Who gets to say who’s a Catholic?

 Because of his support for reproductive rights, Rep. Patrick Kennedy has been banned from taking communion by Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin.

The Providence Journal reports on its website that Kennedy was told by the bishop not to take communion in his diocese, given his support of abortion rights. The Catholic Church holds that life begins at conception, and that abortion is wrong.

For an explanation of the importance of communion in the Catholic church, go here, where you’ll read that partaking of the Holy Eucharist is considered the most important of the church’s sacraments. From the website, Catholic.com:

Innumerable, precious graces come to us through the reception of Holy Communion.

Communion is an intimate encounter with Christ, in which we sacramentally receive Christ into our bodies, that we may be more completely assimilated into his. “The Eucharist builds the Church,” as Pope John Paul II said (Redemptor Hominis 20). It deepens unity with the Church, more fully assimilating us into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; CCC 1396).

The Eucharist also strengthens the individual because in it Jesus himself, the Word made flesh, forgives our venial sins and gives us the strength to resist mortal sin. It is also the very channel of eternal life: Jesus himself.

So it’s a big deal to be banned from partaking. Whether Rep. Kennedy could simply go to another diocese to partake of the church sacrament is anybody’s guess. According to a priest quoted in the Journal:

“it would take a canon lawyer” to say whether a Catholic denied Communion in his own diocese would be free to receive Communion elsewhere.

This is a fascinating (and painful) topic to me. Though I still identify as a fundamentalist Christian, that could be considered an affectation on my part because the tribe from which I spring would not consider me a member. I do not hold that all the tenets of my own fundamentalist Christian faith are in line with the original intent of the text from which they spring, and that puts me outside the body of believers.

I don’t know who gets to pick who is in the tribe and who isn’t, who gets to participate fully and who has to stay in his pew. My heart goes out to Rep. Kennedy for his strong stance on reproductive rights. For what it’s worth, this says that a slim majority (51 percent) of American Catholics believe abortion should be legal in “most or call cases.” Would those Catholics bishops deny them the Eucharist, as well?

(This has a slightly different take, though the Catholics for Choice survey also shows that the church hierarchy does not hold the same stance as the bulk of their parishioners.)

And thanks, Bro. Stan, for the link.

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14 responses to “Who gets to say who’s a Catholic?

  1. So the Catholics are demanding complete submission to ecclesiastical mandate.
    I thought Catholics, and Christians in general, were about devotion.
    I thought Islam was about submission, (hence the name).
    Maybe he should feel lucky they didn’t want to cut off his hands, murder his family, burn his house. I guess shunning is much more civilized.

    • I keep getting schooled on the value of humanity’s hierarchy every time I post something like that. I still don’t buy it but then, I’m a Protestant.

  2. It’s sad when a bishop spends his time checking out individuals for the orthodoxy of their beliefs.

    And suppose Mr. Kennedy shows up in a wig and a fake beard and receives the Eucharist?

    Mr. Kennedy is very welcome to receive in any Episcopal parish.

    We do have to recognize that Roman Catholic bishops range from very conservative to quite liberal. The bishop of the Diocese of Arlington (VA) was notorious for not allowing girls to serve at the altar. That was about 25 years ago. He was the only one in the US to make such a prohibition.

    • I wonder if the representative might just slip on over to a more liberal parish in, say, Connecticut. We are blessed to have some. Who needs a canon lawyer for that? I just came to the decision, myself.

  3. The wig and fake beard would be easier.

  4. Interesting question. I wonder just how much autonomy Catholic bishops and priests have? I can’t recall a similarly public test of this proposition in my lifetime. I don’t know Patrick’s church-going habits, but it could come to the point where his priest is put in an awkward position between the Kennedy family and the bishop. My money is on the Kennedys.

  5. And the Kennedys are on the money. Plenty of it.

  6. I don’t think this has anything to do with an individual’s belief. I think this has been stated because he’s a politician who can affect laws. To me, it looks like a Catholic church bully tactic and an attempt to influence law-makers.

  7. “To me, it looks like a Catholic church bully tactic and an attempt to influence law-makers.”

    Once again proving how far [down] the RCC has come in the last 50 years.

  8. “Once again proving how far [down] the RCC has come in the last 50 years”

    It’s been going on far longer than that. Ever hear of the Crusades?

    When I was a lad, about five years old, all we could afford was a dreary walk-up apartment in Chicopee, in 1947. My father had just come back from the war.

    The woman across the hall was chatting with my mother and told her, “The priest came today.”

    My mother said, “That’s nice.”

    The woman said, “But, he said that it’s time for me to have another baby, and we can’t afford that.”

    My mother told the neighbor, “You tell the priest that if he is willing to pay for the baby’s expenses to adulthood, you’ll consider it.”

    And that was more than 50 years ago.

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