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The Communion Controversy, or 'almost beside the point'

It is the birthright of a Catholic to be born into the Family of God, to be raised in the Faith, to be formed by the Gospel and the Catholic Tradition. It is a shameful situation that so many have been robbed of this birthright.


Long after his death, Father Leo Trese proved to be quite a conversation-stopper.

I'm sure I haven't thought of this story for over twenty years, but recently it popped, unavoidably, into my head. I was in a discussion group with some of my fellow seminarians, in one of those progressive postconciliar seminaries which specialized in updating the Faith. Precisely what was the discussion topic, I can't recall. But I remember referring to a point made by Father Trese, in one of his pre-conciliar books for priests, where he said, "Of course, we all realize that the Priest who ascends the altar in a state of mortal sin does not offer a sacrifice. He commits a murder."

The effect on the group sitting there was electrifying. They clearly thought that this was a thoroughly morbid, "old-church" hyper-supernaturalist perspective. It had nothing to say to them. In their seminary formation, they had been repeatedly taught to contrast the perspective of the "old church" with the enlightened, renewed approach of the postconciliar age, so dismissing a bit of uncomfortable old school spirituality was really just a reflex.

Interesting reflex, though; especially after you've read Saint Paul on the subject: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (I Cor 11:27 RSV). In dismissing Father Trese, they were putting aside Saint Paul.

Hesitation about refusing Holy Communion to someone is not necessarily the sign of a bad priest.
Catholicism, as I have said elsewhere, is more than simply a list of rules to be followed, or a list of things to be mastered and memorized. Catholicism is a deep, and wide, and fruitful way of looking at all reality in light of the Incarnation of Him Who became flesh, and dwelt among us, and lived, and suffered, and died for us, and rose again. In light of that Mystery, and following in the footsteps of the saints, all of life is transformed, everything is charged with meaning. And everything is seen in that light.

And, ideally, one absorbs this through the life of the Church: a vision, a peculiar way of looking at things. This is the birthright of every Catholic; that through his participation in the Church's life, the catechesis he experiences, the liturgies at which he assists, he experiences the very life of the Church, he is formed by that life as it is authentically expressed. This, I repeat is our birthright.

And I believe that this birthright needs a full discussion in our Church today.

I recall another time in the seminary, a Moral Theology class. The professor had arranged for us to view a series of ninety-minute Public Broadcasting presentations on medical/ethical issues. The series wasn't produced under Catholic auspices, but it was well worth viewing.

One installment was on amniocentesis, and the moral implications of seeking to determine whether an unborn child was 'normal' or 'healthy.' In one disturbing segment, we saw a group of profoundly retarded children. They were institutionalized, and we saw them sitting listlessly around a playground. The contrast between the brightly colored playground furniture and the non-responsive children was jarring.

Afterwards, as we had coffee in the refectory, one of my classmates said to me, "And you wouldn't even let people practice birth control?"

This is the sort of moment that demands discussion in our Church. My classmate was not a bad, or ill-disposed person. He took his theological studies seriously. But because he was serious in his studies, he had thoroughly absorbed what he had been taught through the very atmosphere of that seminary: that we were living in a privileged, new age, in which the "old answers" of the "preconciliar church" were at best suspect, and virtually everything was up for grabs. Again, he had presented himself to the Church for formation in all good faith: and this was how he was being formed.

To his pointed question, I replied, "Um, now, wait a minute. Are you suggesting that you are able to draw a line and judge who should have been created, and who should not have?" And, to his credit, he immediately saw the problem to which I was pointing. What I had said to him was, quite simply, the Catholic perspective. It was true, and he recognized that.

The Eucharist has become something like an inclusion ritual, something to which everyone is invited. It would be mean to refuse someone a piece of birthday cake.
But isn't it troubling that, knowing what the Church teaches on such issues as contraception, he naturally assumed that it was a good thing to question it? He was a seminarian in the Major Seminary, preparing for parish ministry; but, rather than being able to come to drink of the stream of perennial wisdom of the Church and be formed by it, he had absorbed a mentality which sees the Church's teaching as a starting discussion point. And this is not simply a situation in one seminary. It is a Church-wide problem in our country.

It is with this context in mind that I read the pastoral letter of the Bishop of Colorado Springs regarding pro-abortion politicians, the Catholics who vote for them, and the reception of Holy Communion. The money quote, as far as the media seems to be concerned, is this:

"There must be no confusion in these matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance."

Now, I'd like to reflect a bit on where we find ourselves as Catholics in America today.

The presumptive Democratic candidate for President, Senator John Kerry, professes himself a devout and committed Roman Catholic. It is important to bear this profession of faith in mind—especially as one sees photos of him kneeling at the communion rail of an African Methodist Episcopal Church, or ponders his support not just for abortion rights, but for the loathsome partial birth abortion procedure. John Kerry is a committed, devout Roman Catholic, by his own profession of faith.

The Bishop of Colorado Springs, Michael Sheridan, seems quite clear in saying that not only is Mr. Kerry barred from Holy Communion, those voting for him, and for politicians supporting abortion, should also understand that they are outside the communion of the Church, and that they are jeopardizing their salvation. Several other bishops have publicly stated that Catholics making public pro-abortion stances should not approach Holy Communion. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick, says that he is not comfortable with barring such a person from Holy Communion, and Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, says that Mr. Kerry is "welcome" to receive Communion. And there has raged in the Church, both pro and con, discussion about when a priest or Eucharistic Minister should refuse the Eucharist to a communicant.

Eucharistic discipline, it would seem, is now a matter of diocesan boundaries. I wouldn't have thought, a month ago, that the bishops could have further messed up our situation as a Church. It just goes to show that I do not give them nearly enough credit.

Watching this public discussion, it has occurred to me that a few things need stating which many people of good will seem not to realize.

The first is that hesitation about refusing Holy Communion to someone, even to someone who is publicly known to be in a situation contrary to the Church's teaching, is not necessarily the sign of a bad priest. It might be the sign of a charitable, realistic, prudent priest who does not want to hurt someone who is not malicious, but confused, perhaps even innocently.

On moral questions, from the media they hear, not the reasoning, but the 'bottom line,' the Thou Shalt Not.
I'm speaking as a parish priest who once had a couple—a faithful, Mass-every-Sunday couple, kids-in-CCD couplesuggest to me that my Trinity Sunday homily might have confused the children because "it almost sounded as though you were saying that Jesus is God." I understood immediately where they were coming from, as we were exactly the same age. We made our first Communions in May of 1967. We were the first class never to have seen the Catechism; we got large, outsized books with bright colored pictures and almost no text instead. These folks had never been taught the Faith; it was a minor miracle that they were at Mass at all. But they hadn't the vaguest idea what the Creed meant, or the Incarnation, or the Trinity. And that was at least partly because of what the Church had failed to teach them.

Or there was the couple who came up to me after Mass on my first Sunday in my current parish, seeking a blessing. They were beginning treatments in a fertility clinic to produce a child, using a procedure which was clearly immoral.

Or the couple who had been counseled into a 'selective termination' by a priest; the wife had conceived twins, the doctor said that one twin was in trouble and, if he were aborted, the other would be healthier. They came seeking the priest's advice; he told them that whatever they did, God would be with them...

Oh, I could multiply such stories almost infinitely, but to what purpose? It is obvious that something is wrong, seriously wrong. It is the birthright of a Catholic to be born into the Family of God, to be raised in the Faith, to be formed by the Gospel and the Catholic Tradition. A Catholic should be able, throughout his life, to assist at the sacred Liturgy celebrated according to the mind of the Church, the feasts and fasts and sounds and scents of which shape and form the very soul. He should have learned the stories of the Lord Jesus and the teachings of the Church.

It is a shameful situation that so many have been robbed of this birthright; but it is true. Gallup established that even with regard to a central doctrine such as the Eucharist, only a third of MASS-ATTENDING Catholics could identify the Catholic teaching when it was set before them. And Mass-attending Catholics are harder to come by nowadays; after a drop of more than sixty percent over thirty years, Mass attendance stands at some 18%.

Ignorance of Christian doctrine is extraordinarily pervasive in the Church today. A book like "The DaVinci Code" easily draws a following among Catholics, who read its ludicrous assertions, such as that Constantine the Great invented the doctrine of Christ's divinity in the 300's, without ever realizing that the first chapter of St John's Gospel would debunk that lie... if they but knew where to look for John's Gospel.

There are many Catholics today who were simply never taught the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Faith. When it came to moral issues, if they got any moral "instruction" at all, it was a group discussion on a story showing some sort of moral situation, and through the discussion each group member was encouraged to find "your own answers." It is not that these folks do not want to be good people—if by some miracle they are still active Catholics, that argues for their good will. But they have no idea of Catholicism.

It is a dismal fact that the only reason most Catholics know the teaching of the Church on the moral questions of our daybirth control, abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, homosexuality, fornication, remarriage after divorce, etc—is because they hear about it from the secular media. They certainly do not hear of it from the pulpit. But from the media they hear, not the reasoning, but the "bottom line," the Thou Shalt Not. And because they never hear the reasoning, they never have the chance to be formed in the Catholic Faith. The teachings of the Church are bits of unconnected datamediaeval-sounding data—to be accepted or, more likely, rejected at will.

This is the dirty little secret of the Catholic Church in America. Most of the talk about "Renewal" over the last forty years has been nonsense; nothing that has lost sixty percent of its active membership can claim to be 'renewed.' The Sacred Liturgy was debased into an exercise in group self-expression; the whole sense of the Catholic Tradition, to be gratefully received, lived, and passed on, was junked in favor of a massive group-process exercise which assumes that Christian history started in the reign of John XXIII.

In light of all of this, perhaps we should go slow, very slow, before we start to talk about the priest on Sunday morning, administering the Blessed Sacrament, and his obligation to refuse Communion to reprobates.

Most priests have no desire to do more harm than good. Day in, and day out, a parish priest today will run across people woefully un-grounded in the Faith. Yet the frustrating truth is that, even if he preaches solidly and consistently from his pulpit at all Masses and offers the best possible catechesis and adult education, in this highly mobile society a certain percentage of his people will have moved during each year, to go off to places of uncertain teaching and be replaced by others from places with faulty teaching. Because catechesis in this country is so woefully inconsistent, a parish priest can feel as though he's trying to scoop out the ocean with a soup spoon.

Whatever Father X might preach from his pulpit or teach in his confessional, there’s always that nice Father Y in the next parish with a different set of answers.
I have watched with interest over these past few weeks, as discussion has raged in the Church over whether or not pro-abortion politicians, and now even those who vote for them, should be admitted to Holy Communion. If you follow the discussion with care, you'll note that this really isn't an in-house, Catholic Church discussion. There are two different Religions talking past each other here. On the one hand, there are people who understand the teaching on the Eucharist. They understand Father Trese's point; to approach the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is to commit a sacrilege, for one has, by one's sin, shut the door of one's heart to Jesus, committed idolatry, really, by preferring to Him something that one cannot have and have Him also, and thereby one has literally chosen a false god. I cannot commit adultery and still walk with Jesus, murder and walk with Jesus, slander and still possess Him; if I receive Communion with such sin on my soul, I don't simply lie. I crucify Him again. That's the Faith.

But then there are those on the other hand. What I just wrote will make no sense to them. Catholicism is not the pursuit of holiness to them. They are already okay, 'good people;' the Eucharist is something like an inclusion ritual, like birthday cake at a party, something to which everyone is invited. It would be mean to refuse someone a piece of birthday cake. Everyone should be welcome, and if you should happen to find yourself in an African Methodist Episcopal Church at communion time... well, dig in and help yourself!

Undoubtedly, there are many in this latter group who know better, or should. But there are many, many more who honestly don't. They were deprived of their birthright. Eucharistic discipline is for them a hopelessly medieval concept (mediaeval is everything before Pius the Twenty-Third, as John Kerry will tell you). What they have absorbed from their experience of the Church is that truth is subjective, your answers are to be found within, and whatever Father X might preach from his pulpit or teach in his confessional, there's always that nice Father Y in the next parish with a different set of answers.

The madness of it all is that this has been going on for so long, and yet we are still enmeshed in this weird denial, still talking about the past forty years as 'Renewal.' People are pointing the finger at John Kerry as though they have no idea that the vast majority of communicants on Sunday are totally neglecting Confession, and that most Catholics, having no idea of the rationale for Catholic Moral teachings, pick and choose among those teachings as they wish. If we truly cared about our own people as we should, this situation would be accorded the most urgent priority status. We would move heaven and earth to develop and implement a clear, consistent, coordinated, country-wide catechesis, supported by adult education. And alarm bells would have been rung long ago about the liturgical abuses which subvert our sense of the sacred.

What a peculiar sight we must present to our nation. Our bishops publicly contradicting each other on points of discipline, all the while everyone knows that masses of our people don't even understand, let alone accept our teaching. And, as a Church, it all means so little to us that apparently we cannot bring ourselves to admit that we are in trouble. We've been robbing our own of their birthright, of that deep, and rich, and fruitful way of looking at all Reality in light of Him Who became one of us, and died for us, and loves us.

What a great many things we can find to distract us. Anything, apparently, anything to avoid having to fix our eyes on Jesus.

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June 2, 2004

FR. JOSEPH F. WILSON writes from Queens, New York.

Reprinted with permission from Cruxnews.com. All rights reserved.

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READER COMMENTS
06.12.04   alexander caughey says:
Hi Annabella, Conception is not the issue, rather, the intention not to conceive.The methods you have referred too, are also an issue of willingness not to conceive, whether it is a matter of abstinence or of intercourse during infertile periods. Infertile periods detection is not such an exact science as you would indicate, for there are many woman who once thought as you do and now understand that the method is rather imprecise, due to an unexpected arrival. I am happy for your good luck. Where the intention is not to conceive, the actions employed are rendered equal, for it is the intention and not the method that is paramount in moral theology. Where a couple wanting sexual intercourse, as a natural need, then deny themselves due to the woman being fertile, a conscious decision has been made to avoid the prospect of conceiving. Denial of a natural human action, due to a wish not to conceive a child, arising from this coupling, is tantamount to contraception. Where a couple enjoy sexual intercourse only during infertile periods, clearly the intention is not to conceive. What is the difference between the use of artificial means and "natural" means, when the intention is the same.Kindly explain to this dumb assed male chauvinist pig. Alex (learner lover)

06.12.04   sem says:
Alex,thanks for your comments.point #1:Yes, i agree that since we are all sinners, then without us there would be no Church. I wouldedit the beginning of my previous comment as such: “The truth she contains also comes from the studies, prayers, and meditations of roughly 2000 years of both brilliant minds (sinners) and the everyday struggles of everyday people (sinners). This is strength (plus the strength of the sacraments) that is available to all of us.The Church’s weakness also comes from the fact that it is embodied with sinners...”But there are different degrees of sin. Those whose work results in a strengthening of the Church-- are still sinners in other ways. And sometimes the sins of others directly result in the weakening of the Church (from the inside out, so to speak). This could be from atrocities such as priests who molest, or the more subtle erosion caused by those who know the truth, but willfully disregard it. point #2:[Thank you Annabella, for the points about NFP...]No, the Church does not advocate contraception. The catechism states it much better than i do, and it also begins to addresses the second part of your comment. 2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil: Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.Yes, the Church agrees with the latter part of your 2nd point. Conjugal sex is not just for being open to life, but also for bonding and communicating and loving and all those good things. and the toughest point– point #3:God desires our love and happiness. Not the kind of happiness that is born from a second of pleasure which fades just as quickly; but an eternal happiness that comes from doing the right thing even if it “hurts” at the time. God has told us through scripture what is best for us. God has told us thru the succession of Peter what is best for us. Yes, all people are sinners, but we work with what we’ve got (including ourselves).We have got so much. Do you realize that? [I believe with all my heart that condemning all clergy is a grave injustice. And to deny the truth of the Church’s beliefs because the clergy sins is a serious fallacy. Silence is an enemy. Isolation is an enemy. The more we talk and interact w/ our clergy, the more likely such atrocious sin could be avoided. And again, we laypeople are no different.] We have an innate desire to know our human nature, and we have a stubborn need to figure it out for ourselves. So it is next to impossible for one (most?) of us to be handed the truth and have us simply say “Yes, thank you Lord.”Our difficulties always come back to the First difficulty (from the Garden): we have a hard time accepting that we are created creatures, and therefore subject to the God who created us.The paradox is that by striking out on our own (trying to deny the truth) we lose ourselves. This must be– because when we go away from God, we are going against our true human nature. The other side of the paradoxical coin: by trying to live within the parameters of our true human nature, (under God) the world and ourselves will be opened up to us. This must be-- because we would then be realizing our fullest potential. I repeat, we have got so much. Not only the trial and errors of those who have preceded us, but we have access to God thru the sacraments and prayer. Since this is some mysterious and intangible stuff, ultimately it must be experienced on a personal level. I wish I wasn’t one who tests and fights and struggles, but I am. And God has patiently proved it to me over and over and over that He does indeed, know what’s best.This whole process continues and evolves over a life-time, of course. God believes in grace, but not in short-cuts. (And He loves us no matter what)peace,shannon

06.11.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
From the Eucharist to Natural Family Planning! It is not so far a leap as some of us would suppose.The teachings on NFP are excellently made by Annabella. I would add: it should be in STATE OF GRACE that we contribute (male and female) and receive nascent human life. Maybe that is the deeper teaching of the mystery of conception and birth: the child is a living emblem of the BODY and blood of Christ.The Eucharist is Jesus. A sacrament to transform our lives as much as carrying, bearing, adopting, supporting, teaching, and loving a child is a sacrament, a mystery, a gift from God to understand mankind's (through the narration of His chosen people, the Hebrews) growing into adulthood, into maturity in understanding God's plan of salvation and our human ('sinful') nature.Sorry, friends, for the comma faults but all these comments (excellently well!) have inspired ideas metaphoric in me.Pax Christi,Jonathan

06.11.04   Annabella says:
Just to make clear, NFP is not the rhythm method. There are only several days a month when ovulation occurs, and vaginal mucus indicates this very clearly. Temperature changes can also be tracked, although I don't use that, and it's worked for me. By allowing for several days before and after the fertile period, a couple can safely avoid conception if they so desire (the Church does NOT teach Providentialism). NFP is NOT the same as artificial birth control, it is working with God's creation, not against it. It's not a life issue (except indirectly), it's a virtue issue, for the individuals, and the couple. Which builds virtue? Controlling your eating through restraint, or taking a diet pill? Like diet pills, artificial contraception is a quick fix that promotes unrestrained use of the other. NFP is, as Mother Teresa said, self-restraint out of love for the other. And guess what? The irony is that all you read about is couples who no longer have sex. Why the big deal then about remaining chaste within marriage for ten out of 30 days per month? Go to amazon.com and do a search on fertility awareness books. Read the "Like a Natural Woman" article on this site. This is a non-issue.

06.11.04   alexander caughey says:
Hi Shannon, I enjoyed your beautiful presentation. Three points. 1. Sinners are the pillars of our church, not its weakness. Without sinners, no church. Christ said, He had come to save sinners. 2. Contraception is also advocated by our church, though by way of another method, usually called The Rhythm Method. Natural family planning is allowing nature to takes it decision. I take it that the intention is still the same; to avoid conception. Further, did our creator really intend us to have a sexual life, for the purpose of creating off-spring only and for no other reason? Just, may be, to keep a loving couple, loving. 3. How are we to know, what God knows best for us? Our church is in the throes of proving how incompetent it is in handling the sex scandals and still has to find a way out of the quagmire it has got itself into. I certainly would not take advice from a RC priest and especially not a bishop. How do you propose that we should know God's intentions for us? Alex

06.11.04   sem says:
To Mari,The Church doesn’t force anything. That is both its strength and weakness. The strength of the Church stems from the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit. The truth she contains also comes from the studies, prayers, and meditations of roughly 2000 years of both brilliant minds and the everyday struggles of everyday people. This is strength (plus the strength of the sacraments) that is available to all of us.The Church’s weakness comes from the fact that it is embodied with sinners. There are also those who, even though the truth is available, fall prey to the shortcut of lies that permeate our society. The Church’s weakness is also that it allows the bottom line to become the sole expression of its position too often. Case in point : Contraception goes against God. That is merely stating the bottom line. It is not an attack on women. It actually supports the anti-secular notion that a woman's fertility is a sacred part of her being, rather than something that is an inconvenience, a liability, or something that needs "fixing." The reality of this simple statement (contraception goes against God) is supported by an entire body of philosophical, anthropological, and metaphysical facts about our human nature. The small amount of leap of faith that might be required would already be covered by your self-proclaimed love of God. I am sad that the [people in the] Church has gone [and is going] thru a period of weak to even faulty catechesis, but that just means that we need to find the answers ourselves. I’m sure that many here on this forum could point you to some wonderful sources. I always recommend to everyone that they read Pope JPII’s, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. It is the secular society that has treated my woman-ness as something that is suspect or threatening. In the Church I have found respect, empowerment, and a calling that is different but just as vital as a priest’s. If you truly want to be responsible in the beliefs that you hold, I would hope that you would first know the whole truth of what you profess to be against. Find the reasons the Church believes what she believes and then make an informed stand. some good websites: Catholic Information Network (www.cin.org), and the Holy See (www.vatican.va). Food for thought:I must disagree about your claim that using birth control is taking responsibility. Birth control is not a way to act responsibly, but rather a means to circumvent the responsibility for one’s acts. Which is the responsible act– not drinking to excess, or drinking too much and then taking a hangover pill?Compare the following: I should be able to have sex whenever i want, without having to worry about the consequences.I should be able to eat of every tree in the Garden.We humans gnash our teeth at our finite perception of limitedness; but a large part of faith is knowing that God knows best. Peace,shannon

06.09.04   lindadic says:
Okay, all: It's not just our views of the hierarchy; our news sources seriously disagree....It's our duty and right as followers of Jesus to do the best we can to love God and our neighbors. Exactly what that means will be different according to our understanding and the information we've got.

06.09.04   eric_in_IN says:
QuoteOriginally posted by: lindadicmaybe Bush really didn't know that the WMD was a lie. But his crawling around "looking" for them at the Natl Press Club dinner as a joke makes it clear how important it was to him. 10,000 Iraquis dead don't seem funny to me. Yes war is ugly and should be a last resort. That was not the case w/Iraq, as the refusal of virtually all European nations to join us revealed. Where did you get 10,000 dead? from somehting like this: "Various news organizations have come up with estimates of Iraqi dead that range from 1,700 to 3,000 persons. The heavy tonnage of bombs dropped on Iraq probably raised the civilian death toll higher. " And then, they make little or no effort to distinguish between civilian and military casualties...No, the dead Iraquis are not funny. Even the ones who were shooting, bombing, raping, disfiguring their own people (let alone the US soldiers comign across their borders)...that you don't consider waiting for 12 years while Iraq broke promise after promise after promise, and after a nearly year long buildup of forces and promises on our part that unless things changed we would act a "last resort" is telling...also, WMD (actually, the probablity of WMD, which was not doubted by ANY intelligence service, combined with the almost constant stream of $ and resources being funneled to terrorists, including al Queda) was ONE of several reasons for the military build up, not the ONLY reason...plus, the idea that WMD claims were, to use your words, "balony" indicates that you are listening more to talking heads than the facts...when the world stood by and appeased Hitler, many many innocent people died...if he had been allowed to inflict his final solution for 12 years, the Jewish people (and probably some others) would have been even more devestated...it is unfathomable to me that we allowed Iraq to go on as long as we did...last resort indeed...Warmest Regards,Eric WyattMuncie, IN

06.09.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Linda,I will address a few of your points while you finish your mocha before it chills.On Judas: I meant what you said; if he was in a state of Grace or open (don't ask me how?!) to Grace, then he might have chosen not to betray Jesus. But this is moot, as the OT foretold and Jesus kept reminding his disciples.On war: On May 17, a roadside bomb partially detonated (a howitzer shell of 155mm) and serin gas was released. This was confirmed by independent news organizations. In 1998 Saddam gassed his own (Kurdish ethnics) people in northern Iraq. Dissidents from Iraq (some are scientists) spoke of Saddam's chemical weapons capability. Our goofy intelligence organizations based on faulty intel and past history and present statements from Saddam (as late as 2 months before Gulf War 2) pointed to CW stockpiles, or what we commonly call WMDs. So maybe the war was for the wrong reason, but it had the right result: the ending of a cruel and vicious dictatorship over 40 million people.On Ahmed Chalabi: what a nut! He has a history going back to his failed Petra bank in Syria. He is American educated and has had the support of moderate Iraqis. His 'blood money' came from seized Saddam assets and oil revenues from Iraq. Of course it is characterized as 'American taxpayer money,' why wouldn't it be in a climate of isolationism? After all, French and German companies are being investigated by Paul Volcker from the UN for complicity with Saddam on the ill-fated 'oil for food' program. It seems the suffering masses did not receive food or medical supplies like it was planned. What a shock! And from our European allies! Chalabi lied and it was found out. Chalabi and Laura Bush: at the State of the Union it had not been determined what and who was doing to whom and where and for how much in Iraq. Of course he was there. At the time he was the Heir Apparent for the transitional government. Clinton did the same with Aristade of Haiti. Remember when Time Magazine made Adolf Hitler Man of the Year in 1938??The NCR is not always correct. Neither is the Vatican. We are human and therefore fallible. But, our common ground should be our love and desire to do what is right, what is merciful and what IN THE LONG RUN will result in a juster, fairer world. Getting rid of evil whether corporate, national, ethnic or economic, is what we Catholics should be about.Dorothy Day's isolationism and pacifism was misplaced. Evil wants good to do nothing. What is good should be as active (like the Catholic Worker Movement on poverty) as evil is active.To quote Ms Day on WWII: "But recognizing that the majority of people are not Saints; they are swift to wrath, to resist aggression (when they are not the aggressors), then we can only insist ceaselessly that even when the people are taking sides mentally they must keep out, they must not participate in a 'War to end War.'" Can anyone explain the sense of that to me? and in the same article: "Do we believe we help any country by participating in an evil in which they are engaged? We rather help them by maintaining our own peace."Let the Jews, the gypsies, the 'homosexuals', the intelligentsia, the Resistance fighters die. We help them by maintaining our own peace!Cardinal Law: I agree one hundred percent with you. Abortion: if it is a sin then it is a crime (against God). It should be reflected as such in a society that claims to be Judeo-Christian. If not, then two justice systems are of equal value: God and man.Father Mullaly: I will visit your site, but based upon your comments, he sounds off base. Remember, when acting in his priestly function he is correct, he (being human) is certainly mistaken in areas outside of his expertise as we all are at times.Our common ground must be the journey to attain the Kingdom of God within us. Remember the Children's Crusade? What a folly, yet many enthusiastic young Christians actively seek martyrdom (in imitation of the saints). Well, let's forget our children and our family and go off to die for Christ. What becomes of this world? Would not Jesus have taught that death (annihilation) is preferable to life? Come follow me and die on the Cross! Then why the written NT? Christianity would have been a small footnote in humankind's history if the early Christians sought death as soon as becoming baptized. I think the real cross, the real burden, is to make our short lives here a witness of praise and God's love, but not to serve as targets of opportunity for terrorists.

06.09.04   alexander caughey says:
Jonathan-Lindadic, Before proceeding further, I would like to say that my last posting expressed the way that many Catholics view our Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger. The results of their experiences are now impacting greatly on the debate that we are having. My own feelings for our Holy Father are warm and understanding of the pressures he is now undergoing. Likewise, my appreciation of Joseph Ratzinger's attempts to keep our flock together, is best described as a man's best effort to keep us all involved in the great debate, that will bring us closer together. What ever our individual feelings on the current popular controversies, I believe that dialogue will fertilise change to wards greater understanding and tolerance of differences in approach, rather than changes in the substance of our beliefs. Meantime, I am enjoying the flow that now lubricates the wheels of this wonderful website and the uplifting articles provided by Godspy. Thank you and may Christ's love embrace you all, in your efforts to irrigate God's good earth of growth of all that we can become. Alex

06.08.04   lindadic says:
yes, lively debate!I love Dorothy Day, too, and she was a pacifist during WWII. As a Jewish convert to Catholicism, I know I would not have been then, and my dad served in the Army. I am not now a pacifist. Still, re Saddam: I believe Pres. Bush's justification of the war was the ill-fated WMD, which turns out to be baloney. Now he's claiming he hardly knew Chalabi. Right, and C.'s sitting behind Laura B. at the inauguration was a fluke. sure. Maybe Bush really didn't know that the WMD was a lie. But his crawling around "looking" for them at the Natl Press Club dinner as a joke makes it clear how important it was to him. 10,000 Iraquis dead don't seem funny to me. Yes war is ugly and should be a last resort. That was not the case w/Iraq, as the refusal of virtually all European nations to join us revealed. Re Judas, your argument is confusing: are you saying taking the Eucharist strengthened him in his evil? Surely not. As Jesus knew, sharing His Body and Blood with Judas was actually giving him the best chance to resist evil! We all fail to resist in the end—like Judas, like Peter. I personally believe in open Communion; God can work within you if only you let Him, even if you are not well-catechized, even if you are not baptized (there is the baptism of desire). But here's the thing: can someone of your views and mine really find common ground? I'm thinking not. I love the Catholic Church I find in the National Catholic Reporter: the men and women who are sharing God's love around the world every single day. That's where the church really is, in my view. Not in official Rome. I have no reverence for the machinations of the Vatican (though I admire the Pope in many ways). I especially dislike what they did for Cardinal Law, who should be forgiven but not rewarded with $12,000 a month. I think abortion is a sin, but I don't think it's murder. I do think capital punishment is murder. I go to Confession but I don't find it a substitute for the Eucharist, as a priest advised me to do on my weblog (lindadickey.com)--see Communion and the comments by Fr. Gerald Mullaly. Oh well. Maybe this reply is just silly... God help us all!

06.08.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Good, lively exchange!It is as if Godspy provided a nice corner cafe for us to expound and learn into the late spring evening!Lindadic: I assume your response is directed to me. If it is not, forgive me for addressing some of your points (if they seem out of line).Judas did eat that night. He should have. It is the old problem of predestination vs. unbounded free will:will he betray his Master or will he see the evil and error of his intention prior to acting upon it??For the story, for a greater point, he chose to do what Jesus said "one of you" would do. If Judas Iscariot was taking that meal in a state of Grace, his heart might have changed. However, our earlier Church fathers (and mothers! like my personal favorite: Teresa of Jesus (Avila)) believed that the mere act of taking communion will not purify one: there is no 'silver bullet' here. So Judas partook and still he did not "get" it. He did, however, show remorse after the fact. ASIDE: if Jesus (for purposes of argument) said, "Judas, why do you betray me?" the other disciples would have pounced on him in a nanosecond (remember Peter and his sword?). What would be the purpose of this alternative, this 'calling out' or accusing?Well, we could invite all non-Christians to partake and make a mockery of our own beliefs. This would satisfy the misunderstood "we are all sinners" argument. Sure, we are, but in context of our Lord's teaching and moral requirements. (Hey, let's disown our parents and family [Jesus said] but remember to honor your father and mother). I think the important point is not to look to a literal exegesis of what Jesus is reputed to have said. I think this is why we have the Synoptics: to get a better understanding of the intent of His teachings through multiple, reliable sources.Eucharist as reward or punishment? "Jesus did no such thing." But we saw the results of one who took with being in a state of Grace (murder on his mind). "Let's see, I need strength to do what I have to do tomorrow, so I will go to Communion and pray for strength from God and the Holy Spirit. Now, when was my appointment at the Planned Parenthood clinic?"War imust be the last resort, for innocent children and men and women have and will die. It doesn't matter if it is tribal like Uganda, totalitarian like Cambodia, religious like Yugoslavia or fascist like Iraq: the evil people must be excised so the GREATER number of innocent people can live better lives.We lost over 50,000 men at Gettysburg. Over 200,000 women, children and male noncombatants died in the Civil War. Should we (the Union) have let the Confederacy go? Ask a black American.Every God awful war has resulted in senseless horror and death. What is amazing is the degree to which our military culture is quick to correct abuses and repair unnecessary damage. Life magazine had an article in 1946 (it's floating on the internet) asking: Has America Lost the Peace in Europe. Gee, we are still there and Germany hasn't started a war in 65 years! (1939-1945, 1914-18, 1919, 1903-1908, 1888-1890,1885-1886,1870-1871, ...)Look to the past and you will see how in a slow and painful way we (humankind) are moving towards striking first ('pre-emptive') and removing those who would be King (Commissar, Dictator, President for Life, Savior of their Race, et cetera).Lindadic: over 200,000 men, women and children of Iraqi citizenship died at the hands of Saddam, his sons and his henchmen and henchwomen (there's parity for you: evil doesn't follow gender lines).If Catholics do not respond to remedy wrongs (God bless Dorothy Day) and protect those who cannot or are not able to protect themselves (God bless George W. Bush), then I am in the wrong Faith.I will not go to war on an 'interpretation' of the Patriot Act. I will not bear arms against noncombatants. But I will fight those who shield themselves with children and women, who blow themselves up among teenagers in a shopping district or old ladies at a bus stop. Look to Northern Ireland, what shame. Look to Oklahoma City, what shame.Look to President Roosevelt turning away German Jews from American ports (after all, we were not at war!). What shame.If we are to judge not, let's throw out the courts, and close the police precincts. Let us forget testing, and grades and standards and driving on the right side of the road (sorry, Alex). No, judging is fine, it is human and it is one of the gifts which makes us "godlike." What is wrong, as all the Gospels indicate, is judging others on a different scale than judging oneself. You know, "cast the first stone." Jonathan

06.08.04   alexander caughey says:
Such is life, that we pretend that life is all that we can make it become. What if life is not as we wish or suppose it to be? What if we are ready to accept the church's teaching and then recognise that our life of living and the church's teachings, do not marry. Are we to accept that our feelings, drawn from our life's experience, are to be jettisoned in favour of some old fart, living in Rome. This brings us to the heart of the matter, are we able to determine our own destiny? Or are we willing cooperators with some old codgers, dressed in archaic clothing, living in a remote neighbourhood of Rome?Do we surrender our freedom of action to some Pole or German, living in a world apart from ours?This is the dilemma many Catholics have to consider, each and every day of their lives. Who is right?Whom do we trust? Our experience of living or some stranger? I propose we trust Christ.What did Christ say? He said that He came to rescue sinners from their hell, that is their life.Did He deny the bread of life to sinners? Not bloody likely, despite the best attempts of His apostles to persuade Him, otherwise. He said, plainly, I have to come save sinners. In view of this statement, would He deny Himself to "sinners". I believe not. Where does our path to living a better life lay?By following Christ's example. Do your best, with the best you have. Try very hard. If you fail, don't worry, keep trying. It is in the trying that we succeed and not in the winning,for their is no line for winners, merely losers. Which category do you belong to? I know I am born loser, but I keep trying to be a winner, knowing I can't win.

06.08.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Mari;I cannot address your situation, but maybe this analogy might better illustrate my points:Those people who are not baptized Catholics are not permitted to take Communion. Granted, many people from other religious traditions or separated sects have gone to a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist during Mass. Still, it does not mean they have received the Eucharist. They may have, but according to our Faith, they have not. They are not in a state of Grace.If our Church sets the standards for receiving the Eucharist, then she must give the reasons for those standards. A little research and reading into this issue and the reasons become clear. We may disagree with her, but to practice our faith as Catholics we must practice our Faith as Catholicism demands.You may believe that your form of birth control is permitted in our civilized society, but your standards are not from our Faith. They might be from concerns about world population growth, costs of raising children, inconvenience as to timing of the pregnancy and birth, the correct spacing between siblings, or, too many of one sex. It doesn't matter. We can find reasons to believe anything as it pertains to our individual situation. We rationalize the most picayune things into matters of state.I know: I do this alot.But the idea of the Body of Christ is that we are responsible for one another as Catholics, as Christians(you know, the original meaning of "peace to men of good will," not "peace and good will to [all] men.").If we choose to live as Catholics, we must follow the teachings of Mother Church. The teachings as they relate to matters of Faith and Belief (not colors of vestments, language of the Mass, folk versus choral music: these are all customs and cultural variants).It has been said before, and bears repeating: our Faith is not a cafeteria. The chairs and tables may change, the color on the walls may change, but what meat we are served is what we must eat and must do so in a state of Grace. I guess what I am getting at here is that many of us pretend to ready, or pretend to be Catholic, in order to receive Communion. There is no way to regulate that as you yourself admit, but, the Church must and will set the standard and keep to the standard as to what constitutes the way in which the Eucharist AS IT IS MEANT TO BE TAKEN can be received.Thanks for bearing with me, Mari.Jonathan

06.08.04   lindadic says:
Your argument is airtight, but wrong. Of course there is a tension--and by that I don't mean to belittle the problem--between the Truth (cap T) and how others see things. Go too far and you get post-modernism (which of course nobody really believes). But if you don't go far enough you have Facism. The huge danger in our Church (and I do say this as an American) is authoritarianism rather than authoritativeness. When the Church says something, it deserves the attention and respect due an institution of serious, devoted Christians who attempt to discern the truth. Nevertheless, it is not and should not be beyond question. Also: Jesus gave His body and bread to Judas--and He knew what Judas was going to do.The problem with pre-emptive war, such as the war we've fought in Iraq, is that 10,000 people there, most of them innocent civilians, died at our hands. 800 American service men and women died as well. I don't think you can make the Eucharist into a reward/punishment system. Jesus did no such thing. His 2 commandments were Love God; Love your neighbor. He also said "Judge not, that you not be judged."

06.07.04   Mari says:
If the Catholic Church is NOT going to give communion to politicians who are Pro-Choice then it should also stop giving communion to all women who practice birth control. How know? I guess most women in the first world will have to prove they are not on birth control. This will mostly leave women in the third world who are too poor to afford birth control to take Holy Communion. Even then, there are a growing number of women in the third world who are practicing birth control, most of them are well to do. I guess you'll have to get rid of them too. I will continue to practice responsible birth control and to teach my children to do so. I will also continue taking Holy Communion with or without the church's consent. The church cannot force me to have children I can not afford to take care of, this is irresponsible and sexist. For priests to be only men is sexist. Therefore, I will continue to love god in the Catholic Church and I will continue to ignore all sexist rules that pertain only to women, while males get away with sexual abuse and murder in Iraq and elsewhere? I'd say the scales are tipped against us. These arguments will further decline women's membership within the Catholic Church which is largly attended to by women.

06.06.04   alexander caughey says:
Could it also be said that in presuming that we are living in sin, the idea that we are perfecting our perfection, through learning the lessons of sinning, by accepting Christ in our lives, in the form of the Holy Eucharist, is our way of accepting Christ's understanding of our weaknesses, as a result of our sinful human nature, living in a sinful world. Or should we assume that only the near perfect are called to the communion table, when it would be a matter of perspective as to who is the greater sinner, in order for us to determine who should be eligible to receive Christ in to his/her life, as a confirmation of Christ's entry into our lives, for the purpose of calling sinners to his feast of life, at His table of thanks of all we are trying to be, in serving all by living with all, but stumbling, through our willingness to be more human than those who are patently super-human, by sinning less. The issue is not abortion, capital punishment or any other fashionable subject of popular discussion, but of our willingness to recognise that despite our different understandings on these and many other matters, involving living together, life is about accepting that without Christ in our lives, life is not worth living and certainly not worth dying for, for without Christ we are all un-redeemable sinners.

06.04.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
May I add some thoughts to your comments? Hopefully, they may clarify some apparent misunderstandings on your part."Belief about other people's beliefs can't be a mortal sin." This sounds like moral relativism. If someone (say, Joe Sixpack) believes incest is fine, then I cannot comment on this belief? Or act to prevent it? Since, in your view, "Believing that other people have the right to think differently...is the right way to live in a multicultural society." To follow this line of thinking then all laws which regulate public and private behavior should be voided, since in my belief system a STOP sign is the devil speaking and I, in my culture, do not listen to the devil. And who are you to say I am wrong?We are to be judged by our words and our thoughts (intentions). Our actions as individuals and in our groupings (family, friends, community, state, nation and world) must reflect our laws. Our laws must be just, they must mirror the laws of Heaven (as we in our limited ability are able) in being merciful and fair. If others believe women do not have souls and thus should not drive, vote, commence divorce proceedings, own property, be seen in public in the clothing of their choice, then we (in your view) should blithely view it as "multicultural" and move on in our isolationist world.If every Christian sought martyrdom, the world would be Moslem. That is the current anti-Christian movement in the world. If we are to treasure life (anti-abortion) and cultivate and care for others and our world then we must defend (pre-emptively or not) with force of arms against those who would kill us for what we are (American, British, Italian, Israeli) fill in the western cultural blank) and what we believe in (Christianity, Judaism, some other Islamic sect).Lindadic, the Church is very specific as to the conditions to receive the Eucharist. You must be in a state of grace, have made a confession since your last mortal (NOT venial) sin, believe in transubstantiation, observe the Eucharistic fast, and, not be under censure.The Church defines mortal sin as a "grave matter" (aside: Shakespeare would have loved that phrase!) committed willfully and knowing of its seriousness. "Grave matter" includes receiving or participating in an abortion (driving someone to the Planned Parenthood Clinic would qualify). The Catechism has a list as does the NT in Matthew 5:28-29, Galatians 5:19-21, and I Corinthians 6:9-10 among others.As a politician who has the DIRECT responsibility for the laws of our society, the burden is heavier. A Catholic who supports "abortion rights" through positive votes or abstentions is committing a mortal sin. A politician who supports those who support (grassroots politicking, fundraising, marches on Washington, et cetera) such as Nancy Polosi from Oakland-Berkeley is committing a mortal sin. Our bishops have the authority to censure these persons and direct parish priests not to give the Eucharist to them.It has nothing to do with "multiculturalism," it has everything to do with WHAT and WHY we believe as Catholics.Our Church is not a cafeteria, it is a systematic understanding of God's Will for us coupled with a set of directions on how to follow the Way and live our lives in imitation of Jesus.Remember, taking communion is the highest sign of Christian unity. We all believe abortion is murder, we all take communion. We are unified in prayer and in action in preventing further unwarranted, unjustified (as in self-defense and defense of country) and thus, immoral, deaths.Contra to our 'born again' Protestant brethren, Jesus is not our 'personal' savior (like a 'personal' financical advisor or 'personal' trainer). His redemption is for all mankind. The rules we follow as Catholics are meant for all (Catholic christian) mankind regardless of subculture or ethnic tradition.Abortion is not a political issue to Catholics, it is a moral issue.To characterize it as such is to sugar coat it to a he-said-she-said, Democrat-Republican, conservative-liberal 30 second sound bite.Being 'pro choice' (and the choice is death!) is a reason to be denied Communion.Being 'pre-emptive' in using military force against forces suicidally determined to exterminate us (Fascist, Baathist, Maoist, Islamic fundamentalists, American (McVeigh et al.) terrorists of whatever stripe) is not a mortal sin. And thus no reason to censure from Communion.Being supportive of capital punishment (assuming 100% culpability through DNA, thorough Appeals) to those individuals WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO MURDER ANOTHER PERSON(S) is not reason to censure for Communion. Fetal humans do not choose to have mom abort them. Victims of heinous, violent crimes do not choose to be murdered. THE CHOICE IS MADE BY THE MURDERER (on death row awaiting lethal injection) or the physician and parent(s) of the unborn boy or girl. There is the SIMILARITY in the concept of FREE WILL, a CHOICE being made against life. There is no common sensical or logical connection between abortion and capital punishment. And, remember this:we cannot forgive those who do not trespass against us. We cannot ask the person who is about to be euthanized for forgiveness: that is the sole right of the dead victim. Relatives of the 9/11 murders cannot grant forgiveness to the Islamic terrorists: they were not murdered.

06.04.04   lindadic says:
I have a really hard time understanding those who would refuse Communion to Catholics whose politics they disagree with—and not just because their litmus test is abortion policy only. It's true that views on capital punishment and support for pre-emptive war should count as much as those on abortion, though they clearly for those who would restrict Communion, they don't. It's also true that there is a contradiction about being pro-Choice and believing that abortion is murder. What I mean is, if you believe abortion is murder, you can't be pro-Choice unless you're pro-Choice about murder. And of course, no politician is pro-Choice about murder.Nevertheless, being pro-Choice, favoring capital punishment, and supporting pre-emptive war—whatever one's view of these positions—should not be reasons anyone is denied Communion. Believing that other people have the right to think differently from the way Catholics do is the right way to live in a multicultural society. Beliefs about other people's beliefs can't be mortal sin.Most important: The Eucharist is not a reward for being a good Catholic. It is Jesus Himself—and none of us is worthy to receive Him. By inviting God into ourselves, by taking Him into our bodies, we allow Him to make us more like Him. We sinners are the ones He died to save; we are the ones who need Him.

06.02.04   Godspy says:
It is the birthright of a Catholic to be born into the Family of God, to be raised in the Faith, to be formed by the Gospel and the Catholic Tradition. It is a shameful situation that so many have been robbed of this birthright.

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