May 20, 2004

Communion Controversy

The controversy regarding pro-choice politicians being banned from Holy Communion has got to puzzle the Orthodox. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches are so close that they recognize each other's sacraments for Holy Communion, a real rarity in the christian world. But Orthodoxy has always had a more stringent set of requirements to gain Holy Communion. My wife, who is Orthodox, is used to having to fast a minimum of seven days prior, confess her sins right before, and only then does she qualify. The Orthodox fast is a vegan fast, with no meat, egg, or milk allowed and you're supposed to reduce your calorie intake as much as you can.

The idea of going up every week for Holy Communion is viewed in the Orthodox world as something for the really hard core old folk and monks. Go to an Orthodox Church sometime and you might end up seeing nobody, or just one or two people come up for Holy Communion. Frankly, I think their bishops are going overboard but it's their right to do so. Each individual bishop, Catholic or Orthodox, can set criteria for qualifying to take Holy Communion. Some are more lax, others more strict. It is incredibly presumptuous for the laity of any stripe to lecture bishops on an intrinsic part of their job. For Catholics who are being challenged by their bishops to follow standard Catholic teaching on abortion to challenge this fundamental episcopal right is appalling.

One of the more interesting framing aspects of this controversy is the mainstream press' attempt to spin this as a partisan problem. Catholic pro-choice politicians exist in the Republican party. I have yet to see any news story that is sympathetic to Kerry's side of the story talk to any Republican pro-choice politicians who come under this decree just as much as their Democrat colleagues do. Republican pro-choice pols must remain invisible for now, otherwise it becomes clear that it's not a partisan issue and the hierarchy does not actually have it in for the Democrat party.

Posted by TMLutas at May 20, 2004 10:32 AM