Tuesday, June 22, 2021

On A Communion Spat

Among the more amusing things that I have seen over the weekend, the current tussle between the Blue Party and the Catholic Church has been both entertaining - and telling.

To those that do not necessarily follow tales of religious woe, the Catholic Conference of bishops has created a document which suggests that public officials who are Catholic be denied the rite of communion if they support particular policies (in this case, abortion). Their intent is that this policy would impact all public officials, up to and including the current Incumbent.  In response, a number of Blue Congress folk - about 60 - have written a letter of protest back  to the bishop's conference.

To be clear, I have no particular dog in this fight.  I am not Catholic and neither do I vote Blue.  But I am a Christian, and so the point and counterpoint are very interesting.

If you are a Catholic - as I  understand it, please correct me if knowledgeable - communion is a very important thing indeed and to be denied communion is one of the most unfortunate and undesirable positions to be in as it is the means of salvation for Catholics.  So, for those of us not Catholic, this is much more than a simple "No participation for you today".   It is literally a matter of spiritual life and death.

The Catholic side is pretty straight forward:  We are against abortion. It is in pretty much all of our documents.  You, serving incumbent public officials, support the policy and are also a practicing Catholics.  If you present yourself as Catholic, you should not hold this policy and the one mechanism we have as the Church to correct you in this matter is the denial of Communion (in the Catholic Understanding).

The Blue side is as clear.  In their letter, they denote they are doing many of the things that the Catholic church calls upon them to do to support life.  Because of that and because of the serious nature of communion, the Church should realize that overall the Incumbent is doing God's will and as such, they should not make this a political matter.

(A side note to this is a letter by a Congress folk from California, who (as a Catholic) also notes that he believes both and as such, should have the freedom of conscience to do so.  He also notes that the Catholic church is bleeding people; could it be due to policies like this?)

The point of today's meditation is not abortion per se and not politics and not the Catholic Church.    So as a courtesy to all, let us focus on the main issue.

The main issue is man's desire to form religion to fit themselves.

The Catholic Church is no stranger to disagreements with the political authorities.  Ask Henry the II of England how that worked out for him, or Henry the VIII or Henry the IV (Holy Roman Emperor, who stood out in the snow).

I have Catholic friends - Uisdean Ruadh is the greatest of them, but I have met a number throughout my life and through this blog (Juvat at Chant du Depart and Ed at Riverbend Journal come to mind).  Theirs is a long and holy tradition.  They are reasonable human beings (unlike the Catholic Ogres of myth one often hears of these days).  And with that tradition, comes acceptance of certain positions.

But in our bold new age, we the individual now dictate to the Church what is its policy.

The odd thing is, these individuals have a choice:  simply no longer belong to an organization that does not reflect your beliefs.  Happens all the time - good heavens, it is one of the reasons that The Reformation (and Counter Reformation) happened in the first place.  The last time I checked Ye Olde Calendar (hold on, checking again....) it was the 21st Century.  There is no requirement to be a member of a particular church, or really of any religious institution at all - we no longer keep rolls of membership that are reported to the government.  And certainly given today's..."eclectic" mix of Christianity, one can sure find a version to suit one's taste and beliefs. (Or, if you want to stay with an almost Catholic tradition, go with the Anglicans.  They are pretty close.)

But that is just it.  The individual should not have to do this.  The institution should bend.

This is unique in our society, of course.  In virtually every other venue, in every other way, the individual is being is being asked to bend to the collective (keep focused, we are not running down discussion rabbit holes).  It is only here, in what can only be considered one of the deepest and most personal of things, religious beliefs and morality, that the institution is being forced to bend to the will of the individual.

Does the Catholic Church have issues?  Sure.  Like every other institution, they have issues.  Theirs are just more public now.  But let us not pretend that other organizations do not, be they religious or political.

Either one as a Christian believes in God as He has presented Himself or one should not believe in Him at all (paraphrasing C.S. Lewis).  Starchy sweet versions of Christianity with no consequences, no remission of sin, no repentance, and no forgiveness are simply not the Christianity of The Bible as passed down from the Apostles (a correct saying whether one is Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or Non-denominational).  It becomes...well, it becomes what passes for a great deal of Christianity today:  spiritualism in a bland sort of loving Deity that pretty much always results in a happy ending, who has no expectations of us except "Be nice" and exists for us to self-actualize.

As I have said, I am not a Catholic and so do not have a full perspective of my Catholic friends.  But I do have a perspective of Christian, and I simply have to ask the counter-question:  If the Catholic Church is losing members (as, in fact, most U.S. denominations are), is that due to the fact that Church (all of them) are terribly wrong in such matters or because, as the Church has come to reflect society, there is no longer any difference between society and the Church?  

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." - Matthew 5:13

(Post Script:  The argument has been raised that the Bishops did not make the same requirement of other serving Presidents.  In all fairness, there have been no other Catholic presidents than JFK.  The Bishops have made other statements, but as those presidents were not Catholic, there was no other actions to be taken).

(Post-Post Script:  A favour: the point of the post is not to rail on incumbents or parties or Catholics.  Stay in the guardrails, please).



  1. Anonymous4:05 AM

    I am a practicing Catholic but am far from following the doctrine completely. I believe that the birth control pill is humane and prevents an unwanted Life from beginning. At least in most cases.

    But once that Life is present, then it is a Life, even when unable to be seen and heard. Abortion is a procedure which prevents this Life from continuing. A couple which has a miscarriage feels the blow and experiences loss. if it wasn't a Life to begin with, that feeling should not occur. It is strange how a desired pregnancy that is accidentally cut off and an abortion which has same results have different reactions.

    The right to choose - not my call. Well, it is in my case, but I have no right to tell others my right is more important than theirs. Communion is not between the two of us - it is between God and the person receiving Communion. God will render judgement at the appropriate time.

    For the record, I don't take Communion unless I have recently confessed my sins to the priest. Otherwise, it is dishonest and God being all knowing, knows that.

    1. Anonymous - Thank you so very much for sharing. As mentioned, I am a Catholic "observer" only - I know doctrine and history far better than I do the other parts.

      I wonder - and it is only a wonder - where the split between doctrine and faith sometimes comes: Is it along the fault line of our personal beliefs, our preferences? There are always things that we would prefer to have our way in rather than any church's teaching (I have the same in my own system of beliefs).

      Confession is something that I wish had transferred in some form or fashion to the Protestant movement. In general, confession of sins - if done at all anymore - is a very corporate, general sort of thing.

  2. The purpose of the church is children. The future of the church is good kids. Good kids need good parents with good values and morals. Good parents need a good community that shares their values and moves to protect good families. I am not a Catholic but from my lofty perch up here in the peanut gallery, those guys are mission focused and well within their mandate. And sure, they could put a few steel toed boots up a few Republicans and even members of their own community on those grounds. There are aspects of the abortion industry that flat out contravene God’s word in many denominations. Some so bad they offend even secular men too.

    This may verge on political and violate your rules, so delete it if you feel the need… but:

    I dunno about you, but I think part of the Democrat identity is now the idea of being anti-white, anti-male, and anti-Christian. By extension they are becoming anti-family too. And to be fair it’s not just them, many of the so-called “cuckservatives” and RINOs are too. These guys now openly attack the church in any number of ways, right on up to and including physical assault. All churches and Christians need to seriously consider protecting themselves these days. All churches will need to either stand up or close at some point.

    1. Glen, I might quibble a bit with your first point, but only in particulars. Arguably the purpose of the church is to make spiritual children - yes, actual children, but also adult spiritual children of God. The rest flows, or course - parents do need a supportive community.

      The World (and by the World I mean The World System) has always been anti-Christian, from the original Roman Empire to today. It has manifested itself in many different type of governments and social movements and, to be a little fair, the church has not always covered itself in glory either (The Albegensian Crusade, Sack of Constantinople, enablement of slavery in general, and The Inquisition come to mind), which of course makes for unfortunate accusations and assumptions. What the world seems to often leave out is the good that the church has also done.

      The reality is, Christ promised us this would be so, pretty much always. In one sense we in the West have gotten a bit used to being the dominant social paradigm but in much of the rest of the world, it has not been so.

      I would agree that churches will ultimately have to do something, even if "standing up" means dissolving the formal building and meeting together in other venues (again, the rest of the world knows far more about this than we do). For the rest, they may continue with the name of "church" and perhaps even have a denominational name, but will be no different in practice than any other organization.

    2. Is a separation of church and state actually possible, TB?

      I take your point about historical excesses of the church and riposte: consider the context of their times, and the nature of their enemies. The moslems. The Jewry. The barbarian and savage cultures. Those guys were no worse than their enemies and were actually morally superior to many - if we are to judge them through the lens of modernity. Without a doubt, western civilization could not have risen without them. The world they lived in is not the world we have today.

      To say they are the modern dominant social paradigm? Perhaps 60 or 70 years ago, maybe. IMHO, the church is just another institution that has failed due to the advancement of neoliberalism. Most of those claiming to be Christians are fakes using their faith as an expendable prop.

      I am no friend of Catholicism, but I am not an enemy either. They have had their issues policing themselves and maybe this is part of cleaning up their act? A community has the right to say, “This is what we believe, this is who we are, and this is how we want to live.” As far as I am concerned they are just another identity group pressuring the govt for what they want, which is entirely within the realm of the neoliberal democracy. Given the nature of the people opposing them today… I can sympathize with them.

    3. Glen, history would suggest that in fact the question you ask in not possible. Church and State can co-exist, but they are not ever truly "separate", because both (in the end) demand the same thing of the individual - allegiance. This was, if you will recall, what got the early Christians into issues with the Roman Empire, by refusing to worship Caesar which was interpreted as being in rebellion against Caesar.

      In terms of the context of their times - yes, they clearly were different times and judging them by modern standards is a very dicey proposition at best. That said, it is also reasonable to make a few assumptions that the Church (and Christians acting badly in the name of the Church) had not so much to do with their enemies as it did with the desires of their own hearts. Most of the examples I cited, and the ones you could come up with, were much more about power and greed than they were about advancing the Gospel (Charlemagne's forced conversion of the Saxons including executions comes to mind here).

      I wonder - has the Church been primarily denuded because of external beliefs and principles or because in effect it denuded itself of its principles when it chose to act like the world? Not to say that the Church would not have been overpowered or persecuted, but would it have had a more powerful witness instead of being just another institution?

  3. To clarify a bit, I grew up within the Methodist church but then went a number of decades without the church before finding and converting to the Catholic faith about 17 years ago.

    So with that, my interpretation of what I have been taught and learned is that while the sacraments as a whole are needed for salvation, one doesn't need all seven to be saved. Indeed few Catholics ever receive the ordination sacrament and without the marriage and confirmation sacrament, many youth would be without salvation. So while communion is a very important sacrament, it isn't required for salvation as a whole.

    I reconcile a lot of my Catholic beliefs much like the Current Occupant responded in the wake of the meeting of bishops. While I don't believe in taking the life of a fetus, it is my belief and I do not have the power to dictate what other faiths do in this matter other than to profess what I believe. The Current Occupant has said he doesn't believe in abortion either even if many in his party do.

    So to me, the question is whether it is acceptable for the Catholic faith to dictate what groups one can join in which not all beliefs fall within the Catholic tenet. This is a very slippery slope indeed. It is a long held Catholic tradition of denying communion to those not of the Catholic faith and to those who have gone through divorce without an annulment. I personally know several Catholics who are not allowed to take communion because of their divorce and subsequent second marriages without annulment. As far as I know, they are still welcome in the Catholic faith even though they can no longer partake of communion. So there is already an accepted history of denying of communion. The question is if belonging to a political party that is for abortion is far enough over the line to be denied communion.

    I don't know what the final answer will be but I suspect under the current pope, they will probably not be denied. This is just bishop sword rattling for the time being. There are many conservative bishops that haven't been pleased with what they see as the pope's liberalization of the church. While conservative politically, I tend to be for a more liberalized church so I have been very happy with Pope Francis, more so than any other pope I have known.

    1. Ed - Thank you for the response and explanation. Luther, of whom I know a bit more, only kept two of the sacraments from the seven of the Catholic church as sacraments, those of Baptism and Communion.

      The paragraph about denial of communion makes sense - as a Protestant having attended Catholic services from time to time, I would not think of taking communion (as we have a very different understanding and it is a matter of respect).

      Agreed - and understood - that one can believe that one does not have the right to dictate what other faiths or beliefs do in this regard. At the same time, we do live in a social structure where such things are decided for us, often by government, and those beliefs are either ignored or actively acted against.

      It will certainly be interesting to see how things play out. I think it is a fair statement that the solidity of any faith is not what it was 50 years ago and the ability of individual factions to act may be greater - or not. To be honest, I monitoring the continued acceptance/reaction to The Tridentine Mass as another marker of much the Church will allow individual units to practice orthodox yet perhaps not fully supported beliefs and activities.

  4. I have a Catholic friend who states "if you are for abortion, you can't be Catholic."
    While I agree with her, that is all I know about Catholics.

    Be safe and God bless.

    1. Linda, due to a number of historical reasons (even from our initial founding), I suspect a great many Americans do not know as much about Catholicism as they might. It is an unfortunate knowledge gap; the Catholic church has some really amazing writings and thoughts in it which even for a Protestant like me have been of immense value.

  5. I have nothing to add other than I think your point about “man’s desire to form religion to fit themselves” is, well, right on point. Does faith inform your politics or does politics inform your faith? Sadly, both right and left are guilty of attempting to fashion God in their image. Talk about a slippery slope …

    1. It is a slippery slope Bob, and people of all stipes throughout history have tried to explain things in terms of them really doing "The Will of God". It may be a flaw we have as humans in that we have difficulty holding two seemingly opposite ideas equally at the same time - like, for example, love the sinner but hate the sin, or be charitable but encourage all to work whenever possible? Perhaps this is truly where the idea of the Spirit of Christ in us comes to the fore; it is not something we can do of ourselves.

  6. The Catholic Church got itself into trouble early on by bending with politics. That's petty much what lead to the Reformation. Now it's being tongue-lashed for NOT bending with politics.

    Yes, the Catholic Church is "bleeding people," and most likely because it won't "change with the times." I agree to a certain extent that the Church needs to "update," but not to the point where it loses its core beliefs. Its stance on abortion is based on the Bible. So is its stance on homosexuality. When you start weeding out he Bible in order to keep the pews full, you're on a fatally slippery slope. On the other hand, it says NOTHING in the Bible about requiring priests to be celibate. Paul states that it would be BETTER if one not marry, in order to fully devote one's self to God, but it also says that if you can't handle celibacy, the by all means, marry. As a Catholic, I believe the Church overlooks many people who would make OUTSTANDING priests because of this, while at the same time attracting men who, in some cases, are running from their own sexual perversions, only to find themselves lions surrounded by meat! Given the culture in the time of Jesus' earthly walk, men were EXPECTED to marry and have children. One can assume then, that most, if not all of the apostles had wives and kids! My gut tells me that the Church just doesn't want have to financially carry the wives and kids...

    Communion; really important to us Catholics. In taking the Eucharist, we are communing with Jesus, as well as every Christian around us or has come before us. For us, we literally ARE at the Last Supper with Jesus and His apostles. Is Communion necessary for Salvation? The Bible is pretty straight on that as well. Nothing we can do can save us, other than proclaiming Jesus as our Savior and following him. Some Catholics will argue with me on this point, but again, the Bible is the last word on it. Anything else is "human law."

    I abhor abortion. To me, it's murder. That being said, whether a person has an abortion or not is between the person and God. I can't dictate another person's beliefs or actions. My beef is that the American taxpayer is forced to subsidize something that so violates their faith!

  7. Pete, As with others, thank you for sharing your insight into communion. Incredibly helpful to non-Catholics.

    In terms of the Church and politics - yes, the Church has had an issue of sorts since Constantine's day in this regard for all denominations and faiths since then. It is always harder to justify a harder stance when one has had a softer stance earlier; the canard is always "well, you were that way before". Pointing out the logical response, "Well, we were wrong" never goes over well.

    I wonder as well if we are in the beginning, if not the midst, of the purification of doctrine for all denominations. If that is so, it will of course result in a winnowing of members. It happens when any organization gets back to its original purpose and the accretions are revealed as simply that: accretions, not core.

    (As a note, I do sort of wish the Catholic Church had not gone done the road of celibate priesthood. It has made all kinds of issues over the years and was not even something regularly practice until very much later - the Celtic Church comes to mind. If not an outright married clergy, the Orthodox model comes to mind: from what I understand anyway, priests can be married prior to ordination, but monks cannot and bishops can only be celibate priests. That seems a more reasonable approach to me - as if either denomination cares what a non-member thinks!).

  8. Very interesting. Can't one be pro-choice yet still be against abortion? There's a lot of grey area in there and for me, it comes down to not wanting the government to interfere with what should be between a woman and her doctor (and between her and God).

    Worship styles, doctrine... so much of that is denominational (think baptism, music, the Eucharist, speaking in tongues... even snake handling!) and in the grand scheme of things isn't what really matters. The beliefs stated in the Creeds are the non-negotiable parts, the way I see it.

    1. Kelly - Honestly to answer your first question, I am not sure. I suppose it revolves around if the question is a specific one or a general application of principle. Asked one way - the specific - one could say maybe. If asked in the general application of a principle - say "Should anything that causes the potential or actual individual be something the Church should not endorse?" - maybe not.

      Indeed, the Creeds are almost the one thing that most of the historical Church has agreed on (though even there, Catholic and Orthodox have different understandings of the Apostle's creed and some churches never use it, although they believe what is in it). The potential difficulty is that the Creeds, in and of themselves, give us the information to be saved, but not the information on how to conduct our lives or conduct ourselves as a Christian Community. Thus, everything else.

    2. In how we should live as Christians I draw from Matthew 22:36-40. It all comes down to love. It's incredibly simple in theory, yet incredibly difficult to put into practice.

    3. It is certainly a straightforward statement Kelly - the difficulty, as you suggest, is in the application.

  9. P.S. I get tickled every time I notice the Mann Lake link in your sidebar. We've certainly had our share of shipments from there arrive at our house.

    1. One of the hardest things about moving was the fact that I had to effectively give up beekeeping as a project. I really enjoyed it - I could just sit and watch the functioning of a hive for hours on end. Sigh, maybe someday again.

  10. Bleeding Followers?

    I'd guess the reason they, and every other brand of church, is bleeding followers because they HAVE changed with the times. They've all thrown out tradition for modernity, and that is a losing message. They've literally thrown the baby (Christ) out with the bath water. The Catholics are no different than the protestants on this false teaching.

    1. Just So, it certainly seems that way. In the quest for relevance to the society at large, the Church seems to have become the society at large. Which means for many, why go to the trouble?

      It strikes me as odd - in passing - that in a time where so many are looking back to older traditions (or our modern interpretation of them), the Church is going exactly the opposite way and scrapping everything old.

  11. If I had to guess, my guess would be the Catholic Church suffers the lack of respect so common today. The faith has responsibilities that are avoided, and sometimes reviled, due to the corruption so prevalent in modern society. To make things worse, it's obvious there's descension among the clergy, and even the Pope is not liked by some of the faith.

    There is a simple solution for the problems presented, but the monster of the bureaucracy will always prevent the simple teachings of Christ. There has to be structure, and minions, or the organization collapses.

    One thing is for sure: Communion is shared by all Christian denominations, and those that are prevented from it by the Catholic Church can always seek it elsewhere.

    1. Jess - A lack of respect makes sense, although I might suggest it as a different way, a lack of commitment. Once upon a time when one committed to the Faith, one committed. Now, we prefer a smorgasbord of beliefs: those that we do not personally believe it, we feel we can ignore. And (although as a non-Catholic it is not in my wheelhouse), dissension in any organization can make it less attractive.

      An interesting sign of impending collapse, which I have seen in more than one church, is when they bring in an outside corporate consultant to make the function more like a business. And church bureaucracies can be some of the most difficult to corral.

      Indeed, one can take communion at many different denominations. Going out on a limb, I think the difficulty for Catholics is their understanding of communion is different than many Protestant denominations and thus, may feel less "right".

      Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Anonymous7:23 AM

    I think most of the presented disagreement is multiple issues being run together, primarily being: 1) where does the government come in? 2) what are a given religion's rules? and 3) what role does a person's conscience play?

    Now #1 should be easy in the US, if people are being honest: Nowhere. It just isn't the government's job. The first amendment places all the restrictions on the state, not the church. The fact that some folks don't like it doesn't change it.

    That #2 is even floated as a concern I personally find... suspicious. If you join a football league you play by the recognized rules of football. If you join the chess club, you play according to the previously existing rules of chess; if somebody comes in with a backgammon board and a set of marbles nobody would think it odd to tell them that they can only play chess by the proper rules with the proper pieces. This should be a non-controversy, especially with Catholics, where there is a well defined theology/liturgy (in contrast, say, to the theological fuzz around the mass of "non-denominational" churches which allows for a lot more variety in what is considered acceptable). Why are people so butt-hurt that the church wants to enforce its own rules, especially when membership is voluntary?

    Which brings us to #3. While there could be a religious discussion on this point, I am skipping it because, to be blunt, I don't think it applies. I think the Bidens of the world are too proud accept that the first two points apply to them. They want to be free of rule and law, regardless of the source, and instead dress their arrogance and rebellion in the robes of personal propriety for the sake of appearances. They want both the respect given to the holy and their debauched desires at the same time. To return to the previous example, they want the cachet of a chess master while only playing tik-tac-toe.

    But I am running long, and am a cynic besides. Anonymous jerk out.

    1. AJ - It is interesting and point 2 is well taken. In point of fact, any organization should have the right to set its own rules. The Catholic church has been pretty clear, as have lots of other churches. The interesting thing is that there seems to be no interest in starting a new church, for example a "Neo-Catholic" church. I think it has something to do with wanting the prestige of belonging an existing organization.

      Conscience is an odd thing, and it is not extended universally. They - and in some sense all of them - want to be able to have their cake and eat it to; call out the sins and foibles we find offensive but give themselves - and ourselves - a pass on the rest.

      I suppose the ultimate point is that no matter what our opinion, God is ultimately not mocked.

      Thank you for stopping by!


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