Saturday, August 24, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Pope Francis Doesn't Want to Give Communion Accidentally to "An Unworthy Individual"

This is one of the stinky sort of Catholic birdcage droppings: in a discussion of Michael Sean Winters's article "Pope Francis Effect II?" at National Catholic Reporter, Mary Elizabeth writes

But do remember Holy Father Francis has also said that he himself doesn't distribute Holy Communion because he doesn't want to accidentally provide it to an unworthy individual. He said that would also send the wrong message and may cause scandal.

And I'm dumbfounded. I'll admit I don't darken the door of Catholic churches much at all any longer, after Steve and I have been bluntly made personae non gratae, but I'm shocked to hear that the liturgy has now been revised so that the "Lord, I am not worthy" prior to communion has been dropped.

Who knew? Only the worthy may approach the altar now. 

That's a major liturgical change, and a major change in Catholic spirituality, it seems to me. 

Mary Elizabeth, who states in other comments at NCR that she's a former nun who is as happy as a clam that the Vatican is going after heretical U.S. nuns, is echoing an article by Vatican gossip Sandro Magister in Chiesa, in which Magister says that in a 2010 book that is a series of conversations between Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and the rabbi of Buenos Aires, Abraham Skorka, the pope indicated that he doesn't distribute communion because he doesn't want to be in the position of affirming the sins of unrepentant public sinners. 

Magister adds,

The public sins that Bergoglio gave as examples in his conversation with the rabbi are the oppression of the poor and the withholding of just wages from the worker. Two sins traditionally listed among the four that "cry out to heaven for vengeance."

But as he goes on to observe, the communion wars that have their epicenter in the U.S. are all about refusing communion to "unworthy" politicians who are pro-choice. He might also have added that folks wearing rainbow sashes expressing support of gay rights have also been barred from communion. In St. Paul, Minnesota, in fact, a self-appointed lay group that has given itself the title "Ushers for the Eucharist" have physically barred those wearing sashes from approaching the altar rail for communion.

Also in Minnesota, not only was teen Lennon Cihak denied confirmation when he supported marriage equality, but his whole family was barred from communion for supporting him. And in Maryland last year, Barbara Johnson was denied communion at her mother's funeral in an incident for which the diocese later apologized. Her "unworthiness"? She's a lesbian whose partner came to the mother's funeral.

These are the "unworthy" to whom some American Catholics are hot to deny communion. But I haven't heard of those same defenders of the sanctity of the eucharist clamoring for the denial of communion to those who oppress the poor and withhold just wages from workers--the cases the pope cites, though I don't hear him saying what Mary Elizabeth says about giving communion only to the "worthy."

Have you heard of such cases, the denial of communion to those oppressing the poor and paying unjust wages? 

Still, to me, the major news buried in Mary Elizabeth's comment is that the church has now revised the liturgy so that the "I am not worthy" prayer is no longer part of the ritual of preparation for communion. Since, if that liturgical affirmation remains in place, Mary Elizabeth's comment is sheer nonsense, because the precise precondition for receiving the eucharist is the recognition that we're all unworthy.

And it's for that very reason we're invited to the Lord's table.

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