure that his sheep don't damn themselves. He is protecting them from themselves. This is so much more important than a parent protecting their child from bodily harm. No-one begrudges a parent for being exceedingly cautious about protecting their child from bodily harm. Why is a bishop telling someone, who acts to support abortion and has been repeatedly taught that it is a grave sin, that they should not receive Communion, arrogant? It isn't arrogant, it is cautious! Bishops who do not take due care to protect their sheep from receiving Communion unworthily might even be considered, in a sense, negligent. It is much better that bishops err on the side of caution and instruct their sheep not to receive, than to be presumptious and maintain silence.

Some bishops, such as Mahoney, Weurl do not enforce canon 915 (at least as far as those "others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin"), because they read canon 916 as meaning that everyone examines their conscience, and therefore the ordinary needn't intervene. That seems to be a possible reading of the canons. However, there clearly are bishops who read the canons such that the ordinary need intervene. These include John Paul II, and bishops Chaput, Naumann, and Burke, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, "effectively the Church's highest adjudicatory body." Each bishop is allowed his own reading of the CIC in his own diocese, and we shouldn't begrudge them this, at least until Rome imposes its own reading.

Critic also claim things such as "God is the only true Judge of another's heart. Not you, nor any any one else." However, bishops are our pastors, appointed by Christ to take care of us in his stead. Some nuggets from the CCC: "Hence the Church teaches that "the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ."" (862) and "Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling...In fact...by the imposition of hands and through the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant." (1558) And from the CIC, "Since he must protect the unity of the universal Church, a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. He is to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially regarding the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints, and the administration of goods." (392) So the bishop is the representative of Christ, and it is his duty to urge the observance of canon law. It is their duty to, as Christ' representatives, to ensure that we are not falling afoul of the canons. Including canon 915.

So many persons who oppose bishops who deny Communion make claims in the spirit of "Jesus wanted all the sinners to come to him, so who are the bishops to deny us coming to him?" They are ignoring what it means to come to Jesus. The sinners Christ received in the gospels admitted their sinfulness. They repented. Those persons to whom the bishops deny Communion are not in that situation. They are obstinately refusing to acknowledge their sinfulness (on this issue) and turn to Christ. That is why they may not receive him. Their actions render them unable to receive him. This "squishy Jesus" view must stop. He was not happy-go-lucky Jesus. He did not welcome everyone unconditionally, though he did welcome everyone. Those who want everyone to receive Communion, regardless of obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin, imagine a weak Jesus who just wants everyone to get along and sing happy songs. They forget that when Christ returns, he is returning as our Judge. He is not going to be hugging everyone 24/7 because he loves them, though he does. He will be a strong, forceful man, not a squishy sweetheart who says it's all ok. He will have a backbone. At the end of time, and at the our of our death, he is going to Judge us. The bishops who instruct pro-abortion legislators not to receive Communion, by the authority of their fullest share in the priesthood of Christ, are preparing us for his Judgement. We ought to thank them.

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