Saturday, February 2, 2008

John Kerry Appears Unexpectedly at ARTICLE VI

D.C. Screening Stimulates Discussion

OK, Kerry wasn't really there. But read on.

The screening of ARTICLE VI at the Heritage Foundation on January 31st was well attended and very exciting. It provided material for many blog entries that we will be sharing over the next few days. I'm personally very grateful for all who attended, and excited by the potential for healthy dialog.

Part of the discussion at the screening, however, stuck in my heart and has been bothering me ever since. At one point, a question was asked whether the Catholic Church, or individual priests or bishops, were right to deny John Kerry Holy Communion or other sacraments because of his public disavowal of the Church's position on abortion. The question struck me as off-topic, but it was followed by some significant discussion so perhaps it wasn't.

One of the speakers, a Catholic, said, "Absolutely!" and offered some further explanation, which I won't try to relate here because I might miss-quote or miss-interpret the response.

However, the answer bothered me then, and it bothered me still more as time passed. And this morning, I'm able to articulate why.

Raised Catholic, I'm personally familiar with the beauty, power, and grace of the Catholic Mass. It's described as "Communion" for a reason - it's a powerful communion with your community and with your God. It's transcendent - or can be.

And if Holy Communion is about experiencing the Grace of God, being in the presence of God, and communing with God, then, for Heaven's sake WHY would a church deny someone they view as "sinner", who nonetheless seeks to be a member of that community, the opportunity to experience God? Isn't the whole point of religion to try to bring us closer to God? And if you really believe that God and God's Grace is present in the experience of Holy Communion, isn't that exactly the kind of experience that a sinner might need to be made whole and come closer to enlightenment?

Now, I'm not a theological expert on Catholicism. I speak only from my experience. But Jesus sat down with the sinners and broke bread. He shared himself with them. And he did so deliberately, to the shock and appall of the religious leaders of his day.

If Holy Communion is a perk you get from being a "member in good standing" in a club, then, sure - deny away.

Humbly, that's not what it was to me.