Monday, October 23, 2006

Catholic Bishops to Vote on Communion for Dissidents

From the USCCB:
A Catholic who "knowingly and obstinately" rejects "the defined doctrines of the church" or its "definitive teaching on moral issues" should refrain from receiving Communion, according to a document that will come before the U.S. bishops at their Nov. 13-16 fall general meeting in Baltimore.

The document, "'Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper': On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist," requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for passage.

In an introduction, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, said the draft document was the result of a proposal to the bishops in November 2004 by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., for a statement on how Catholics should prepare to receive the Eucharist.

"He envisaged this document as applying to Catholic faithful, not just to politicians or those in public life," Bishop Serratelli said.

Archbishop Myers' request came after a presidential campaign in which some bishops had criticized the Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and said he and other Catholic politicians who supported abortion should be refused Communion under canon law.

[…] "In order to receive holy Communion we must be in communion with God and with the church," the document says. "If we are no longer in a state of grace because of mortal sin, we are seriously obliged to refrain from receiving holy Communion."

Among examples of such sin, the document cites "committing deliberate hatred of others, sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, or physical or verbal abuse toward one's family members or fellow workers, causing grave physical or psychological harm; murder, abortion or euthanasia."

Other "serious violations of the law of love of God and of neighbor" listed in the draft include swearing a false oath, missing Mass on Sundays or holy days without a serious reason, "acting in serious disobedience against proper authority," sexual activity "outside the bonds of a valid marriage," stealing, slander or involvement with pornography.

The document criticized those who "give selective assent to the teachings of the church."

[…] "If someone who is Catholic were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the church," it adds. "Reception of holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the eucharistic celebration, so he or she should refrain."

If a person who "is publicly known to have committed serious sin or to have rejected definitive church teaching and is not yet reconciled with the church" receives Communion, it could be "a cause of scandal for others," giving "further reason" for the person to refrain, the bishops said.

There are exceptions for “Catholics who have "honest doubt and confusion" about some church teachings; such people are allowed communion “as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the church professes and are taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt." That is no doubt intended for those who simply don’t or can’t understand what the Church says, either from ignorance (nobody’s told them, or someone has told them wrong) or incompetence (mental incapability). I suspect it may turn into a hole one can drive a truck through, however. After all, “selective assent to the teachings of the church" would probably keep half the bishops in the USA from receiving communion.

I wonder what a similar statement from the Episcopal Church (USA) would look like?

"In order to receive Holy Communion we must be in communion with God, however we personally envision Him or Her, and with the church. If we are no longer in a state of nice because of errors in judgment involving other beings or Mother Earth, we are seriously obliged to refrain from receiving Holy Communion."

“Examples of such sin include contributing to global warming, homophobia, heterosexism, failure to embrace the United Nations Millennium Goals, imposition of one’s own personal morality on another, and failure to embrace abortion and euthanasia."

“Other serious violations of the law of love of God and of neighbor listed in the draft include dissent from the teachings of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a reliance on the Bible and the historic teaching of old, dead Christians instead of on the promptings of the spirit, a literal belief in the Creed, insistence that Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life, failure to provide all requested funding to the national Episcopal Church, unapproved contact with any Anglican bishop outside the continental United States, and making fun of the Presiding Bishop.”