View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Denying communion?

The issue of denying communion to pro-choice politicians is one of those topics that just won't go away.

I have been up and down on the issue myself.

I believe it is a mortal sin to actively and publicly support and promote aborton.

Certainly canon law says anyone who helps to procure a completed abortion is automatically excommunicated. A number of analysts interpret that as applying to those who push a woman to get an abortion, help her to get it (i.e. the mom or boyfriend who drives the mother-to-be to the clinic or knowlingly helps to pay for it), and even to any politician/activist who publicly helps to legalize or to keep legal abortion.

Of course, there is room for interpretation. Is a person who says he is pro-choice but does not otherwise actively promote abortion as culpable as the person who actively battles attempts to limit or eliminate legal abortion?

Is the teenage boyfriend who is scared and confused so he suggests his pregnant girlfriend get an abortion as culpuble as the adult man who pressures his girlfriend to get an abortion because his wife might find out or it would mess up his career?

The issue here is communion, though.

I don't think the communion line should be a battlefield.

I think if a pro-choice politician (or a known sinner) comes up for communion, he/she should be given communion. Who knows - maybe he or she has reformed.

BUT, the local church leader then should contact the person to discuss what happened. If the person has repented and now rejects abortion, wonderful!

If not, the local leader then should explain that what he/she did was wrong under the circumstances. The leader should use this as an opportunity to discuss the moral issues involved, and, hopefully, to get the communicant to realize the error of his/her ways. (It would be nice, but not likely).

If there is no repentance, the local leader should then ask the person not to come to communion again.

The local leader also has a reponsibility publicly to make Church teaching on the matter clear. It should be proclaimed from the pulpit and in print in the bulletin.


Thus informed, if the miscreant persists, the sin is on him or her.

In the extreme cases of very public sinners or dissenters, though, stronger measures may be appropriate.

If they have been warned a couple of times, and they persist, then announcing their names from the pulpit or in the bulletin might be an option.

Imagine if the presider got up after communion to say:

"As many of you know, XXX is a public advocate of abortion, and I have no indications XXX has changed his/her stance. I have spoken to XXX about the appropriateness of receiving communion, but XXX did so today. Let us pray now for XXX that the Lord might touch his/her heart and open his/her eyes."

Even if it didn't work with the person, think of the lesson given to the congregation.

A priest - a Christian - willing to risk speaking out publicly on a serious moral issue. (Gee, isn't that something we honor saints for doing?)

I know, I know, not likely.

But I've heard many a priest get up at Mass and chide the congregation for not giving enough to the collection.

Isn't this more serious?


Blogger Talmida said...

I see your point on this Lee, and I don't think you're wrong.

However, I don't find the idea of "mortal" or "venial" sin a particularly helpful model in our post conciliar age. We have been taught that sin is any turning away from God. Likewise, receiving communion is coming as close to God as we can, through Christ.

I think in general, anyone who wants communion ought to get it. It is someone asking for Christ. Sinner or not, who are we to deny Christ (who came for sinners) to that person? The Eucharist can only help that person, possibly even convert her or him. An unworthy recipient certainly doesn't harm the Eucharist, and I don't really see how it can hurt the church, either.

If you're going to excommunicate someone, then kick him out. Don't let him in the door. But to allow someone to participate in the Liturgy of the Word and then deny him or her Communion strikes me as being a bit hypocritical. The Living Word of God is not denied to sinners. Why would we deny them His living body?

I really have trouble seeing this issue as anything other than the church trying to protect its own reputation -- which strikes me as being something that Christ would not approve of.

I like what you say about the leader of the community confronting the sinner -- but why just abortion? Why not the people who have 2 people in their family and 3 vehicles? Aren't they public sinners? What about ones who don't bring their kids to mass? Are they public sinners? How about the ones who support politicians who want to reduce health care benefits? Are they public sinners? What about ones who support the death penalty?

Why is one's stance on abortion the defining mark of catholicism? I just don't get it. Do you think most catholics even know someone who's had an abortion?

11:31 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

In addition to someone who supports abortion, I referred to "a known sinner" in my post. I was thinking of people like pornographers, drug dealers, "Mafia" members, folks of that sort (Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame came to mind.) Generally anyone who is known to be involved with serious sin, but who has been able to get away with it.

So I agree, abortion is not the only sin to be singled out.

But it does claim more than a million lives a year, so it is a clearer cause of harm than say, owning three cars (even though it could be argued that they are polluting and consuming natural resources and hence ultimately helping to claim lives).

I'd also agree with singling out people who cause deaths through ongoing pollution in Third World Nations, or who deliberately and knowlingly produce dangerous goods and lie about it (tobacco company types, for example).

But not bringing kids to Mass? Versus killing a million people (in the U.S)? The two sins don't compare.

I'm talking about SERIOUS sins here. Sins that clearly violate the dignity of people and the sacredness of life.

Mortal - yes, an out dated term. Serious then.

As for the church trying to protect its own reputation - I'm not sure what you mean.

I think a number of Catholics do know someone who has had an abortion. I know of at least two women.

12:14 PM  

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