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.


Anonymous said...

In regards to the question striking you as off topic- may I venture an opinion on why it is not?

The issue of Kerry being denied communion because he disagreed with the church is exactly the type of direct and deliberate manipulation of a candidate by the church that the public feared when Kennedy ran in 1960.

By asserting that they would deny Kerry communion, the church (or individuals within the church) were attempting to influence his activity in the public sphere. They were trying to manipulate his actions as a representative of the country as a whole.

That willingness of the Church to interfere, and the concern that a candidate would buckle under to pressure from the Church, is part of what made it necessary for Kennedy to state that "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act".

edchip said...

John Kerry, by fostering the grave sin of abortion, is a heretic in the eyes of the Church. Would you force that same church into hypocracy? If Kerry or any other Catholic wants to receive communion they must first confess and atone for their sins. Only then can they become "members in good standing" in the club of true Christianity and earn the perk of the love of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

As an evangelical Christian who does not know the specifics of the Catholic church's view of communion, I can only speak to what I know and believe.

Communion is not for those who may be interested in learning more about Jesus or God. It is for those who already follow God and submit themselves to Him. Of COURSE Christians and Christian churches should welcome anyone and EVERYONE interested in a relationship with Christ! That is the Great Commission! But communion is not the appropriate forum for this to occur.

EmilyJ said...

edchip - Christ's love is not earned, it is given freely to all, sinners and saints.

In my church, taking communion without repenting of ones sins (and apparently Kerry had committed an unmistakable Catholic sin) is essentially drinking damnation. You do not commune with God in this way while purposely breaking his commandments.