May 17, 2004

Communion Politics

Andrew Sullivan needs a remedial course in his own faith. His latest in Time is remarkable to the point of being insulting.

In 2004 John F. Kerry has to convince the Catholic bishops that he is not too American.

By "too American," I mean in the sense that religious faith is a personal matter, that it can be sealed off from public life, that it doesn't dictate political views on any one issue or another.

The Catholic Church does not currently, and has not demanded lock step obedience down the line. However, there are certain things that have always been automatic disqualifiers to participation in the sacraments under the heading of mortal sin. It is possible to commit a mortal sin in the course of any profession and when you do so, you have to reconcile with the God through confession and penance before you may resume your normal routine of taking Communion. Those are the rules and there are no exemptions for politicians.

To ignore this is in itself to pile a sin on top of another. For a priest to knowingly facilitate the sin is, in itself, a sin. So the Church is currently cleaning house in several fields and one of them is sacramental abuse, a subset of which is abuse of Communion, a subset of that is the sinful taking of Holy Communion by public men who are in a state of mortal sin and whom the priest at the rail knows is in a state of mortal sin. Andrew Sullivan thinks that it would be "a terrible self-inflicted wound for the Catholic Church to enter the culture war so brazenly in a political year" by actually cleaning up this mess that draws not only the politicians but the priests into sin.

One thing that Sullivan doesn't note but is perfectly true, there are no nonpolitical years in the US. There will be elections this year, next year, and every year thereafter for as far as the eye can see. Catholic, pro-choice politicians will be running on pro-choice platforms and presenting themselves for Holy Communion during their election campaigns every year. What, pray tell, does a nonpolitical year look like? Do you count by number of politicians whose election campaigns you are going upset? And by that count, is this year a more political year than next year when many local, county, and state elections are held? And why should you, as a bishop or priest, care? News flash: Rome doesn't care.

The controversy over communion erupted after a lengthy document on Eucharistic regulation was recently issued. Rome did not time this to destroy John Kerry's electoral chances. Rome can do that much better in other ways if it wanted to. A huge, much footnoted (295 end notes) document that has maybe an oblique paragraph or two that addresses the subject is not how you do such things.

It strains credulity to imagine that if politicians advocate mortal sin as policy to a death toll of millions that the Church should maintain neutrality. The Church will never close the door to repentance and reconciliation but it has an absolute duty to speak out against evil and act within its powers to correct its membership from falling into mortal sin. It doesn't much matter if you, as reader think that abortion is the taking of innocent life or not. The Church does and if it accepts those it characterizes as bearing the burden of all those deaths as not in need of repentance, what sort of moral stature can it maintain on any of its pronouncements?

Sullivan wants to preserve Democrat viability at the expense of compromising the Church's moral voice. The Church has enough troubles on that front right now. It doesn't need to make things worse.

Posted by TMLutas at May 17, 2004 05:45 PM