Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Political Conclusions From The Pulpit

No one knows for sure the genesis of the admonition that one should never talk about religion or politics.   Wikipedia believes it started with on of Charles Schulz's animated television specials, in which was uttered "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

Some warn against speaking of religion, politics, or sex, which, for some of us, would leave conversation rather dull and, generally, trivial.   The Detroit Free Press reports

A Detroit professor and legal adviser to the Vatican says Catholics who promote gay marriage should not try to receive holy Communion, a key part of Catholic identity.

And the archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron, told the Free Press Sunday that Catholics who receive Communion while advocating gay marriage would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury."

The comments of Vigneron and Edward Peters, who teaches Catholic canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, are part of a polarizing discussion about gay marriage that echoes debate over whether politicians who advocate abortion rights should receive Communion.

In a post on his blog last week, Peters said that Catholic teachings make it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. And so, "Catholics who promote 'same-sex marriage' act contrary to" Catholic law "and should not approach for holy Communion," he wrote. "They also risk having holy Communion withheld from them ... being rebuked and/or being sanctioned."
Peters didn't specify a Catholic politician or public figure in his post. But he told the Free Press that a person's "public efforts to change society's definition of marriage ... amount to committing objectively wrong actions."

Peters, an attorney who holds the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart, was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to be a referendary of the Apostolic Sinatura, which means he helps advise the top judicial authority in the Catholic Church. Peters' blog, "In Light of the Law," is popular among Catholic experts, but not everyone agrees with his traditional views.

"Most American bishops do not favor denying either politicians or voters Communion because of their positions on controversial issues," said Thomas Reese, a Catholic priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. Reese said that Peters' views are "in a minority among American canon lawyers."

Most priests, fortunately, steer clear from the controversy and, my Roman Catholic sources and common sense tell me, saints and scoundrels of all manner regularly take communion in their Catholic parish.

Eligibility for communion is a complicated matter, not only in the Roman Catholic church, but also in Protestant churches, where practice varies not only among, but within, denominations. A Daily Kos blogger who has brought to light the remarks of Edward Peters and Archbishop Vigneron maintains

I have never once heard a prominent member of the Church demand that those that support or even outright enable the death penalty abstain from Communion. Not supporters of war, even the "preemptive" kind. Not politicians who champion fewer rights for minorities, or less help to the poor, or less aid to the sick. I have never heard of a politician being warned off attending the Sunday Mass because he could have expanded our nation's ability and will to feed impoverished children, but instead rejected it and championed a tax cut for the fabulously wealthy instead. Perhaps such things happen, but I have not heard of them.

Some Catholic theologians will argue there is a distinction between such matters as abortion and same-sex marriage and others, such as poverty, inadequate education of children, unfair treatment of workers and corporate domination of the economy.  No matter.  Archbishop Vigneron has inserted himself, and attempted to draw Jesus Christ, into a political debate.

Opinions in the Christian church- Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox- vary about open Communion, closed Communion, and other issues comprising the ecclesiastical version of "inside politics."  But Vigneron and Peters do not understand that the communion table does not belong to them.  Nor to their congregation. Nor to the Catholic (or Protestant) church, or to the anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion or pro-conception cause, or any other political movement, left or right.  It belongs to Jesus Christ.  For it is not written:  Archbishop Allen Vigneron is the way, the truth, and the life.

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