Patrick Kennedy and Communion

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Patrick Kennedy and Communion

News that Rhode Island Archbishop Thomas Tobin asked Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2007 to stop receiving Communion because of his public stance on abortion is a perfect example of the insanity loose in my Catholic Church these days. 

We are supposed to be witnesses of Christ’s love and his example – Catholics at all poles of all debates agree on that premise.  Given that premise, what then do we observe about Jesus’ example?  Why, he’s the guy who gets taken to task for dining with sinners.  Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:30-32.  And it should be noted that in response, Jesus doesn’t deny that the people he’s eating with are sinners, or suggest that his questioners are wrong about that.  He simply says that the sinners need most of all to be with him, so he can call them to repentance. 

So granting (without conceding) where Tobin and his ilk are starting from, that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are committing grave sin, how on earth do Tobin et al. get to their conclusion that the politicians should be cast out from the sacred meal?  Are the politicians in question not, on the authority of divine example, to be regarded as the ones who need it most of all (accompanied with however many admonitions about the supposed sinfulness of their outlook and actions)? 

It was reported that Archbishop Raymond Burke asserts it is simply a matter of Church law, which unambiguously (so he says) commands this.  He didn’t cite chapter and verse, and I’m no canon lawyer.  But assuming he’s correct, isn’t this a case of Church law seeking to be greater than the God who founded the Church? 

Burke’s gloss on this is that pro-choice politicians who receive Communion are attempting to “us[e] that reception for political leverage.”  Could be.  No doubt, though, that some of the sinners who broke bread with Jesus were also attempting to make a point of their own.  They surely must have hoped that they could be seen with this prophet and holy man, and still go on being what they were.  And no doubt they hoped that this would make the world think better of the sins the sinners would not necessarily give up.  It didn’t deter Jesus.  Jesus, as we know, was never deterred because he might be victimized or exploited.

 If you are a follower of Jesus, therefore, you simply do not get to cast someone seeking to break bread with you out from your midst because you believe, however profoundly, that he or she is sinful.

 A proposition which will come in handy for Archbishops Tobin and Burke if they ever have the courage to ask to dine with me.  Because I think they’re plenty sinful.  Lucky for them I try to be a good Christian.

Copyright (c) Jack L. B. Gohn

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