Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Last Friday, a woman from I.C. parish wrote in to the Catholic Missourian, expressing her relief that the U.S. bishops chose not to approve a "blacklist" of Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion, though the conference continues to express that such a position makes one unsuited for reception of the body and blood of Christ.

First off, to be clear on what the bishops did write, one would do well to read the document Happy Are Those Who Are Called To His Supper: On Preparing To Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist, which can be found here. In particular, the (short) section "Causing Public Scandal" addresses the issue of individuals who publicly reject Catholic teachings. I'm not sure that this document adds anything to what the bishops wrote in 2004, in the Interim Reflections Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians. A relevant passage from that text reads, "However, in our view the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail, but in the public square, in hearts and minds, in our pulpits and public advocacy, in our consciences and communities. To read the full text, visit: http://www.usccb.org/bishops/intreflections.shtml

Anyway, putting aside the obvious comment that one should examine himself (as Paul directs in 1 Cor. 11:27) before receiving communion, I'd like to focus on that horrible and repugnant idea of a blacklist.

First, it should be said that I'm not to aware of how much dialog and consideration went into such an idea, so I won't comment one way or the other on what the bishops decided. I have a great respect for our U.S. bishops, especially the bishop of our diocese, and understand that their decisions are made with consideration for myriad factors, including pastoral, ecumenical, and doctrinal considerations. What I'd like to do is look at the hypothetical concept of such a blacklist and ask this question:

Would it really be such a bad idea?

The author of this letter to the editor colored most of her commentary with references to McCarthyism. In addition, she made the implication that people in high-profile positions who speak out vehemently against something are usually, themselves, hiding something. To support this, she made reference to former congressman Mark Foley, who spoke out against gay marriages but had been secretly making advances toward young males.

In the world of rational thought, what we usually call arguments such as this woman makes is an ad hominem attack, or "name calling". It's the same thing she accuses McCarthyism of doing (but only because she misunderstands McCarthyism). Even more ironic is her accusation that high people are hiding something when they come out so vocally against certain behaviors. She, herself, is coming out publicly against blacklisting, so does this mean that she is hiding something similar in her own personal behavior? By her own logic, it would.

See, Joseph McCarthy never actually "blacklisted" any actors during his pursuit of communist sympathizers. He went specifically after members of the State Department (the House Un-American Activities Committee went after the actors). Can we blame Joe? After all, we live in a Republic (with strong Democratic leanings), and do we want people who subscribe to the most diametrically opposed system of government secretly subverting our pursuit of our national principals?

We could argue that for hours, but see ... the thing is, a blacklist such as what the letter's author rejects is nothing like what McCarthy did at all. There is nothing "secret" about Catholic politicians who publicly promote the baby-killing agenda.

It is a slippery slope argument to suggest that attempting to identify such politicians would lead to a scrutiny of every Catholic's individual worthiness to receive communion. The situation we have with such politicians is that they are placing themselves in front of cameras and microphones to advocate the legality of embryo-slaughter.

Some try to rationalize this with lines like, "I am personally opposed, but I cannot impose my faith on others?" This is a cop-out because, if this politician truly believes that an embryo is life, then he is essentially saying, "I am personally opposed to murder, but I cannot impose my faith on others." How would it sound if legislation was proposed to legalized spousal abuse in order to accommodate immigrants from cultures where this is embraced? "I am personally against beating one's wife, but I cannot impose this view on others." We cannot impose our religious views on others, but politicians have a responsibility to protect life, whether or not someone else chooses to recognize it as life. So either A) these politicians don't really believe that embryos are life or B) they don't prioritize "life" in their political decisions. Either way, they are actively leading others, by example, into gravely offensive moral decay.

They are causing public scandal, and so their offense is not longer a matter "between them and God", as it might be if you or I privately sin, but one between them and the church. We see this clearly in Matthew 18, where if one sins against us, we are to go to him privately, and if he still rejects us, we are to take two or three witnesses, and if he still rejects us, we take it to the church, and if he rejects us still, he is to be as a leper or a tax collector (cut off from the church society). Have we not already gone to these politicians privately in our letters and e-mails as their constituents? Have we not already gone with two or three witnesses in our protests and petitions?

Nobody said such a "list" would even have to be public record. It could, after all, be only for the information of local bishops who are faced with pro-death politicians in their diocese. However, local priests and bishops need to know that they have the support of the church leadership when the person in the communion line had just days before publicly advocated the legality of cutting a baby into pieces and crushing its skull for, say, a late term abortion.

In Interim Reflections, the bishops write that "the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail." Whether or not they are correct in this, the unfortunate fact is that the battle is already being fought there, and the body of Christ suffers a small defeat every time a pro-death politician, surround by cameras,
walks up to receive the Eucharist in smug defiance of the inspired words of Scripture and the Holy Spirit guided church that Christ built.


Frank said...

The only reason Catholic politicians have the opportunity to "surrounded by cameras, walk up to receive the Eucharist in smug defiance" is because dangerously conservative bishops make this an issue during election years. The media jumps all over this because it's sensational. It's like gay marriage. You only hear the church talking about it when we are about to have a national election and they get scared that people might vote for a Democrat.

The idea that hold Jesus (in the Blessed Sacrament) for ransom is disgusting. It is absolutely up to the individual to determine whether or not they are in a state of Mortal Sin. It should not be up to a priest, bishop, or ANYONE ELSE for that matter to decide an individual's worthiness to receive Jesus. Furthermore the "scandal" clause in Canon Law should be reserved for the most extreme situations. This is not one of them. I, too, believe that Abortion is a horrible reality in this world. That fact, however, is that these polititians are not actually performing the abortions. Are they making it easier to have abortions? Certainly. But they are not the doctors who perform abortions, mothers who receive the abortions, and fathers who pressure their partners to have abortions.

There isn't any polititian that completely represents the teachings of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, to hand Republicans a blank check because they happen to say they are pro-life is dangerous. Respect for Life stretches to a lot of different issues that include the Death Penalty, Just War ,and many justice issues. There are no pro-life polititians. You might believe abortion to be the most disgusting of all of the life issues, but that doesn't mean that the others are forgotten. They are equally as important.

I wonder what Jesus would think of all of this.

Anonymous said...

Frank says: "It is absolutely up to the individual to determine whether or not they are in a state of Mortal Sin. It should not be up to a priest, bishop, or ANYONE ELSE for that matter to decide an individual's worthiness to receive Jesus. Furthermore the "scandal" clause in Canon Law should be reserved for the most extreme situations. This is not one of them."

Where does Frank get his authority to make such an outlandish statement? Where does Frank get his authority to say sandalous Catholic polititions should'nt be refused Communion by a bishop? Frank reduces sin to a completely subjuctive propisition. Bishops are charged with the care of souls, especialy erring souls. Bishops have apostolic authority by Christ Himself to correct the sinner. Under Franks view the spiritual work of mercy
to "admonish the sinner" is thrown out the window. Have we forgotten that St Peter made public the secrete mortal sin of Ananias and Sapphira before the whole Church(Acts 5:1-11)? And what mortal sin was it? Murder? Abortion? Adultery? Scandal? No. For holding back a little money they promised to the Church! Under the leadership of St. Peter they were stuck dead by God. Acts says "And great fear fell upon the whole Church." Could it be that sandalous Catholic polititions really don't fear their public sins due to a lack of true mercy by the bishops?

Immaculate Conception Church
Jefferson City Mo.

Frank said...

We are a church of hope and reconciliation. We are not a church of fear. I fear God and God alone. I respect and have great admiration for our bishops. I believe that they have the responsibility to address matters of faith and morals. I am not disputing any of that.

The Blessed Sacrament is the central piece of our Catholic lives. It is the very Body and Blood of Jesus meant to nourish us, strenthen us, and send us forth to be the very presence of Jesus in the world. By withholding the Eucharist from these politicians, these bishops and priests are denying them one of the strongest ways to create change in them.

The Eucharist is a sacrament. It is not merely a thing. It is a process by which we come to know Jesus in a more intimate way. The real scandal here is using the reception of the Eucharist as a bargaining chip to get politicians to do what these bishops and priests want them to do. This is nothing more than a way for these church officials to inspire their conservative base.

Apologetics From Scratch: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Apologetics From Scratch: said...

For more on this topic, including notes on these comments, see the new blog post "Let's Be 'Frank'".