It’s Not A Cudgel

Ask a question:

Will Antonin Scalia be denied the Eucharist for his public mis-statements of the Roman Catholic church’s position on the death penalty? Will Scalia, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas be refused communion for their continued enabling of the very kinds of state-sponsored acts of judicially mandated killing opposed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops [pdf]?

Will Rudy Guiliani and countless other Roman Catholic politicians be denied the Eucharist because they are divorced and remarried? (Pope Benedict certainly thinks they should be, by the way.)

Will Roman Catholic priests be denied the Eucharist for their acts of sexual abuse of minors? Will Roman Catholic bishops, archbishops, and cardinals in other places be denied the Eucharist for putting their church’s reputation ahead of the safety of “the least of these,” the children entrusted to their care?

From the .pdf file Peter links to in that post:

The reception of Holy Communion is an act of the Church as the Body of Christ. While we each
personally receive Holy Communion, it is not a private devotion. Rather, the reception of Holy
Communion is an integral part of our worship as a community of faith.


Some Catholics may not fully understand the Church’s doctrinal and moral teaching on certain issues. They may have certain questions and even uncertainties. In these situations of honest doubt and confusion, they are welcome to partake of Holy Communion, as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the Church professes taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt. Individuals who experience difficulties with or doubts about Church teaching should carefully study those Church teachings from authentic sources and seek advice from a confessor or pastor.

If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.

In other words, up to you.

No, really. I’m not a theologian, so anybody who is, chime in here, but I was a religion reporter for four years in one of the most Catholic cities in the country, and I’ve been a practicing (in the sense that I’m not very good at it) Roman Catholic since baptism at the age of three months or whenever, and I think I can say pretty definitively that nothing I’ve ever been taught about Holy Communion involved it being used as a bludgeon to compel behavior and the entire concept is repulsive, and so foreign to me it might as well still be in Latin.

A friend once hit on the thing that most appeals to me about the Communion rite, and it isn’t the mysticism of it (I think faith far more than I feel it, as I was explaining to my mother recently). It is the radical equality of the table itself: we come to it, prince and pauper, all of us the same, and all of us tarnished and damaged. We come with our plenty or our poverty, our security or our fear. We come with the things we carry, all of us, and if we spend our time there thinking about what our neighbor might be doing to make himself unworthy, we’re not focusing hard enough on our own unworthiness.

I have no problem whatsoever with public officials sitting down with leaders of their churches and talking about policy and religion, as the archbishop and Pelosi might do, being as they are two people who belong to the same communion. What I do have a problem with is turning the Church into some bullshit judge-y small-town gossip session where people the pews are presumed to have the privilege of deciding one another’s worthiness, like it’s a beauty contest, like it’s punishment for wearing a low-cut top or reward for feeding some puppies.

I have a problem making something so big, into something so small, and if I were archbishop (can you imagine?) my only response to those writing me nasty letters asking me to school Pelosi or anyone else would be a suggestion they go find a homeless shelter to volunteer at, or some prisoners to write to, or some hungry people to feed. “You got time to lean, you got time to clean, pal,” is about the size of it, which is just one of the many reasons that I will never be archbishop. Along with the pope’s problems with my chromosomal makeup, and my disinclination towards grad school.


5 thoughts on “It’s Not A Cudgel

  1. I remember when the Cudgel of the Catholic Church was used on my divorced Aunt. She knew she wasn’t welcomed and she was told that in several ways. I always found it very sad and bizarre especially since I knew her husband tried to run her over with a tractor. That was the final straw we kids didn’t know about the beatings at the time but we knew about the tractor.
    If the Church wanted to use the “No Communion for you!” cudgel on Kerry then I wanted them to be an equal opportunity offender and nail Rudy for his support of killing. And he would have to prove that the Iraq War was a Just War in defiance of the Pope. But of course the Catholic Church can be lead around their noise by the anti-abortion people and not the anti-war people because supposedly innocent white zygotes don’t count as much as innocent brown babies in the arms of their Iraq mothers who just got blowed up.

  2. The divorce re-marry prohibition is well known and widely enforced. The others are new but abortion (the fetus is pure)is sinful and capital punishment (the guilty deserve to die!!)is just doing the Lord’s work for him.

  3. And this bullshit is part of why I no longer identify as Catholic, after having spent my entire life as one (including 9 years of Catholic school for me and 12 years for my daughter — who has also left the church).

  4. Wow. So if I’m not “right” with the church, I can’t celebrate the life of Jesus? And yes, even as a lifelong non-church-going agnostic, I consider the Eucharist a celebration. And a good one.
    Just one more indication that the Catholic Church just isn’t for me, in spite of my affinity for many of its elements. Hell, the Eucharist is just about the best tool to get people to do the things the Church believes we ought to do. What better reminder to do as Jesus did than to *remember* him?

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