Thursday, December 07, 2006

OK, this is just mean

It seems a certain Canadian bishop is implementing the new U.S. bishops guidelines for denying Communion to the people of God. In this case the archbishop of Halifax, Terrence Prendergast, ordered the pastor of Stella Maris in Meteghan, Nova Scotia to deny Communion to 69-year-olds Daniel Poirier and Jack Murphy because they were married in a civil ceremony and took an announcement out in the local newspaper. Poirier had been director of the parish choir.

"It really was a blow," Mr. Poirier said, according to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. "When we went to church there, it was like going into a warehouse; it was cold, because when everybody got up to receive communion, we had to sit down. [Forgive me for this lapse of charity, but I hope the secret sins of all those communicants were weighing heavy on their consciences as they walked past the two men. Talk about scandal!]

"One day we went and the priest talked about love and sharing and charity and all that, and I said to Jack, ‘No, I can’t take this anymore.’ So we walked out. I was almost in tears and my heart was broken."

My heart is broken, too. This is just stupid. And it gets worse when you listen to the bishop's letter to the men:

"Your state of life--after having celebrated a same-sex civil marriage and spoken about it publicly on radio and television--has established your relationship as a public scandal." [Of course, you can publicly be a spiteful cleric on radio and in television and still go to Communion.]

"This disciplinary measure is to remind you of the objective seriousness of your present state and to invite you to renounce it and to return to living according to Christ’s injunction to ‘sin no more.’ "

This "disciplinary measure"? Quite a thing to say when you are starving someone of the Body and Blood of Christ. The great scandal is that these men have been driven out of Catholicism; they now attend a United Church parish. Not to mention that I doubt the archbishop is scouring the papers for marriages between divorced Catholics who still go to church.

Sin no more, indeed. The couple reports that their priest told them the archbishop would have left them alone if they hadn't made their relationship public--it's evidently OK to accept the gifts and services of someone you know to be gay, as long as they don't tell.

Of course, this all goes back to what you think the Eucharist is. A merit badge for exemplary behavior? A reward for perfection? A mark of privilege? I for one don't think that's what Jesus had in mind. Go read the gospels--even Judas got to eat at the Last Supper.

Whether these two nice men are in a state of sin or not--and I don't think they are, at least no more than the rest of us--I hardly think anyone is in the position to point fingers. If worthiness was the test for Communion, nobody--and I mean not a single person, priests and (arch)bishops included--would get any.


At 3:11 PM, Blogger Bryan said...

I agree that this was just wrong. I hope you don't mind but I posted a link on my post which you can read if you are interested.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps these two "men" should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church before they get too upset.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Now that's just mean, too.

You must be referring to the part of the catechism where it says homosexual persons should be accepted with sensitivity and compassion. Last time I checked, they didn't do anything wicked in church, so as far as we know they live as brother and brother. We must always give the benefit of the doubt, you know...

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are right that many people recieve the sacrament when they are not in state of grace, and more should be abstaining and going to confesson...BUT these men went public with their relationship and are causing scandal, so the clergy had every right to refusethem communion. These men met the conditions for moral sin---which is clearly spelled out in the cat....1)grave matter 2)full knowledge 3) full consent of the the will. Unfortunately many people in the pews (esp Gen X and Yers) have been poorly catechized and are unaware of the Church's teaching on mortal/venial sin. You are right that no one is "worthy" to receive communion in the sense that no one can fully merit Christ through their own good works...BUT Christ does expect us to refrain from mortal sin...a person who is in a state of grace can and should receive. A person who is in a state of mortal sin should not because they are not in full communion with Christ. You can not seperate Christ's love from Christ's truth. Christ is truth. If you reject Christ's teachings as revealed through His Church you are rejecting a part of Christ.

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

would it be "nice" to confirm someone in their sin, as they may face eternal punishment?

At 4:20 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Only an individual person can know whether he or she is in a state of mortal sin; it is a condition of conscience rather than a checklist. The church has traditionally said certain things are mortal sins--from masturbation and missing church on a holy day of obligation to rape and murder (how's that for range?)--but it has never said an individual person is in a state of mortal sin, nor has it said that anyone is in hell. To do so has long been itself considered a failure of charity.

Technically, for someone free to marry (not already married or a vowed celibate) contracting a civil marriage is not a sin. The baptized are free to exercise their legal rights within the bounds of the moral law, and the church has never said that contracting a civil marriage is a sin. It has only said that homosexual sex is sinful, and as I've pointed out, we don't know anything about the sex lives of the gentlemen in question. Just because the certain church leaders have opposed laws recognizing same-sex relationships doesn't mean it is a sin to enter one. They are, after all, merely civil contracts. And there are other church leaders who have supported the creation of these legal instruments for a variety of reasons.

As for scandal, I think it possible that some people are a little bit more easily scandalized than others. Obviously this parish knew about this couple and their relationship--and I'd be willing to be that most urban parishes are aware of the same-sex couples among them--yet there was no scandal. I'm sure far more people have been scandalized by their treatment, and appropriately so.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

As for eternal punishment, I hardly think God is up there itching to fry to old men who have chosen to make a life together. Surely God's hands are full enough with all the genocidal maniacs of the world.

Or maybe God is actually as merciful as Jesus promised. I'm hoping so, anyway.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only an individual person can know whether he or she is in a state of mortal sin; it is a condition of conscience rather than a checklist.

It is true that no one can knows for sure if another is in mortal sin....but these men would have to be living under a rock to not know the Church's teaching in on homosexual sex/marriage.

It has only said that homosexual sex is sinful, and as I've pointed out, we don't know anything about the sex lives of the gentlemen in question.

sure, they are living like Bert and Ernie. yeah....right. If they are not having sex (or sexual relations of some sort) then they wouldn't call themeselves gay, they would just be friends. If you enter into a civil are publicly stating that you bonded to someone in a sexual relationship...why else would you marry someone? Just for the civil benefits?...then you would be committing the sin of using a sacred institution for personal gain. Although the Church doesn't formally recognize civil marriages, they are public contracts and should be taken seriously.

Obviously this parish knew about this couple and their relationship--and I'd be willing to be that most urban parishes are aware of the same-sex couples among them--yet there was no scandal.

There was either scandal or a lack of proper catechesis and/or dulled consciences...if the parishioners'consciences are fully formed there should be some eye brow raising.

Or maybe God is actually as merciful as Jesus promised. I'm hoping so, anyway.

God is merciful but he is also just. And in order to receive mercy you need to recognize your need for it. (i.e. be repentant)

At 9:08 AM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Obviously they know the church's teaching, they just think it's wrong, and it could possibly be wrong; obviously at least some members of the parish think the teaching is wrong. That doesn't mean the church's teaching is in error, but it could be.

Or they could be invincibly ignorant, which would also mean they are not in a state of mortal sin.

Either way, charity demands that they be given the benefit of the doubt.

And I'm not sure that God's mercy requires anything of us. It is grace--gift--not an exchange. We may respond with repentance, but the initiative is God's.

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's happening here is that Archbishop Pendergast is making a preemptive strike that I believe is fully justified.
The civil lawmakers in Canada have made same sex marriage (SSM)legal. So be it. I'm not in total agreement with this, but I can live with civil SSM. I truely wish those involved in such relationships every happiness.
Can you her the BUT coming? ... BUT the Cathlolic Church has every right to refuse these gentlemen the body and blood of Christ. Other's who should be refused are non-Catholics and anyone known to be in a state of mortal sin. I will admit that the church's reluctance to do this in recent years has contributed to the situation we Catholics now find ourselves in.
Archbisop Pendergast fully understands that those promoting SSM are not content with a civil union. As this story clearly demonstrates, the next target will be all religions who refuse to allow SMM in their places of worship.
I pray that what the archbishop is planning is a challange to the Charter for the right of religions to govern themselves according to the laws of God. Afterall the preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads "This charter recognizes the rule of law and the supremacy of God." (I'm paraphrasing!)

At 12:45 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

I'm not sure how using the Eucharist as a "preemptive strike" could ever be appropriate. If the archbishop has an issue with the government, the political process is the proper forum for such an action. His concerns may well be legitimate, but I don't see how making an example of these two individual men--especially since many Catholics in Canada have probably entered these arrangements anyway--will achieve his purpose.

The canons are very clear here: Only someone who "obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin" can be denied communion. Canons that restrict the rights of the baptized have to be interpreted narrowly and on the basis of plain language. In this case, I think "manifest" is what is key: The sin has to be public, and in this case, if they are having sex, it seems to be in private. As I said, it is not a sin to enter a civil contract, which is what an "SSM" is, and there could be many reasons one would choose to do so, government and tax benefits being obvious ones.

I know I'll be accused of naivete here--"of course they're having sex!"--but the point is, it's not my business, and canon law also says the baptized a right to privacy. So I'm in no position to guess at their secret sins or to speculate as to the condition of their consciences, both of which violate the demands of charity.

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is proper and just to assume that they are having sex...after all, this automatically implied in the marriage union. (Of course, I, nor the Church considers these guys married, but do you see what happens when we try to redefine marriage...what makes a marriage if no complementary conjugal union is required?) Even if, for the sake of argument these guys are living like brother and brother, the fact that they publicly proclaimed themselves "married" is in itself heresy because the Church does not recognize such marriages. If two heterosexuals got married only for the sake of convenience (in citizenship cases, for example) in a civil ceremony this would also be gravely sinful. If these guys partake of communion without while living in sin, they are bring condemnation on themselves, as it says in scripture

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We do not have to assume these gentlemen were having sexual relations. In the original newspaper article they clearly state that celibacy is not an option for them. Their PUBLIC statement came in response to the Archbishop's offer to serve them communion after they participated in the sacrament of reconciliation. An essential part of this sacrament is a "firm purpose of ammendment" (make every effort not to repeat the sin). These men flatly rejected the Archbishop's offer. Every Catholic, myself included, repeats sins, but it is truely my intention not to when I leave the confessional. My human weakness is the reason I must attend confession regularly. I do not however say, for example, that taking the name of the Lord in vain is not a sin, therefore I refuse to confess it. If I did then I too should be denied communion.
The gentlemen's statement that celibacy is not an option was correctly interpreted by the Archbishop as "obstinately perservering in manifest grave sin."
Concerning the baptized right to privacy, these men appeared to have surrendered that on 2 occassions. First, when they posted their "wedding" picture in the newspaper. Second, when they stated in the newspaper that "celibacy was not an option".


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