Saturday, September 27, 2014

Some thoughts on the upcoming Synod on the Family

I've been reading many different perspectives and speculations about the upcoming Synod on the Family.  Repeatedly from the camp of guys who don't actually live in or lead family units...that would be the hierarchical leaders...I hear variations on the, "We are right; we always were right; we will always be right; therefore the following people can't have communion" theme.  I have two observations / questions regarding this:

1.  Humility is the ability to say, "Maybe we were wrong."  Why do you collectively and individually lack the humility and quite frankly, the self-confidence, to ponder that question?  Did you not read in last Sunday's first reading, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9)."  Why do you think that your interpretations are immovable and accurate?  Why can't you allow for the possibility that your thoughts and ways are not synonymous with God's thoughts and ways?  Have you idolized yourselves through idolatry of your roles to the point you find your thoughts and teachings equal to God's?  If so, is that acceptable?

2.  Even if your teachings are 200% correct, so what?  Why would that preclude sharing the body and blood of Christ with people who violate certain teachings?  The gospel notes time and again that Jesus shared himself, dined at table, with some of the most notorious sinners.  Can you be credible Vicars of Christ if you can't imitate that signature trait of his?  

Why are you only threatened by welcoming certain categories of sinners to the table?  You certainly are comfortable welcoming to the communion table members of the sinner category, "irresponsible bishops and sexually abusive priests."  Some of them you not only allow to receive communion, you permit them to consecrate the hosts!  This, evidently does not threaten you in the least.  But, women who disobey you by claiming to have more insight into their relationship with God than you do...well, gentleman, that seems to scare the holy excrement out of you.  Why? 

It is my understanding that many of you are gay and even regularly, actively engage in homosexual activities albeit clandestinely.  Those of you who do this, would be living a lie.  Yet, you welcome closet homosexual clergy living duplicitous lives at table and again, even permit them to consecrate the hosts.  However, homosexuals who honestly portray their sexual orientation, you do not welcome.  Why are you threatened welcoming to the table people who have the courage to present themselves authentically but are not threatened welcoming to the table people whose lives are a tangled web of lies and hypocrisy?

Why are you threatened by welcoming at table people whose lives were broken in a failed marriage but who have perhaps found a healthy, healing relationship in a new marriage?  You certainly welcome at table yourselves, many of whom who have "divorced" one diocesan spouse and "re-married" a new diocese as your second, third or even fourth spouse.

Why are you threatened sitting at table with couples who use birth control?  Or women who have had abortions?  Or politicians who vote differently than you wish?

Are you threatened welcoming "sinners" to table because they might interfere with some delusion of your own perfection?  

Guys, quick review here...Jesus came as a healing remedy for sinners not as a highfalutin reward for saints.  You seem to have manufactured these "who can have communion" concerns from your pretentious belief that you cannot be wrong mixed with your historical perversion of the Eucharistic sacrament as a doggy treat for the well-behaved.  

This just really isn't hard at all...except for the arrogant and snobbish.  But for humble followers of Christ, it's a no-brainer. Welcome everyone to the table... Done.  You guys can vote once, get this done in 15 minutes and all go out for nachos to celebrate and then head home saving your respective dioceses tons of hotel and restaurant expenses.

Even better, create a mobile app that pushes this question to every voting members' mobile phones, "Can we just welcome everyone at table?"  Everyone clicks "yes" and there's maybe a $0.05 data charge per travel required. You could spend the extra time in your diocese talking to people or, perish the thought, helping them.  You could use the money to ...wait no...don't go there....NOT for another golden chalice...but for food, clothing, housing, utilities, healthcare, etc... for some economically challenged person.  And, no again, a bishop who declared bankruptcy to evade paying abuse settlements does not qualify as economically challenged.

Rather than think you all arrogant or snobbish, I'd prefer to think that some other systemic issue causes your collective blindness and confusion in the "who can have communion" realm.  I've pondered this a lot and might be on to something.  Are your cassocks and zucchettos (little skull caps) so tightly affixed to your persons that they restrict blood flow to your brains?  Loosen up guys. Ditch the dresses and beanies if they interfere with humbly embracing humanity exactly where it is and you are.


  1. I am speechless, thank you for so skillfully putting the denial of communion to others by clergy in perspective. Our church leaders use the denial of communion as their right to deny Christ to others. How dare they. Bravo to the author, I hope every cleric will read and ponder such questions. Unfortunately I think for far too many in church leadership these words will fall upon rocky soil, unable to take root. For the ground they tread on has become hardened by their inability to express or know UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. These words like running water after the rain will simply runoff, and the soil will still be unable to produce life. I hope I am wrong and I hope these words do find some fertile ground, but even Pope Francis cannot seem to move them.

  2. Interesting thoughts....especially when considering the teachings on unconditional love & welcoming all to Christ's table. Voice in the dessert.....don't go silent.

  3. How does denying someone Jesus body work, exactly? If you came forward in the communion line and the priest knew that you sinned so bad that you didn't get to partake, would he say,"No Body of Christ for you" like the soup Nazi?
    What if you responded, "Please sir, I'd like some Jesus, today"? Would the priest cause a scene? How does the Church police their action of denying Christ to a person?

    1. Kathy,
      The policing comes in a variety of forms. I think the main one is that people in these certain sin categories are made to feel so guilty that they feel too guilty to come forward, or they fear they would be confronted, denied and embarrassed if they did.

      Also, there are people whom you might call "temple police." Such people approach the people in these sin categories on the side and confront them telling them that they should not partake. I had someone at St. Paul do this to me just because of a political candidate's sign that was in my front yard one year.

      There are also many cases where clergy, on the side, tell individuals that they should not present themselves for communion. Bishop Boyea did this to Governor Granholm, for example. But also, many lay people have experienced this.

      And, finally as well as sadly, there are people who are denied coming to communion. These tend to be public situations like a homosexual couple where one in the party is/was a teacher at the Catholic school that has a publicly known relationship. Typically when the relationship comes to light, the gay teacher is being fired these days and at the same time, they are told they are not welcome for communion. Of late when some of these folks presented themselves for communion anyway, they are denied. I have read of gay couples being denied communion at family member's funerals, too. Talk about no heart!

      One of the more recent very public examples of this was Tim Dolan, the Cardinal in NY who had a group of homosexuals present themselves for communion with "dirtied" hands. He not only denied them communion, he called the police on them, I understand. The gay people had done this in reaction to Tim saying that gay persons were like children with dirty hands who needed to wash before eating a meal. Tim then told the press that he didn't deny them because they were gay but because they were trying to politicize communion....says the man who uses communion as a way to get Catholic voters to "behave" and vote properly by telling them they don't deserve communion if they do x, y, or z or vote for people who support x, y, or z. Increasingly these various forms of keeping people from communion are occurring as the bishops lose traction and credibility.

      I'm with you that were I told not to come, I would just present myself anyway but many people feel too guilty or are afraid that they would be confronted and denied. They feel that would be an embarrassing reflection on them. I think it's more of an embarrassing reflection on the person refusing to give communion than on the person seeking communion.

  4. Just make the confessional not required for the Eucharist, and we're done.

  5. Margaret A. FlanaganSeptember 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Jesus gave Judas the Eucharist, who are we to deny anyone?

  6. The Church is not attempting to punish unrepentant sinners by refusing them Holy Communion; she's trying to prevent them from worsening their situation by committing the sin of sacrilege. See 1 Corinthians 11:27-29: "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." The means for "proving oneself" are a careful examination of conscience and a full confession with perfect contrition. Every Church prelate worthy of the title is willing, nay, eager to permit even the worst of sinners to receive Holy Communion if they would but manifest contrition for their sins, promise to mend their ways and seek absolution.

    How do we know that the Church's interpretation in the matter is correct? Because God didn't leave much room for interpretation when He said: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." That's about as clear as it gets.

    And, by the way, the sensus fidei does not trump dogma. Read the 2014 document "Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church", §§88-105. Authentic participation in the sensus fidei "presumes an acceptance of the Church's teaching on matters of faith and morals, a willingness to follow the commands of God, and courage both to correct one's brothers and sisters, and also to accept correction oneself." In other words, you can't reject official Church teaching on the basis of the sensus fidei. This was taught explicitly at Vatican II (Lumen Gentium §12) and has been underscored several times by Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and, most recently, by Francis: "The sensus fidei must not be confused with the sociological reality of 'majority opinion'. That is something else entirely."

    Further, it is never a "right" to question Mother Church. Yes, we have the right and sometimes even the to duty to question a prelate, be he a priest or bishop, when he teaches heresy or engages in scandal. But to openly question or deny a teaching of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church - let alone of the extraordinary Magisterium - is to fall away from the Faith. Full stop.

    The header on your blog is not merely wrong; it is an invitation to error for your fellow Catholics. By all means, Catholics are welcome to pose questions and entertain discussion. But do not hide your dissent under the cover of being obedient to Church teaching. That's diabolical, and beneath any Catholic.

    1. I publish your comment though it violates the rule about respect in labeling actions as "diabolical." I will use it to teach.

      Demonizing those with whom one disagrees is a common bullying tactic and actually used in genocides. This comes to mind as I write from Rwanda, a land still healing 20 years post-genocide. It is not acceptable.

      I am in regular communication with my bishop. He has explicitly stated that I am in full communion. You lack authority to make the dismissive statements of me that you do.

      Isn’t it a sacrilege for sinning prelates to not only receive but make further mockery of the sacrament by consecrating hosts? For example, some bishops are active homosexuals yet deny communion to other homosexuals for committing the very act they commit but are too dishonest to admit publicly. Lying is also a commandment - the 8th.

      Do you feel 8th Commandment violators unworthy to receive? Many bishops have lied about sexually abusive priests in active ministry such as Cardinal Rigali. He bore false witness saying no credibly accused priests were in active ministry when several dozen were. Thus, he should not receive according to you. Would you rationalize Cardinal Rigali continuing to receive though he blatantly and publicly violated the 8th?

      Why are some people adamant about violations of one aspect of one commandment but lax about violations against numerous dimensions of others? Why the focus on one dimension of the 6th? Priests who sexually assault children are considered guilty of violating this same commandment, yet, they are not excommunicated. Do you support excommunicating all priests who sexually assault children?

      Clergy seem most threatened by sins that hit close to home... They renounce sexual activity (though many are sexually active) and one might wonder if self-loathing is involved. They don't seem to be threatened when they violate the 8th Commandment left and right. Is this a less important commandment or one clergy choose to de-emphasize?

      I don’t think people who deny others communion are trying to save others from committing sacrilege. I think they are usually insecure people who point to others’ sins trying to divert attention from their own. I think such people feel better about themselves through negative comparison. But if we are honest, no one is "worthy" to receive. Jesus makes us worthy despite our unworthiness. Thus, one might argue that we are all both unworthy and worthy.

      Reconciliation as currently practiced evolved over many years with the clergy increasing their role in a way to increase power and control. I wonder if the renewed emphasis on clergy forgiving sins is a psychological counter trying to reestablish their reputation tarnished by scandals.

      Let’s look to Jesus' example - at the first Eucharist, he shared the Eucharist with Judas. He sets a standard no human can devoid. He repeatedly said, "I desire mercy not sacrifice." He repeatedly admonished against judging. Are you frightened to imitate Jesus' example in favor of perpetuating traditions? Jesus asks, "And why do you violate the Commandments of God for the sake of your traditions?" Jesus told Peter that as he holds things bound or loosed so shall they be bound or loosed in heaven. Yet, Jesus also told the disciples (not apostles) the exact same thing. Perhaps this is why the magisterium consists of clergy, theologians and the faithful.

      There is no commandment, "Thou shall not receive communion unless thou art in a state of grace as defined by clergy."

      I disagree that you believe it never "right" to question "Mother Church." Good parents welcome their child’s barrage of questions knowing they fuel growth. You cede the right to question when hierarchical members engage in scandal. That is the point of this article. The hierarchy is awash in scandal. Thus, my questions are very much justified - by your standards.

      Thanks for investing your time. Know of my prayers for you in your spiritual journey.

    2. I am not demonizing you, but rather describing the nature of your actions as demonstrated in the header of your blog. If I thought you were demonic, I certainly wouldn't take the time to engage you in discussion. My aim is to condemn the error, and I have done so, not on my own personal authority, which counts for nothing, nor on that of my own beloved bishop, but on that of the Church.

      §916 of the Code of Canon Law, which deals specifically with the need to be in a state of grace before either celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or receiving Holy Communion, applies to both the clergy and the laity. Pointing to the failings of one or more prelates in no way excuses the laity from their obligation to observe the law. To claim that it does is to commit the fallacy of "tu quoque". This covers the larger part of your response, in numerous points. As to the other points you raise:

      -The intent behind excommunication is neither expiatory not vindictive, but rather medicinal in nature. It is not to be applied to one who is openly repentant. Defrocking, on the other hand, is perfectly justified as both a preventative and/or expiatory measure, depending upon the circumstances.

      -Interpreting Sacred Scripture - particular the words of Our Lord - in a sense contrary to that proposed by Holy Mother Church is not Catholic. The heretic Martin Luther tried and was justly condemned for it, as were all his Protestant compatriots. As mentioned in my previous comment, St. Paul gives us clear instructions as to the manner in which we are to receive (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29). This has been confirmed numerous times, most notably by the Council of Trent and, of course, by Canon Law. Making loose references to Scripture and then proposing an alternative Magisterium, therefore, is not the way to present your case as a Catholic, and most certainly not the way to appeal to the sensus fidei.

      -The Church Fathers were of divided opinion as to whether Our Lord gave communion to Judas. But let us assume that He did. Surely you would agree that Judas, having already decided to betray Our Lord, received unworthily. And what was the result? "Satan entered into him" (John 13:27). Again, the Church is not trying to punish unrepentant sinners by refusing them Holy Communion; she's trying to prevent them from worsening their situation by committing the sin of sacrilege.

      -Question a prelate all you want. But, as I said, to openly question or deny a teaching of the Magisterium of the Church is to fall away from the Faith.

      Thank you for your prayers. In return, I'll be praying for you to consider whether you love the Catholic Church for what she has always been and must always be, or rather for what you you think she should become.

    3. I am comfortable with my understanding of the Church's teachings and find yours at a different developmental state - perhaps where my mine was many years ago. You assume I am unfamiliar with Canon Law but I am very familiar with it. It is human made and changeable. The church and scripture-teach this as we are not to add or detract from "The Law"... God's Law not Canon Law.

      Jesus chastised the Pharisees for clinging to the 613 Mosaic laws rather than observing the 2 great commandments. It is always worth considering if one clings too much to the 1700+ Canon Laws more closely than to the 2 great commandments.

      Canon Law has changed many times such as Benedict's motu proprio removing the "in persona" dimension of deacons. The final Canon says that the over-riding law is love, btw. Thus any other Canon that violates love, gets trumped by that one. I find withholding communion unloving.

      I am aware of the Canon about the state of grace but I think that's a Canon in need of reconsideration because it violates Jesus' repeated admonition that he desires mercy not sacrifice. It is unloving. I am also aware that withholding communion is considered "medicinal." I actually wrote an earlier blog article about the absurdity of that notion. Jesus is the medicine. Why withhold the medicine and then call it "medicinal?"

      The morning my mom died, I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. She had been in and out of delirium through the night. She had emphysema and could barely breathe or speak. But when I asked her what she wanted for breakfast she said, "I want the child that is medicine." She wanted communion. She knew...the Eucharist is the "child that is medicine."

      That is why the canon about receiving while in a state of grace needs re-consideration. What good parent withholds a cure from their child and calls it "medicinal?" Jesus is the bread of life - our nourishment. What good parent withholds nourishment from their child and calls it "medicinal?" That is incompetent parenting.

      But, then, Canon Law is written by men who are not parents so I understand why they arrive at such odd notions of parenting. But, thankfully, Canon Law is not immutable and therefore, we have every right and duty to call out these sorts of oddities and recommend their correction.

      As to me creating an alternate magisterium, the church teaches that the magisterium contains the pope, bishops, priests, theologians and laypeople. I did not make that up.

      My point about the various sinning factions who do receive is not a justification of anyone's sins. don't think they should be denied communion any more than anyone who commits any other sin. You see, the older I get, the more I am learning how to seek mercy not sacrifice. You're just not there yet, and you might never get there.

      It is interesting that you dismiss my quoting scripture but then you repeatedly cling to one line of text. From what you write, you seem to favor Canon Law (something which is fallible and changeable) over Christ's words. You seem to be at a faith development stage where you seek affirmation of where you are in your faith journey by desiring others to occupy the same space. Are you threatened by others who walk closely with Christ on a different journey from yours?

      You seem to define the church as the hierarchy and its utterances rather than as the church teaches about itself. The church is the people of God - a pilgrim people - a people in motion.

      Do I love the people of God? Yes, very much. And because we are a pilgrim people, we should all love the church for what it can become...and where it can go. And we should not deny where the church has been or where it has changed.

      I appreciate your intentions - condescending, dismissive, and misinformed as they come across. Please know of my prayers for you to walk in the Peace of Christ, guided by the Spirit, rendering and receiving God's love and mercy.

    4. rad·i·cal
      adjective \ˈra-di-kəl\
      : very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
      : very basic and important
      : having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

      I am curious why you call yourself "radical catholic"?
      You are not radical in any sense of the word.
      I do not feel your love. What I feel is curiously, what you described, you are dismissive and condescending to those of us who do question the church.
      Not to be able to question anything is wrong. If anything, questioning should lead to growth. If there is nothing to hide then questions should not be a problem.
      The church has been wrong in the past and the
      There are those of us who think the church is wrong now. .We have the right and obligation, I believe, to question.
      When I think of Jesus, I think of his courage to question his religion and show a better way to live and a way to salvation.

      Would you stand and watch torture, burnings at the stake?
      This is what our church has done in the past. For the good of the church and it's people.
      Would you have been one of the people who stood by because the church is "never wrong"?

    5. Side note: for the Church's first 500 years, the only kind of penance was public and only required for murder, fornication or idolatry. It was basically a one-time second baptism to wash you from your sins again. Individual private confessions emerged out of the monastic movement, as did the notion of frequent confession.