Tuesday, July 26, 2005
And a little child shall lead them  

Amy Welborn at Open Book wrote a post entitled "Cdnl Arinze speaks" about the answer Francis Cardinal Arinze gave when he was once again asked whether Catholic legislators who support abortion should be refused communion. The question is most appropriate for the Cardinal because he is the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he replied:
Should the person be given [Communion]? And I ask you, do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to find the answer? Are there no children from First Communion to whom you can pose the question and receive the answer? You do not need a cardinal to answer that. Because it is a straightforward matter.
Based on the comments at Open Book, apparently, the Cardinal's answer is not straightforward enough for some. I suppose that they want the Cardinal to come out and say explicitly that communion should be denied to the pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

I really am not sure what the problem is with his answer. It is rather clear what he is saying, and I hardly doubt that a direct statement would have any more effect than his more nuanced approach. In point of fact, I appreciate his more subtle answer because it seems designed to provide a basis for the real answer to the question. In other words, the Cardinal seems to be trying to make the point that communion is not denied to someone because it is some prelate's say-so. Neither is it denied to people because of the personal opinion of a bishop or priest. No, communion is to be denied to anyone who is known to be unrepentant and in a state of mortal sin. This is foundational Church teaching.(It can be argued that this is not actually taught to children who are preparing for their first communion, but the idea is that, at least, it should be taught to them.)

The other facet to the Cardinal's answer indicates that he is placing the burden, not on the Church hierarchy, but the politician. In preparing for communion, we are taught to examine ourselves..
Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. (1 Cor. 11:28-31)
Children preparing for their first communion should be taught they must prepare to receive Jesus by examining their conscience. If they find that they have committed a mortal sin, they should go first to confession before receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. Francis Cardinal Arinze may be pointing us to the fact that it is the individual's responsibility to be informed about Church teaching and to apply it by examining his conscience in light of the Church's teaching. I do not believe that Catholic politicians who support abortion are unaware of the Church's position against abortion. They simply believe, that for whatever reason, they can consider that this teaching is not binding.

Perhaps by not issuing a direct statement, the Cardinal is also trying to demonstrate what is the purpose of denying communion. It is not to punish the naughty sinners. It is to safeguard the Eucharist, and to encourage the unrepentant to repent. Simply coming out and blasting people generally has little effect. Providing a more subtle answer might just get some people to think. Even the ones who want to blast the pro-abortion Catholic politicians need to think about his answer. It might lead us to realize that our motives for wanting a "straight" answer are not very good. Better to have a more subtle answer that actually changes someone's heart, rather than a straight answer that simply hardens someone's heart and drives them away.

Posted by David at 1:00 AM  |  Comments (1)  | Link


Excellent post! It takes a different view on the issue. It is not solely the responsibility of the Church to push someone away, but it is also the person's duty to step away, too. When a politician walks up for communion, people should not be saying "Why is the priest giving him communion?", but "Why is the politician disgracing the sacrament by recieving?"

By Anonymous Kevin Muniz, at July 26, 2005 8:51 PM  

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