It is unusual to call an organization’s decision to follow its own rules heroic, but I have low expectations of the Roman Catholic Church. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 168-55 to draft a document on “Eucharistic coherence,” because the Church has been anything but coherent regarding the status of allegedly devout Catholics who support abortion.
Catholics are forbidden from participating in the ritual of the Eucharist if they are in a state of sin. Abortion is considered a very serious sin in the Catholic Church, which holds that life begins at conception. Thus a public figure, indeed an elected official, indeed a President, who openly supports abortion cannot take holy communion, because he is endorsing and enabling a serious sin. This isn’t hard. The much publicized “controversy” over the Bishops’ decision to follow their own Church’s ancient rules ( and those of the New Testament: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” — 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 ) resembles the current controversy in baseball over the MLB decision to enforce the hundred-year-old rule against pitchers doctoring the ball.
I know, everything reminds me of baseball, which has played a much greater role in my life than religion. But this is the same situation at its essence. The Catholic Church ducked, weaved and looked the other way while many U.S. politicians professed their belief in Catholicism as they openly and directly contradicted and actively undermined the Church’s core beliefs. They sought to have the benefit of appealing to the religious while simultaneously advocating a practice that their own Church condemns.
The New York Times—my wife keeps asking me why we pay 80 bucks a month for this shameless propaganda device, and I am running out of reasons—says that the Bishops’ vote is a “move to target a president, who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices, is striking coming from leaders of the president’s own faith, particularly after many conservative Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of former President Donald J. Trump because they supported his political agenda.”
Utter and inexcusable bu–what’s Latin for “bullshit”? The decision isn’t political, it is a necessary act of institutional integrity, made urgent by the election of the second Catholic President, and one who has used his alleged religious devotion as a cynical campaign tool. The flagrant “Whataboutism” of the Trump reference is low even for the Times. Donald Trump isn’t a Catholic. He never took communion. Supporting him politically is a completely different issue from holding a high profile Catholic who defies the core values of the Church to its rules.
Jon Gabriel explains the issue clearly:
“If a person is in a state of sin, he should not walk up to receive Communion. If a priest knows that a communicant is in a state of sin, it is his responsibility to deny Communion. As the chief of sinners, I have experience in this. I’m tougher on myself than any priest, so when in doubt, I remain in the pew as the Eucharist is celebrated. I did the same for the two years I attended an Orthodox church before I was a member… In the first few centuries of the church, non-members were not even allowed to witness the Lord’s Supper and banished to the narthex outside. After about three years of instruction, they would be baptized and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ only after promising not to speak of it to enemies of the church. This is memorialized in the prayer I have to say every time before Communion:
“I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And I believe that this is truly Thine own immaculate Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Wherefore, I pray Thee, have mercy on me, and forgive my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance; and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thine immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of my sins and unto life everlasting. Amen. Of thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to thine enemies, neither will I give thee a kiss as did Judas, but like a thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom. Not unto judgment nor unto condemnation be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, O Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body.”
“In both Catholic and Orthodox churches, priests are required not to serve Communion to known unrepentant sinners. If Father Jim sees I spent Saturday night Instagramming selfies snorting coke off a stripper’s hindquarters and I show up wearing the girlie bar’s T-shirt, he’ll kindly tell me to sit this Sunday out. If you aggressively disagree with any church’s main doctrines, you probably shouldn’t be a member.“
But Joe has always trumpeted his religious faith, all while encouraging what his Church regards as murder. In this he joined two other national politicians who excelled at this hypocrisy: the late Mario Cuomo, father of Andrew and Fredo, and John Kerry. I wrote a post about Kerry’s hypocrisy in 2004, when Kerry was running for President. I could repost the essay with Joe Biden’s name replacing Kerry’s and only have to make a few other edits. Those who defend Biden’s hypocrisy, as in this rationalization-stuffed essay in NBC’s ironically named “Think,” reject the concept of integrity, in addition to morality.
—-It’s OK for Joe to defy his Church because the Church’s beliefs are wrong. Then join another church. This argument is no different than endorsing law-breaking when it feels right.
—-Most American Catholics support reproductive choice. Then most American Catholics don’t accept their Church’s values: it’s an “Everybody does it” argument.
—-Banning abortion harms the poor, so Catholics should regard the condemnation of abortion as less important than the duty to help the unfortunate. Well, start your own church then, like Henry the Eighth.
The Times writes that Biden is “perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief since Jimmy Carter…a President “who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices.” That’s as good a definition of a Sunday Catholic as you will ever see: he take part in all the rituals, but when the Church’s edicts are inconvenient, he just ignores them. Most religious Americans are like that, I guess, but Biden is President. If the Catholic Church endorses that kind of religious practice, what does it stand for?
That’s a different issue, of course. Apparently the Vatican cautioned the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops against being too hard on Joe because the Church is losing members already—so the remedy is to defy the values of the Church so as not to be unpopular? I believe a Catholic Saint, Sir Thomas More, gave his life to stand for the opposite principle. Indeed principles that an individual or an institution will only insist upon when it is easy and popular are not principles at all.
As always, abortion advocates are engaging in rhetorical deceit to argue their position. In all of the mainstream media articles, the fact that Biden supports abortion rights is emphasized, rather than the fact that he supports, endorses and facilitates abortion. If I say everyone has the right to rape any woman, I’m endorsing rape. The Bishops’ vote also evoked predictable idiocy, like from the always risible Rep. Ted Lieu, who wrote,
“Dear @USCCB: I’m Catholic and I support: -Contraception -A woman’s right to choose -Treatments for infertility -The right for people to get a divorce -The right of same sex marriage Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion.”
Then you’re not a Catholic, you idiot. You continue to call yourself a Catholic, but you refuse to follow the Church’s rules. The Episcopalians are right down the street.
This reaction is even dumber, from Democratic Congressional hopeful Mark Judson:
“Oh?! US Catholic Bishops are involved in Politics? Welp – under Federal Law, you can’t be “Tax Exempt” in that case. I guess it’s time to revoke that Tax Exempt status going back to 1776 – you can re-file ALL your returns as C Corps and pay the taxes plus interest.’
Announcing that political figures are not immune from their Church’s rules is not “practicing politics.” It’s called integrity. But with thinking like that, Mark, I bet you get elected.
“It’s their religion and they make the rules,” concludes Gabriel (the blogger, not the Angel). “If I strolled into a mosque chomping on a BLT, the Imam would give me the boot. I wouldn’t respond by asserting my rights and demand taxation.”