Sunday, June 30, 2013

JUST WHAT DOES INCLUSIVITY MEAN IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

This was taken at a recent "Gay Pride Parade" in Augusta, Ga, my hometown. The parade came very close to my previous parish, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta. The Episcopal Church had banners in this parade. Should my former parish have had one too? Wouldn't that be a sign of inclusivity and welcome?

James Joyce originally made this declaration in his novel Finnigan’s Wake: “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody’”.

Of course the Catholic Church is known for having everyone. We have all kinds of people and we are truly universal. But in any given congregation on Sunday, or daily for that matter, we have Catholics who are saints, some are recovering sinners, others are in grave, public sin. Yet all are invited to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; no one excluded from entering our churches, even heathens are welcomed to attend Mass.

On any given day here at St. Joseph, we have Protestants attending Mass with their Catholic friends and we have those inquisitive about the Catholic faith attending. No one asks about their sins or moral backgrounds. They are free to attend and to be as anonymous as they wish.

But then at Holy Communion time, distinctions are made with those who are in the "full communion of the Church" and those who aren't. In other words, not everyone is invited to receive Holy Communion, the clearest sign of our full communion with Jesus and His Church, Head and members, Bridegroom and bride.

Who is excluded from partaking of the clearest sign of Catholic unity and full communion, receiving Holy Communion?

1. In the Latin Rite, any child who has not reached the age of reason (7).

2. Any Catholic who has not observed the 1 hour fast.

3. Any Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin.

4. Any person who is not a Catholic.

5. Any Catholic who has an interdict placed against them (usually public sinners, or those whose "civil unions") are not viewed as lawful Catholic marriages.

6. Any Catholic who is excommunicated either privately (only known to the person who is excommunicated), or publicly.

There could be some other reasons that I have omitted.

What happens when groups of sinners no longer see their sin as sin and then politicize their lifestyle to when favor with the public? Certainly in a free country as our own, they have that right in the political arena.

But what happens when they bring their political interests to the Church? When homosexuals want the Church to redefine the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and ignore Scripture and Tradition as well as natural law when it comes to fornication? Adultery? or the various sexual philias?

What happens when nothing associated with one's sexuality is to be considered sinful and thus anything sexual goes and those promoting this want full communion in the Church including all the sacraments (except of course Confession)?

What happens when Protestants attend a Catholic Mass either on Sunday, for a funeral or a wedding and demand that they have a right to receive Holy Communion, although they seldom demand the right to receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to demanding the right to receive Holy Communion. Please note, I've had no Protestants demanding Holy Communion, except in a couple of rare instances when a Methodist minister knowing full well that I could not give him Holy Communion, came forward anyway and stuck his hands out for the Host only for me to give him a blessing and he to give me the "evil eye."

But many Protestants are offended that they are not invited to receive Catholic Communion. I know this for a fact.

So, isn't the Church's mission to reach out to the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ who alone is the way "away from sin and death" to grace and holiness of life that leads to eternal life in heaven? All of us are destined for eternal life, some in hell others in heaven. Shouldn't we make clear which road lead to heaven? It is the road to self-denial, renunciation of sin and a sinful lifestyle, picking up one's cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. It is the road that God's grace enables us to be clothed in the wedding garments of the eternal banquet in heaven.

Yes, the Catholic Church welcomes everyone to the Church but not everyone to Holy Communion. We welcome the corrupt, the criminal, the mafioso, the thief, drug addict, alcoholic and wife beater. We invite the violent, the war monger, the hateful to Church but not to Holy Communion.

But we name behavior that is contrary to the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus Christ made clear through the Church's Magisterium as sin and those in unrepentant sin are not free to receive Holy Communion until they repent and make a resolve not to sin again.

So, should the Catholic Church have a banner in a "Gay Pride" parade, inviting our gay, lesbian and transgendered brothers and sisters to the Church? It depends. If it is for the purpose of leading the promiscuous of whatever orientation and the fornicator and adulterer to repentance and conversion, well yes, of course. But if it is to take away guilt in the psychological sense to ENABLE the unrepentant sinner to feel better about their impenitence, than no, hell no! The Church should not be used for political agendas opposed to Jesus Christ and His Church.

Many Protestants do not like the fact that Catholics have gradations of sin, such as mortal, venial, deadly and so on. To them sin is sin and despicable in the eyes of God.

Should we then ignore sexual sins? It is easy to do so when people keep sin in darkness and strive to avoid public scandal, and Catholics respect Church teaching and refrain from Holy Communion when they have no intention to refrain from the darkness of sin. Private sinners seem to be more respectful of the common good of society and even the Church and keep their sins out of the public light and bring it only to the light of Christ in Confession.

It is the public sinner who wants his or her sin to be acceptable that is the most worrisome. There is a serious narcissism here. That could be a mafioso or a fornicator of whatever sexual orientation.

In one sense, Protestants are right, both sins, that of one who belongs to a crime organization and is a criminal and the other who is sinful in areas of sex, both sins are reprehensible to God. Both sinners need to repent, believe the good news, and be saved.

Freewill means the freedom to repent, the freedom to be in the full communion of the Church or the freedom to deny sin and deny oneself Holy Communion.

27 comments:

Gene said...

The Church should not have banners in ANY political parade...Left, Right, Moderate, or otherwise.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

How about a pro-life parade?

Gene said...

As long as it is just that and not a politically sponsored, political agenda parade. Although pro-life may be seen as a political agenda, I believe it transcends political boundaries.
I'm a conservative who usually votes Republican, however, the Church cannot enter on the slippery slope of political preferences. Ideas and orientations change over time; today's conservative or liberal could become tomorrow's fanatic or tyrant. Let Caesar have his political parades.

ytc said...

How American of you, Gene!

Anonymous said...

Gene - Roger Williams would be proud of you.

Gene said...

I am a direct descendant of Roger Williams...(Tennessee, too). So, there. Nothing like reading a Roger Williams sermon, then settling into "Summer and Smoke" with a nice glass of Jack Daniels...

John Nolan said...

I remember back in 1979 my then girlfriend wanted me to go on an anti-abortion march. I demurred on the grounds that as a serving army officer it would have not been appropriate for me to take part in a demonstration, however good the cause. But in reality I hate these sort of things - "What do we want?" "Blah Blah Blah!" "When do we want it?" "Now!" The antithesis of intellectual argument.

Anonymous 2 said...

On Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on Sunday Andrew Sullivan, a self-identified "conservative" who is homosexual and married to his partner, and who has led the charge for “marriage equality” for many years, said the following:

“My worry is that there will be an overplaying of our hand, and that people will try and force this more quickly than we really should. . . . And I don't want anybody's religious liberty, I want that to be defined as maximally as possible. We do not threaten and we should never threaten the conscientious beliefs of those who disagree with us, but we should welcome their freedom because it's our freedom too. And so I'm very concerned, actually, that we may become intolerant of people who believe homosexuality is still sinful. . . .You up the ante and start calling them bigots and trying to coerce them, you're as bad as they were to us. And we must never do that.”

I refrain from comment (although I do have thoughts about it) except to say that, if meant sincerely, as I believe it is, this seems to be an important statement expressing an important sentiment.

BTW Sullivan is Catholic.


Gene said...

"..try to force this more quickly than we should..." I think that reveals his overall goal. Nothing new here..move along,

Father Kevin Estabrook said...

Do you think it is appropriate for a priest at a funeral, wedding, Easter, Christmas to give an instruction before the distribution of Holy Communion such as:
"As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And to be able to receive the Eucharist we must be practicing the Catholic faith by going to Mass every week and being free from Mortal Sin. For those of you who are not Catholic I invite you to be seated and to pray...and for those who will be receiving to now reverently process forward."?

Marc said...

Is this Sullivan not excommunicated latae sententiae for simulating the Sacrament of Matrimony since you say he's "married"? Thus, he is not a Catholic...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Kevin, definitely! I usually do so at funerals after the Intercessions and briefly explain what Catholics believe, the use of incense and that only Roman Catholics who practice their faith, free of mortal sin and properly disposed may receive. Others should remain at their place seeking God's will in prayer. If we have 100 at a funeral, up to 80 might not be Catholic.

Pater Ignotus said...

Kevin - The words I used in such situations are,

"I regret that as a result of our divided Christianity, I cannot offer communion to those present who are not Catholic. If you are not Catholic and, therefore, cannot receive communion, please use this time to pray for the unity of the Church which is the will of Christ."

As Fr. McDonald notes, in our part of the world - central Georgia - our funeral and wedding congregations can be majority non-Catholic.

Gene said...

I know, Ignotus. You would not dare say anything about our belief in the Real Presence or anything else that pointed out the doctrinal differences between Catholicism and protestantism. "Because of our divided Christianity" is a nice way of being completely ambiguous about what you mean, something at which you excel. Plus, you regret that you cannot give Communion to protestants...how odd. Maybe you should regret that they have not embraced the Catholic Church rather than mooning about in your pseudo-ecumenical fugue. Your lines are not too difficult to read between...

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus, I could not improve on that.

Anonymous 2 said...

Marc: I will let Father McDonald address that point if he wishes to do so. Certainly Sullivan describes himself as a Catholic, and I did not want to question that myself. For example, does he claim to be a “practicing Catholic,” or is he a “nominal Catholic”? If the former, I did wonder how the matter is handled in his parish, assuming he has one.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - I make this statement immediately before communion. It is not my intention to provide a catechesis on the Catholic belief in the Eucharist, but to remind those present, Catholics and non-Catholics, that due to our divisions, non-Catholics cannot receive communion. My regret over the wounds we have caused in the Body of Christ, which preclude non-Catholics from receiving, is sincere.

A discourse on Catholic - Protestant disagreement on the nature of the Eucharist at that point in the mass would be wholly inappropriate. There is nothing ambiguous about saying that we Christians are divided. This is simply a statement of fact.

John - Thank you.

John Nolan said...

PI, the way the comments have scrolled down, my comment might have been misunderstood. What I meant to say was that your words regarding Communion were accurate without being insensitive. Lack of unity in Christendom is indeed a cause for regret.

Anonymous 2 said...

Gene,

Re your post at 11:55 a.m.

Isn’t the “sensitivity” John Nolan mentioned important? Wouldn’t St. Paul have thought so (1 Corinthians 9: 19-23)?:

19 Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law.

21 To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law.

22 To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.

23 All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.

If we want to attract people to the Catholic Faith we have to be attractive and go to where they are, not adopt an “attitude” to which they will “react” and thus drive them away. And if you think this doesn’t happen, believe me it does – I have seen it happen to people very close to me, to my great regret. Also, I myself was delayed in coming to the Church for at least two years by a heavy-handed approach to evangelization but was brought in essentially due to the very gentle approach of one of my professors at Oxford, John Finnis, to whom I am eternally grateful.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - gotcha.

Anonymous 5 said...

I think Pater's statement is perfectly adequate. The only modification I would make would be to add a reference to Catholics needing to be in a state of grace. This would help remind Catholics of something they often need reminding of and help keep Protestants from getting their noses out of joint, since they would realize that being Catholic doesn't automatically entitle you to receive Communion. It would thus reveal the issue to be more nuanced than simply "You're a Protestant so you don't deserve Communion," which is what Protestants often hear (despite what is actually said). Since nobody at all deserves Communion, that certainly isn't what we want Protestants to be hearing, but Pater is right that it would be difficult to go into a theological discussion at that point. A word to the wise should be sufficient in such circumstances.

Gene said...

Stating that Catholics believe in the Real Presence is hardly a "theological discussion." There is a huge difference in what Fr. Kevin said and in what Ignotus said. I think the philosophy behind Ignotus' phrasing leaps out at you...especially knowing him. But, even so, regretting that he cannot give Communion to protestants raises several issues. Does he mean he really wishes they could all just come up as they are and receive? Does he mean he regrets the Church is wrong and so has a heavy heart because he bears such a terrible ecumenical burden? Does his steering clear of mentioning the Real presence (as I have heard many Priests do before Communion) indicate that this gives him some difficulty? So, the two statements reflect very different orientations.

Anonymous 5 said...

Gene: In my experience, the vast majority of non-Catholic attendants at a Mass (and probably more then a few Catholic ones) aren't going to understand the term "Real Presence" anyway (any than most Catholics (and some folks in your own congregations) could tell you what TULIP meant or the basic ideas of Calvin). The whole point of a term of art is to pack a lot of meaning, which would normally require a lot of words, into a single word or brief phrase. But if the hearer doesn't "get" the term of art, the recourse is to fall back on long-winded explanations, e.g.,

"As Catholics, we believe that the bread and wine actually become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ when the priest consecrates them. Most Protestants don't, and those who do have invalid holy orders so it doesn't really happen in their services. What's more, one must be free from any nmortal sin, which is sin which kills the soul and separates it from God, in order to receive the body/blood of Christ, and since Protestants have not gone to sacramental confession and been absolved by a priest, and they don't know enough about perfect contrition to be able to tell if they have that, then the celebrant must presume, in order to protect them from partaking unworthily, that they are in mortal sin. Further, communion means "in unity with," and the fact is that Catholics and Protestants aren't in unity with each other on important doctrinal matters, such as the nature of the sacrament of the eucharist. For all of these reasons, we must deny Protestants communion." Where would you cut this off . . . or is it possible that we must add more? Or what would you substitute?

Your observation that Pater's announcement is ambiguous is correct, but whatever his true meaning, it's irrelevant for the purposes of the announcement, which is to communicate that Protestants can's receive Comunion.

Gene said...

Anon 5, Actually, I thought Fr. Kevin's statement and the one Fr. MacDonald makes is both sufficient and satisfactory. We live in an age where everybody and his dog wants to focus on "how much we are alike," even when thy throw fits and foam at the mouth about "diversity." Confusing? Yes. I think it is time some of the real differences between Catholicism and aposta---er, protestantism need to be stressed...just as we need to be stressing the very real differences between us and Islam, between nations and heritages, and between races. I am sick and tired of all this phony "alikeness and unity." It does not exist.

rcg said...

A5, I expect more than a few Protestants would freak out if Father told them that "This is God" for the presence and almost none of the Catholics could explain it. It would be fun to watch.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - I do not say that I regret that I cannot give communion to non-Catholics. Here's what I say again, "I regret that as a result of our divided Christianity, I cannot offer communion to those present who are not Catholic."

"due to our divided Christianity" is an essential element.

I do not steer clear of mentioning the Real presence because the teaching gives me difficulty. I find, at this moment in a mass with a mixed congregation, saying this is unnecessary to achieve the goal of reminding non-Catholics that they cannot receive.

Were a non-Catholic to ask after the fact for an explanation, that might be the time to bring up our differences regarding the Eucharist.

There is nothing ambiguous in my statement. It is just a tad difficult to offer a complete explanation of the divisions between Christian denominations and the consequences thereof in 15 seconds.

Anonymous 5 said...

Gene: We _are_ all alike. All roads go up the same mountain. Love is all you need. Jesus and Moses and Buddha and Mohammed and Plato were all great moral teachers. Augustine was a Protestant. Diversity is important. Judge not. Kumbaya. ;-)

I've no objection to Fr. McD's stement, but I still do think that on its face Pater's is OK. I'm just thankful that he does make an announcement. I've seen with my own eyes priests who, when preparing for Masses that will be attended by a lot of non-Catholics, explicitly tell the sacristan to make sure that a lot of extra Hosts are available and make a point of making no announcement.