From The New York Times: The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a push by conservative bishops to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.

I remember one unfortunate thing about the funeral Mass for Mary Corey, the first woman to lead the Baltimore Sun newsroom as our top editor. She died from breast cancer in 2013 at age 49. The funeral Mass took place in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, and I remember distinctly how disgusted I was that the priest felt it necessary to warn the hundreds in attendance — many of them Mary’s non-Catholic friends — that, while they might be tempted to take communion that day, they were not allowed to do so. I don’t remember his words exactly, but something like, “If you’re not Catholic, you should not receive the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.” It was not stated in a nice way, either; it was a crisp admonition. For me, it spoiled the mood completely, the feeling of camaraderie among those mourning a woman we all knew, respected or loved, and who had been taken too soon. I could not understand why this priest felt a need to be so uninviting and doctrinaire at that moment. What would it have mattered if those who felt communion with Mary’s spirit took the Eucharist that day? 

You can tell me that a non-Catholic taking communion is a violation of the rules. But these are the rules of the Church, and they have nothing to do with Christ. Would Christ deny a Jewish or Muslim or Protestant friend of Mary Corey a taste of her spirit and His? Would Christ deny a mourner yearning for comfort a taste of the bread of faith? 

And now we have the bishops wanting to deny Eucharist to one of the nation’s most fervent Catholics, President Biden.

I was hoping, at this stage of life, that it would come back to me — the desire to return to the Church in which I was raised. After the long, exhausting and infuriating pedophilia scandal, I had concluded that I could no longer support a Church that had betrayed so many, that had become so bloated with hierarchy and the hierarchy so corrupt and isolated from the real lives of people. I was encouraged when Francis became Pope. I believe he embodies the spirit of Christ more than any Pope of my lifetime. But close to nothing has changed, and, if anything, the bishops and cardinals who run the joint have returned arrogantly to their old ways. The most conservative American bishops have even ignored the Vatican’s warning to stay away from communion denial for Biden and the rest of us who respect the law of the land and a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. They voted to consider drafting a statement on communion that would keep the Eucharist away from the country’s most religious president since Jimmy Carter, reviving a fear that goes back 60 years to John F. Kennedy — that a Catholic president would have to serve Rome before the Constitution. 

This action by the bishops affirms, once again, the hierarchy’s misogyny. It sends a message of conservative elitism — that all who wander from Church doctrine are not wanted here. Women still cannot be priests and priests still cannot marry. Church attendance continues to fall; the percentage of Catholics who say they are a “member” of a church has dropped by nearly 20 points since 2000, according to Gallup. And now the bishops want to further alienate — if that’s even possible at this point — liberal and moderate American Catholics by denying Joe Biden communion. While some were critical of Trump, the most conservative bishops tolerated his immorality, his cruelties and his racism because they liked his Supreme Court nominees. They are now the ones calling out Biden on abortion — and they are joining the counterproductive American culture wars at a time when Biden is trying to move the nation out of the pandemic and away from Trump’s draconian and destructive policies. In that light, the Church becomes just another right-wing political organization, just another PAC, the bishops just ideological hacks. They presume to represent the values of Christ, but they could not be less Christian than at this moment. Christ would not deny communion with his spirit to anyone, even someone he considered a sinner. Christ was about love, kindness, forgiveness and understanding. If there’s a group of individuals He could not countenance, it would be these bishops, these hypocrites in shepherd’s clothing.

15 thoughts on “Hypocrites in shepherd’s clothing

  1. Great article. Irish Catholic family here growing up one block from St. Elizabeth’s Church on Balmer Street. Had the honor of growing up as a kid entertaining Archbishop Sebastian every Thursday night (Steak night). Personal friend of my grandfather. This ritual went on until he died.

    Communion: in the 30’s my Great Aunt had to request a special dispensation from the Pope in order for her to divorce her abusive alcoholic husband. They had 2 little children. Request Granted. 5 years later she marries a wonderful Catholic man and they remained married well into their 80’s.

    Problem? When she remarried, Church said neither could ever receive the Sacraments. So for their lifetime they just sat in their Church pew while the rest of our large Irish clan received Communion. As young kids we thought maybe they ate breakfast, which was a no no for Communion…Finally my grandmother told me the real story. This couple went to Church almost every day, never broke their promise to not receive the Sacraments into their 80’s.

    Considering my Irish Catholic upbringing (and Catholic guilt) and growing up with Archbishop Sebastian at my dinner table all those years, to me the Catholic Church now is just as crazy right wing Evangelicals. I refused early on to not participate in their “cult”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan agrees with you about the church. This whole thing is sad. I knew Mary Corey, I went to school with her. Took classes and worked on the (school) paper with her. She was a really good person.

    Eileen 🌷🌼

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, powerful and spot on piece, Dan! Voltaire signed all his thousands of letters ‘ecrasez l’infame!’ Your comments captured the same spirit. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with the points Dan makes in this article. I was born and raised in the Catholic Church my whole life. I’ll be 63 this year. I was away from the church for parts of my life after after I hit college but then returned to the church in the early 2000‘s. It was back in the Catholic Church and in that community that I met Jesus again. He healed me, loved me and strengthened me. I found Him and met Him there in the sacraments of holy communion confession and in the holy Mass. I very much dislike when the church denies communion to anyone. I agree that Christ would never do such a thing. My current parish never makes these types of blanket statements directing anyone who’s not a Catholic not to receive communion. I don’t agree with many of the churches policies but I continue to attend my current Catholic parish where I continue to find Christ. As imperfect as the Catholic Church is, as will be any and all man-made institutions, I still continue to meet Christ there and meet others to fellowship in Jesus. So I try not to let the mistakes made by the Church push me away from the good that can still be found. That’s the example I see from Jesus. He would never let a person sins our mistakes keep Him away from them. He would meet them where they are. I pray in hope that these conservative bishops will be stopped by our Lord Jesus in these efforts in the wrong direction. I am and always have been pro life and against abortion. That is the reason I voted for Trump the first time around. However after seeing him in office and the complete disrespect he has for all life, I realized I had been duped. I voted for President Biden this last time around despite his present stance on abortion. And I do not believe he should be denied communion for this reason. No one should be denied access to the body of Christ because that very body of Christ will work inside of the person who receives it. I pray continually for our church and church leaders and government leaders. Even though it may feel small or insignificant in the light of the problems we see, prayer can be very powerful and is no small thing.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The early Church met in each other’s homes. There wasn’t any requirement for receiving the Lord’s Supper. They all believed in Jesus and the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the elements. It should be the same now.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Dan, I was there too and I distinctly remember that warning and how much it stung. Then a few weeks later, I attended another funeral at a small parish. As communion time approached, I braced myself for another warning, but instead the priest smiled and welcomed all who wanted to partake of communion to remember their friend, and many did so, some with tears in their eyes. At both of these occasions, I reminded myself of advice I once heard from another priest: Only God can judge what’s in a person’s heart. I believe that should also apply to presidents – and to those who are pregnant.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this. You were channeling my thoughts. I’m an ex catholic. The sexual abuse scandal was the last straw. Attended many a wedding in my younger days where the priest felt it necessary to do exactly what you describe here. Every time it shocked me. This latest action by the bishops is beyond the pale. Let the next exodus of decent people (left) in the church begin.
    Chris Brennan
    Catonsville.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan, I read this article. I was deeply moved by your thoughts. To me, a life long Catholic, Priests have always been the people who simply ran the day to day operations of the church. Early on , in Catholic School, I ran across a Priest, who lied at will. He told stories on Sunday from the altar about nameless, faceless kids in my class that were lies. I approached my father about this. My Dad was a PhD, in the Development of Educational Thought. He was a devout Catholic. He was a believer in Jesus Christ. He was a kind and giving human being. He was a human rights activist. He was all things you would want to be. So his 8th grade daughter approaches him about a Priest who she knows is telling lies and asks, what do I do? His response has helped me throughout my life. He said, You do nothing, but now you know who he is.” Always remember who he is. We know who these bishops are. Now we know.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow. The comments are all as profound as the article. I struggle with my faith especially in the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandal and even more considering the concerted cover-up by church officials. I know my feeling toward the Church has changed since that fiasco. It hurt my soul. It’s not for us, including the priests, to judge one another. That’s in both the old and new testaments. I try to focus on the message of Jesus and pay less attention to the parts of the church managed by man. But I am much less concerned with the ‘Catholic Rule Book’ these days because it seems that everyone has his own idea of what it says and what it means. However, if the Church yields to political pressure to deny communion to our President, that may be it for me. I think Jesus was pretty clear on the difference between what belongs to the world and what belongs to heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the Catholic Church should probably state at such gatherings that receiving communion is accepting the belief that it IS the body and blood of Christ and that it does not represent the body and blood of Christ. So if you are receiving communion you believe this to be true. No priest should be judging worth or if you qualify at the alter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dan,
    I agree with you 100%. We buried my aunt this week, the last of my mother’s 8 Catholic siblings. As my cousins and I were looking at her wedding photo, we couldn’t help but notice the absence of one of their sisters in the bridal party. The reason: she had married a divorced man and a brusque priest had told her she was excommunicated. This so affected her that she left the church altogether, with no participation in her own sister’s nuptial mass. This was in 1952, and my grandmother had told the family, things will change in time. Nope.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As the cousin by marriage of a Cardinal I agree that there is too much conservative politics in the Church. I refused to allow him (when a bishop) to perform our wedding ceremony because I didn’t like the homily he gave at my sister-in-law’s wedding; too much party-line Catholicism. I am pro-choice so I suppose I would be barred from Communion also by these rules. Jesus was loving and inclusive and that is what I want the Church to be, not so concerned with rules and prohibitions.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. And here we have yet another symptom presenting from this dying church. May it rest in peace and may we continue to find strength from our own faith in God. For me, this has become most effective without the influence of organized religion. Be still and know that I am God.

    Liked by 1 person

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