Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Archbishop Vigneron is right...

...even if it is hard to hear.

So there has been a scuttle in the Archdiocese of Detroit these last few days.  From what I can tell (and it is actually incredibly hard to discern because anything reported in secular media regarding the Catholic Church is usually misleading at best and intentionally deceptive at worst), a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary wrote a blog in which he speculated that those that oppose Church teachings might want to consider not receiving the Eucharist.  Following the blog, Archbishop Vigneron defended and clarified the points made to secular media.  And then, the fire storm started.  Social Media blew up, proclaiming disbelief that our Archbishop could be so insensitive, so close-minded, etc... (you know the drill).  There have been conversations taking place about how hard it is to minister in a Church that is so insensitive to the 'culture' today.  Om lowercase g blog readers, I have HAD it.  So, let me clarify a few things and then offer a challenge.

First, clarifications on what was NOT said.
It was NOT suggested (by the Archbishop)that ministers should deny the Eucharist to those who oppose Church Teaching.
The reason I really dig this is (and get ready, because I am sure a handful of you will disagree), I actually don't understand how Bishops/Cardinals can advise ministers of the Eucharist to deny  Jesus to those who approach if they are known to hold views that oppose Church teaching.  And here's why.  We believe, as Catholics, that one can never judge the 'state' of one's soul.  That is a deeply personal thing between the individual and God. I think it is a REALLY dangerous thing to suggest a minister of the Eucharist can make that type of a judgment about a person's soul when approaching the Eucharist.  For all the minister knows, that person on his/her way up to communion might have just had a conversion of heart.  So I just think it is a dangerous game to play.  But thankfully, that wasn't what our Archbishop was suggesting.

It was not suggested that those who struggle to understanding Church teachings shouldn't receive the Eucharist.
Let's face it, in our culture a lot of us have questions about Church teaching.  A lot of us toil with how to live out our faith in a culture that does not support it.  A LOT of us have questions about how to best love people, when their views are so very different from ours, or from what our Church teaches.  Sincere questioning, seeking answers, with a trust in the Church, is fantastic and natural and necessary.  The Archbishop did not say that those that wrestle with the everyday realities of our faith should not receive the Eucharist.  It's just not what he said.

BUT, what he did say is those that are actively opposed to Church teachings, should consider not receiving the Eucharist.  

And, here is where I drop a little knowledge...

See, when we, as Catholics, approach the Body of Christ, when we say, 'AMEN' we are saying 'I BELIEVE'.  Most of us know that we are saying, "I believe I am receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord" But there are other things we are suppose to be saying...

"I believe there is a God who loves me and wants a relationship with me."
"I believe that God suffered, died on a cross and rose again in order to save me"
"I believe that Jesus instituted, through the Holy Spirit, the Roman Catholic Church"
"I believe that Jesus gave the Church the ability to express authority here on earth"
"I believe the Holy Spirit continues to guide ALL teachings of the Church to lead the faithful to eternal union with God"

There are lots of other things that we mean when we say, 'AMEN',when we say, 'I BELIEVE',  but those are a few of the things.  This is one of the reasons the Church says only Catholics should receive the Eucharist.  It isn't because we want to 'exclude' others, but rather, because we are kind of into respecting the freedom to choose faith and we don't want people to agree to something they don't mean.  It is a mutual respect.

And that is what Archbishop Vigneron was getting at.  It is a matter of intergrity.  It is a matter of having your actions match your words.  To be Catholic isn't just a fancy title you wear because you are used to saying it.  To be Catholic doesn't mean you just identify with being 'kind' to others, and taking care of the poor.  To be Catholic means that you are baptized into a CREED.  Into a set of beliefs, and, if you do not hold the beliefs, you should rethink whether or not you should approach the Holy Eucharist saying, 'AMEN', saying, 'I BELIEVE' especially if you have already decided you don't.

And that my friends, is just reality.  This is a good thing.  This is about personal integrity.  This is about having your actions match your words.  I ADORE that Archbishop Vigneron used perjury as an example of why it is wrong to hold firmly to beliefs that are against the Church, while at the same time receiving the Body of Christ and saying, 'AMEN' to all that Body contains.
What the shepherd did a few days ago, was take a second to teach his flock.  He took a second to remind us all about our personal responsibility in the faith.  AND, if isn't sitting well with you, instead of whining about how awful your Church is...maybe it's time for you to brush up on what your church ACTUALLY believes.  And that, my friends, is a bit of sass to end!

Have a great Wednesday!


  1. Love love love!! I was so irritated by the media coverage. I again have to be gentle in how I approach it given our family issues. My question to people who viciously oppose and actively work against what the church teaches is why DO you want to take communion? You aren't in communion. Then again, that's true for all of us when we are in a state of sin. That's another topic for another day. :)

  2. How do you feel about those who hold public office and vote in favor of laws that are against Catholic teaching and then try to receive communion? Around here, we have the Kennedy family and they have been known to support pro-choice legislature and then walk up and receive Jesus as if they are in full communion with the Church's teachings. I can see your point when it comes to a person who is not in the public light, but we are judged by our actions and if a politician is publically acting one way (through voting), then I think it's safe to assume that those are their personal views as well. I always think the Priest should ask a public person who's intent they question to come back after Mass to discuss and (if possible) receive.

    1. Yeah, I am still not a fan of denying communion. I know it is controversial in orthodox circles to think that way. The thing is, if lets say a Kennedy walked up, with a shirt that said, 'I am pro-choice and don't care what the Church thinks'...then, I think you could deny it. But, I just think making the presumption about the state of person's soul when approaching the altar (even a public figure) is a REALLY bad idea. I acknowledge that there are a lot of really smart Bishops and Cardinals that disagree with me ;) And a few that agree with me. I just think judging the personal intent of anyone, including public figures, is crossing a line.

    2. I agree with you, Mary. But, I do think there has to be a way to handle this situation better. Just passively giving communion to public officials who are in opposition to church teachings is not a good idea as is refusing them communion. I think there must be catechesis and disscussion first. I do think we need steps in place for the possibility of denying someone the Eucharist, but I do not think this should be done by an Extraordinary minister or even the priest "in the moment".

    3. yeah, I am not opposed to an exploration of that, it is just a REALLY tricky area you know?

  3. I totally agree. Once we give "power" to Eucharistic ministers to "approve or deny" recipients we are asking for the devil to come in and make everyone a Pharisee. Not good.

    I do, however, think it's okay to let a public official who is publicly supporting anti-Catholic teaching that they will not be receiving the Eucharist because of the scandal it can give. I'm not saying that the Bishops should announce it on the church steps, or even that the lay ministers refuse them. But I'm okay with a bishop or priest protecting the sacrament that way. Though, I wouldn't out and out advocate for them to do that as I am not in a position of authority to do so.

    1. Yeah, B, I guess that's more along the lines of how I feel. In our state, our ex Gov. Jennifer Granholm was a Catholic that didn't really like or believe what the Catholic Church taught. I would have NO problem with her parish priest calling her and saying, 'Ms. Granholm, I am REALLY concerned about the amount of scandal that will come from me giving you Holy Communion, I am asking you not to put me in that position'. And having that be a pastoral discussion between the anti-Catholic, Catholic politician and the pastor/shepherd of their diocese. I think blanket statements about say, pro-choice candidates receiving is a bad idear!

  4. Can I say "Amen!" to this post?

    People often complain that the Church isn't giving us real teachings on how to live our faith. Well, boom, he just did that, and now people are mad. I always like to think of Catholicism as the parents and us as the children. We might not always like what our parents ask us to do, but they are asking us to do what is best for ourselves.

    I'm reading a Matthew Kelly book right now where he says a little about the difference between disengaged and non-believing Catholics vs. those who are truly immersed: the first group finds a problem and says, "I disagree with my faith. It needs to get with the times." The second group says, " I don't understand this. I need to get more information."

  5. Absolutely! I love that the Archbishop and Professor were speaking to those who PRESENT themselves for Communion rather than to the Priests and Deacons (and lay ministers) who distribute the Eucharist. Your point (in an above comment) about how it is most appropriate for an Archbishop to reach out privately to a dissident Catholic politician really resonates with me. We are instructed in Acts to go privately to our brother and exhort him; contrast this to the Pharisees who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus in front of the crowd. One way invites relationship. The other way invites power and control. Jesus made it clear which way He preferred.

  6. Mary, I agree with you it is SUCH a tricky thing to judge the state of a person's soul when receiving communion. I know sometimes its tricky for me, because on places like Catholic Radio, you hear much more of folks saying polticans should be denied communion, but then I think to myself, "Is that really loving? Isn't that judging them?" Its tricky, and this makes me think and reflect, so thank yee lady! :)

  7. I keep thinking about this post, and just want to add two things:

    1) If a Priest discreetly says to the communicant in question "See me after Mass" instead of giving him/her the Eucharist, I think it is a gentle way of discussing with that person the state of their soul, offering Confession if needed, and then giving them Jesus if it's possible. Maybe the person doesn't even realize they shouldn't be receiving and it's a way to let them know.

    2) A reason that the Eucharist is "taken away" from those who are not in agreement is to get them to want to get their soul back in the state of grace to be able to receive it. It's not a punishment. If we all realize that we are receiving JESUS and someone denies us that privilege, then I hope we would do anything to get Him back.