Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise From the Catholic Bishops

My goodness! Who would have thought? Bishops got spines!

From nj.com (New Joisey Jersey), via Catholic World News:
American Catholic bishops will vote today on a document that urges lay Catholics not to receive Communion if they reject church teachings on birth control, abortion and the divinity of Jesus.

[…] The 19-page document applies to all lay people, not just politicians. If approved today as expected at the bishops' annual fall meeting, it could resonate in a country where polls indicate the vast majority of married Catholic couples use birth control and where most Catholics believe abortion should be legal.

[…] The Communion document, titled "Happy Are Those Who Are Called To His Supper: On Preparing To Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist," does not tell priests or bishops to reject people at the altar rail just because of unorthodox beliefs.

Instead, it calls on lay Catholics to determine beforehand whether they are properly disposed to receive the sacrament.

Communion is the heart of the Catholic Mass, a sacred rite by which Catholics experience Jesus. Catholicism teaches that priests can consecrate bread and wine to become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Unworthy receipt of Communion is viewed in the Catholic Church as a grave sin.

No kidding. See 1 Cor. 11:27. One of the ironies in the Episcopal Church revolves around the Eucharist. First, they made it the center and standard of worship, pretty much eliminating the use of Morning Prayer.on Sunday mornings. Then, they diluted all meaning from it by opening it to anyone who was baptized, whatever their beliefs about its meaning, and more recently to pagans and members of other religions. If it can mean whatever you want it to, then it really has no intrinsic meaning of its own!

[…] Bishops have worried that too many Catholics view Communion as a private act when theologically it is a public one meant to unite believers.

"Holy Communion is not simply a private devotion," Serratelli said. "When I receive Communion with this person, I'm saying I'm in union with this church, that I believe what this church says. I don't think a lot of people see that. They think, 'When I go to Communion, it's me and Lord.'"

The document says people "with honest doubt and confusion" about church teachings should try to better understand the faith and even seek guidance from a pastor.

They are encouraged to continue receiving 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."

But, the document continues, "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 diminish his or her communion with the church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain."

Bishops are well aware that American Catholics commonly ignore or reject central church teachings. A document distributed at the bishops' meeting cited a survey indicating only 4 percent of married Catholics of child-bearing age follow church guidelines against contraception. Asked whether he thought the Communion document would help change their minds, the Rev. Thomas Reese said, "Do the survey in 25 years. If 4 percent goes up to 25 percent, then they've had a very successful document."

But Frances Kissling, president of the liberal group (People Who Claim to be) Catholics for a Free Choice, which opposes a wide array of church teachings on sexuality, said: "They're gonna save a lot of money on wafers if people listen to this."

How unspeakably crass. What they might actually save is a lot of nails from being pounded into the flesh of Christ and a lot of people from compounding one sin with another.

[…] Serratelli, though, said he was not worried by the prospect of many people deciding, in the end, that they disagree with church teachings and to stop receiving Communion.

"If you reject ... a teaching that is fundamental to Catholics," he said, "the real question is, then, Why would you want to take Communion? Because Communion itself says, 'I am part of this church and I embrace what it believes.'"

Bingo! As a baptized Christian who believes pretty much everything the Catholic Church teaches, insofar as I understand it, but who is a member of another church and therefore not “in communion,” I would never dream of disrespecting the Lord, the Church, or myself by trying to cheat on the matter.