Communion

This is why I hate mixing politics and religion — because it does as much harm to religion than politics:

The priest–the priest who had just joined with us in the prayer of the Rosary was now red-faced shouting. I thought. Talking about me. I had cooperated with evil. I had? I had killed babies? My heart was black. I was giving scandal to the entire church. I had once been a leader but now I forfeited any semblance of respectability or leadership. The good father grasped tightly the edges of the ambo, the unusual name given to the lectern in the Catholic Church. No faithful Catholic would ever contemplate doing what I had done. I was dead to the Holy Mother Church.

My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief. Here was someone in the vestments of the priesthood who had called us to have our prayers be heard, who recited the Kyrie with us, asking the Lord’s mercy upon us, now seemingly merciless, telling me and the many there assembled that I was unworthy. I was to be publicly shunned and humiliated. My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States.

The irony of ironies was that my motivation for the endorsement was entirely Catholic. No, Obama doesn’t share the Catholic faith, but he certainly campaigns like he does. As reflected in his book, the Senator is focused on the human person, on the common good, on the social justice of economic arrangement. All is so very Catholic.

It was time for Communion. Notwithstanding the indictment of the homily, I did not think of myself as unworthy of receipt of the sacrament–at least no more so then pre-Obama endorsement. Communion in the Catholic tradition is indeed sacred. We believe the bread and the wind is transformed–transubstantiated–into the body and blood of Christ. I have often watched my parish priest focus his gaze with reverence upon the bread and the wine during the offertory to gain some appreciation for the significance of the divine person whose presence on can scarcely grasp….

But I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. The couples who stood in line before my wife and myself received the body of Christ in their hands or on their tongues and returned to their seats. My wife received. My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? It was Judgment Day, and I hadn’t made it. LSAT Insufficient. Inadequate GPA. Do not pass GO…go directly to Hell.

The Catholic Church has waaay overstepped its bounds on the abortion issues. It’s no longer enough to personally oppose abortion. You have to vote to inscribe that opposition into law. Anything else — poverty, freedom, religious tolerance — means nothing. If you are not for the outlawing of abortion — hell, if you just support someone who is against the outlawing of abortion — you are no longer Catholic. You can literally go to hell.

This tends to happens when a faith that believes their leader speaks with the voice of God conflicts with a discipline — politics — that does not recognize absolute authority but works in compromise, bargains, persuasion and argument.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the following:

As of this writing, I have successfully kept the name of the priest and his religious order out the public record. Every expert in Canon Law who has examined the question and concluded under Canon 915 that the denial of Communion was unauthorized and inappropriate. After the even became public, Cardinal Mahoney called the priest into his office, and several months after that meeting, Father ______sent Carol and myself a letter of apology. The letter is thoughtfully written and the apology accepted. Perhaps there was a Providential hand at work using the two of us to teach a lesson to a larger congregation. The lesson? Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.

But the Kmenic incident is part of a large and troubling trend that is one of the principal reasons I can not vote for the Republicans any longer, no how matt how much I like their candidate. When you portray your opponents as godless (Ann Coulter’s best-selling book) or the Party of Death (Ramesh Ponnoru’s book) and claim you are on a mission from God (Tom Delay’s remarks a couple of years ago), you are no longer a political party, but a religious movement.

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