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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Culture of Fear?

As the debate wages on over John Kerry and his relationship with the Catholic Church, we see views increasingly polarizing over such questions as whether he should be allowed to receive Communion while remaining a staunch supporter of abortion. Kerry's views on not only abortion itself, but everything from stem cell research to the "morning after pill" are bringing many Catholics question whether a Catholic in good standing can separate morals from political views. Yesterday Michnews posted an article confronting head on the decision that faces bishops and voters alike today.

First, I will make clear that Church teaching is clear on one thing: a person in a state of mortal sin is not to receive the Eucharist. It's a Biblical view, and no Catholic has the authority to override Scripture. Church teaching is also clear that abortion is a sin, and that to promote it is also a grave sin. Scripture again speaks on this subject, saying that for the one who causes others to sin, it would be better for him to be drowned with a millstone tied to his neck.

So the question is not whether or not John Kerry is objectively sinning: he is. Nor is the question whether or not, knowing of this sin, he should receive Holy Communion: he should not. Scripture and Church teaching alike are clear. The question is how the faithful, and particularly Mr. Kerry's own Bishop, should respond.

A part of me would feel vindicated and hopeful to learn of the good Bishop taking a strong stand on the matter, publicly announcing that Mr. Kerry cannot receive. But the reality is that I do not know what pastoral discussions the Bishop may have had privately with Mr. Kerry, so I, like millions of Americans, am not in a position to pass judgment on how the Bishop has responded to the situation. How can we judge a situation when we do not actually know the full situation? My energies would be far better spent praying for the wisdom of this Bishop and all bishops.

Even better, my energies should be spent praying for a change of heart for Kerry himself.

But I would hope that the one reaction the faithful would not resort to is fear. The column mentioned above says "The disparity over this issue once more points to a dangerous moment for the Catholic Church in America."

Is this how far we've fallen? Do we fear that prayer and fasting no longer effect good? Do we so fear the failure of the pastoral counsel of a faithful pastor that we object to its being attempted before public action is taken?

Our response to horrors like fetal stem cell research and abortion should be one of sorrow, penance, and action. It should not be one of fear, though. We fear that the next election will fall to the wrong person, when our response to recent issues should instead be one of faith: not faith in the election, but faith in God who will not abandon us even if our nation votes foolishly.

And our response should an increase in our own reverence toward the Body and Blood of Christ.

My husband said the other day "The people doing this" (referring to those angry voices who blame the Bishop for how he handles the situation) "are not even doing it out of reverence for the Eucharist. They're doing it out of political vindictiveness." I hope that he is mistaken, but I am certain that it is at least something that each of us should pray about.

Before any of us yell about someone else's disrespect of the Eucharist, we should each spend an hour of pure worship and adoration ourselves.