Monday, October 23, 2006

Shorter Lines at Communion Soon

The United States Bishops are preparing a draft of a document, "Happy are Those who are Called to His Supper", for their November meeting in Baltimore. According to this document, anyone who rejects the defined doctrines of the Church or her definitive teachings on moral issues should not receive Holy Communion (see the CNS story here). The document was drafted in response to a proposal by Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey in 2004 after a presidential campaign in which many Catholics, including some Bishops, had objected to John Kerry's Madonna-like use of Christian imagery, in particular his attendance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion, during his campaign. Given his public and unapologetic defense of the moral licitness of abortion, some have speculated that Kerry was not in a position to receive Holy Communion in good faith, thus giving rise to scandal among the faithful. The new document would apply to everyone, not just politicians, and in spite of the obvious worry that it will be unenforceable in principle it is still a good idea, if only as a reminder to everyone who claims to be a Catholic of just what it means to make such a claim.

6 comments:

Paul Halsall said...

I agree with you Scott.

Catholics who use contraception should not go to communion, and couples with only two children after five years of marriage should be interrogated.

Furthermore, all those who have masturbated, but have not yet gone to confession, should not recieve communion. [After all, we can all agree that teenage boys going into private rooms with priests to explain just how many times they ejaculated in the past week, and what they were thinking about, is a really good idea.]

Scott Carson said...

Well Paul, knowing you as I do, I feel I must set your mind at ease: mental masturbation is not something that needs to be taken to the confessional, so you're still safe--at least on those grounds.

Personally, I've taken it all to confession at one time or another, including things that many might find far less worrisome than masturbating. Some of us happen to find the Sacrament salutary rather than threatening, and are not so much concerned that we're going to be attacked (sexually or otherwise) by the man in the other chair as we are hopeful of finding a healing reunion with a loving and compassionate God, who wipes away every tear from the humble and contrite heart.

By contrast, there do appear to be some out there who don't believe that they've ever committed a serious sin in their lives, but I think it's at least possible for people to be mistaken in their private judgments about the moral status of their own acts.

I'm curious about your worry about interrogations, though. I guess it's possible that someone, somewhere, might wonder why there aren't more than two children in a catholic family of five years' standing, but I suppose most people who have actually been married--or who know even a tiny bit about biology--will realize how very much more likely it is for a family to be about that size than to be spewing out a kid a year. Some people may even have heard of infertility. But in the end, I think that it remains as clear now as it ever was that the decision to go to confession is a rather personal one, since sin itself is a personal turning away from God.

If you don't happen to believe that there is any such thing as turning away from God, then I have to say that I admire your optimism; if you don't happen to believe that anyone other than you, or people who think like you, has any authority to call a particular act a turning away from God, then I admire your hubris. But someone who thinks that Christianity is all about receiving Communion and never having to admit that you may not actually be in a position to receive Communion on some occasions is not someone who has thought very carefully about what Christianity is, and that sort of person I don't admire, though I do pity him.

Paul said...

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

-- George Herbert

As long as you believe in the Nicene Creed, that should be good enough to go to communion.

Scott Carson said...

Oh, of course you're quite right: it should be. It's only because of our frail human nature that it isn't.

Steven said...

Dear Mr. Carson,

I see a strong down-side to this particular teaching and that it that people very evidently don't understand clearly the difference between prudential judgments and doctrine.

As a result, many who would otherwise be welcomed to the sacrament, because they support the war in Iraq and believe that the Church teaches that it is an unjust war would scrupulously stay away from communion.

This sounds good in principle, but the truth is that Catholic adults are too poorly catechized for it to have any real meaning--more likely to keep virtuous old ladies away from the altar rail (if there is one) that twenty-five year old reprobates.

Even so, the reality is that the teaching is the truth, so do we supress the truth because of the harm it might cause or do we attempt to mitigate the undesirable consequences. I think the latter; however, that means recognizing that there might be some profound undesirable consequences.

shalom,

Steven

Steven said...

Dear Mr. Carson,

Well, I certainly butchered the first paragraph of the entry above.

Let's try again.

Dear Mr. Carson,

I see a strong down-side to this particular teaching in that people very evidently don't understand clearly the difference between prudential judgments and doctrine.

shalom,

Steven