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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bad boys and girls: No Communion

The U.S. Bishops have adopted a statement called "'Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper': On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist."

The document says that a Catholic who "knowingly and obstinately" rejects "the defined doctrines of the church" or repudiates "her definitive teaching on moral issues" would not be in communion with the church and therefore should not receive Communion.

The interpretations I've seen say that politicians who persit in voting counter to church teachings on abortion, homosexuals who continue to engage in homosexual sex, people who regularly use artificial means of birth control, should not receive.

That cuts down on the number of communicants!

But, isn't that how it should be? Shouldn't we be worthy of Communion? Yes, I know it has a grace-filled healing effect, so it could be argued that receiving is a way to turn us from our sins, but if we obstinately refuse to follow these teachings, then we should not receive.

And if we think these teachings are not valid, well, then we should go find a church whose teachings we can follow. Maybe even start one of our own, as the folks at Corpus Christi (now Spiritus Christi) Church in Rochester did.


Blogger John B. said...

My only problem with declarations like this by the Church has always been that they are 'unenforceable' in an earthly sense...these declarations are nothing more than a 'friendly reminder' by bishops and church leaders.

When was the last time you saw someone refused the Eucharist at mass? Would you feel comfortable doing so as a lay Eucharistic Minister? Why single out politicians, just because their sins are 'public'...what happens if you are an EM and know that your buddy is using birth control, do you refuse the Eucharist to him or her at mass? Kind of awkward and burdensome from a human emotional standpoint, having to be the protector of the Eucharist and at the same time moral judge and jury of a peer.

It is a complicated question...I realize that it is wrong and a sin to partake of the Body of Christ while in a state of sin, but ultimately this is a moral question that is in a practical sense unenforceable in daily practice here on earth. You just don't and won't see it happen.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Politicians are not singled out. Look back at the original entry.

Unenforceable - true. I would in no way support stopping the communion line to boot some miscreant. Remind them later. Preach about it. Write letters to the editor. Publicly shame them - but not at Communion time.

The goal is to help them realize the grave sinfullness of what they are doing, and to get them (I hope) to change.

What this statement does do is provide more ammunition for those who want to reply to anyone who declares he or she is a "Catholic in good standing" while publicly and openly committing acts that counter Church teachings.

4:47 PM  
Blogger John B. said...


I understand that the original statement talks about more than just point is that the only time I ever hear this issue raised on blogs, in the media, etc. is in reference to politicians / public figures. Occasionally, one hears it come up in parishes concerning divorcees who remarry or live with someone else taking communion...thats about it.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous bloodypapist said...

The alternative, of course, John, is not to say it at all--and it needs to be said, because it's true. If nothing else it opens up more channels by which respect for the Eucharist can be put into effect, be it by my own moral decision after hearing it preached or reading the document or the pastor's legitimate decision to deny me. The Church's rule is almost always more morally binding than otherwise, but that may just be the way it should be.

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting topic. You fail, however, to mention the primacy of conscience. Back in the late 1960s, the current pope noted that one is bound to follow one's conscious even if it means going against church teaching.

I've written a lot about conscience, the Eucharist, and my experience of being denied communion while wearing the Rainbow Sash at my blogsite, The Wild Reed (



12:46 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Michael - Primacy of consience is certainly important. Although I did not mention it specifically, my suggestions that one go off and form a church of one's own is a nod to it.

The problem with primacy of conscience is that too often people use it as an excuse rather than a legitimate reason. Primacy of conscience requires a great deal of prayer and study - it must be a well-formed conscience. Before you choose to go against church teachings you must study the teachings carefully. That takes work.

In my experience, most times when people trot out "primacy of conscience" (and I'm not implying you have done this - I don't know you), they are really saying I want to do this, the Church says its wrong, so I'll use that conscience escape clause to do what I want.

Are there people who sincerely follow their consciences when going against church teachings? Yes. Some of the folks invovled with the Spiritus Christi group I mention have done this (though many of the other members just went along because of leader worship or indoctrination, not well-formed consciences).

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,

I agree with you about the importance of an
"informed" conscience.

Of course, the question then becomes: how does one best inform one's conscience?

Do we rely solely on the Church as Institution to do this informing, or do we broaden our education, so to speak, and allow our consciences to also be informed by the lived experiences and insights of the members of the Church as People of God?

It's an important question, and one that I explore here for anyone who is interested.



The Wild Reed

1:28 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home