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Saturday, April 24, 2004

The Boston Diocese and St. Paul on responsible reception of the Eucharist

The scandal over Kerry's reception of communion has been reinvigorated by Cardinal Arinze's statement that politicans who are "unambiguously pro-abortion" are "not fit" to receive communion. However, in covering the story the Washington Post prints this little gem of a defense from the Boston diocese, on why they have declined to carry out Arinze's recommendation:
A spokesman for Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston said Kerry had not been barred from taking communion in his hometown, and he indicated that no ban was likely.

"The position of Archbishop O'Malley has been that when people come forward to receive communion, we give them communion. The moment of communion is not the moment in which to raise the question of whether someone should or should not be receiving it," said the spokesman, the Rev. Christopher Coyne.

Coyne said that it would be appropriate for a priest or bishop to counsel a politician whose positions are contrary to church teachings. "But this is something that's handled privately with the Catholic," he said. "It's not something where you would make any kind of public action or public statement to withhold communion."

Unfortunately, what Coyne fails to realize is that the Boston diocese' very reluctance to take a stand against Kerry is, in itself, "a public action and a public statement."

Catholics are obligated to regard the Body of Christ with the respect and honor He deserves. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." Most Catholics -- well, those that are properly catechized at least -- know that to approach the Eucharist in a state of unrepentance and obstinate sin is a source of grave scandal.

Obviously, the individual is in the best position to determine whether he or she is properly disposed to receive. One cannot expect the priest to stop each communicant in line and inquire where they stand. It is our own responsibility to do so as Catholics.

Nevertheless, there are indeed cases where a Catholic can be a source of grave scandal by receiving communion, and where a priest's compliance in giving a Catholic communion can in turn perpetuate that scandal. This is precisely what Cardinal Arinze meant when he refers to politicans who are unambiguously pro-abortion -- not mentioning by name, but obviously alluding to Senator Kerry.

Kerry's bishop, Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley, has stated that "politicians should know that if they're not voting correctly on these life issues that they shouldn't dare come to Communion." Kerry has already met privately with Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, who -- we may presume -- said something along those lines as well. But as far as we can tell, whatever happened at that meeting failed to persuade Kerry to reconcile with the Church's teaching. Rather, he has launched a campaign of television advertisements affirming "pro-choice" and criticizing the President's opposition to abortion. Today attended a public rally, where he gladly received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, and reaffirmed his support for Roe vs. Wade.

Which, of course, creates no small amount of confusion for many Catholics -- catechumens, teachers, parents, clergy -- being counseled (or counseling others) on responsible reception of the Eucharist.

For when Kerry and like minded, unambiguously pro-abortion politicians continue to receive communion at the hands of complacent priests, one is tempted to wonder whether the Church is operating under a double standard, and whether St. Paul's admonishments truly apply in this day and age.

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