by Nick France
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”(1 Cor 11 27:29)
Is reform of the Catholic Church on the horizon? Some say, that the General Council of the Roman Catholic Church must face major reform in order to deal with some of the challenges the Church faces today. Challenges none more evident than the dissenting beliefs of Democratic presidential candidate, John F. Kerry, and other Catholic politicians. But is reform what the Church really needs? I say yes, but first, let’s define reform. Here’s the definition from the dictionary:
re_form ( P ) Pronunciation Key (r-fôrm)
v. re_formed, re_form_ing, re_forms
1. To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition.
2. a. To abolish abuse or malpractice in: reform the government.
b. To put an end to (a wrong). See Synonyms at correct.
3. To cause (a person) to give up harmful or immoral practices; persuade to adopt a better way of life.
I can agree to the fact that altering or correcting widespread errors, and removing defects, in an effort to put the Church in a better condition is a good thing. I can also agree to abolish abuse and malpractice within the Church. And I am also in accord with giving up harmful or immoral practices and persuading others to adopt a better way of life, in this case a better Catholic way of life. I can’t conceive of anyone disagreeing with any of these things, can you?
So, why then, is there a possibility for the need of reform? I believe it’s because not all Catholics are in agreement with all the teachings of the Church. Clearly the Church is riddled with dissenters. Why are so many Catholics so eager to differ, rather, flat-out disagree with the Catholic Church on so many matters? Is it that they have limited knowledge of the Church’s teaching, or is it that they just don’t care? I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not exactly easy to stay on top of all doctrinal issues, you almost have to have a degree in Canon Law to really know what’s going on.
That’s where the bishops, priests and religious come in. They need to make clear the position of the Church, so there’s an understanding among the laity. Then, when the laity calls upon their consciences, it will be well formed by objective truth, not subjective relativism.
There can only be one truth in most any matter. Not convinced of that fact?
Try this little experiment; ask a person who doesn’t believe in the law of gravity to walk off a 20-story building. They’ll soon find out the truth about gravity. You see you can believe anything you want, but unless it’s based upon objective truth, it is open to many interpretations, and will often be disputed by a wide variety of people.
I have been examining closely the Catholic Church here in
America for some time now and for the purposes of this essay, I will address only the American Catholic Church. If the Church in America is going to get on the right track, perhaps it should come together as an institution and hash out any differences it may have – making their conclusions clear to all.
The recent June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Denver, produced a result in which many Catholics were very troubled. Not all were troubled, but many I have spoken with were confused with their interim report “Catholics in Political Life” regarding the Catholic faith and moral law. This report, although stating that politicians who support abortion rights are “cooperating with evil,” basically said that each Bishop should exercise his prudential judgment when deciding whether or not to refuse pro-abortion politicians Holy Communion. This was the confusing part to me, as I was not aware that the rules change from diocese to diocese. So then does this mean that if a pro-abortion politician is refused Communion in say for example, St. Louis, then, he or she need only drive to another diocese where it’s magically not against the code of Canon Law?
On April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, explained at a press conference in
Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians should be denied Communion. Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: "If they should not receive, then they should not be given." He was following the mandate of Canon 915, which specifies, "[t]hose...who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, left no room for each bishop to adopt his own policy on giving and refusing Communion in Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
“In cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of
Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.”
Baptized Catholic, former altar boy, Democratic presidential candidate and Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kerry made the following statement to the Dubuque, Iowa-based Telegraph Herald, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." He then reiterated this fact latter on the Larry King Show on CNN. He also said, “But I can’t take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist… who doesn’t share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America.”
In a recent e-letter from Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine, Deal writes about Kerry’s true feelings about his stance on abortion. He quotes Kerry "I oppose abortion...” statement first, and then he makes the case for Kerry’s insincerity about his opposition. ... Senator Kerry does NOT really oppose abortion -- publicly or personally.
For example, compare his recent statement with the remarks he made at last year's NARAL Pro-Choice America Dinner: "I think that tonight we have to make it clear that we are not going to turn back the clock. There is no overturning of Roe v. Wade... There is no outlawing of a procedure necessary to save a woman's life or health and there are no more cutbacks on population control efforts around the world. We need to take on this President and all of the forces of intolerance on this issue. We need to honestly and confidently and candidly take this issue out to the country and we need to speak up and be proud of what we stand for."
Did you catch that? Not only should abortion be available to all American women, all the time, but it should be used as a population control valve around the world. And this is something we should "be proud of." Not what you'd expect from someone who claims he doesn't like abortion.
And this isn't an isolated comment...
From the Boston Herald on Jan. 23, 2001: "I will not back away from my conviction that international family planning programs are in America's best interests. We should resist pressures in this country for heavy-handed Washington mandates that ignore basic choices that should belong to free people around the globe."
Kerry's support for "international family planning programs" – a standard euphemism for "abortion" -- is an issue he's advocated for some time. If Kerry is telling the truth about being "personally opposed" to abortion, why is he trying to spread it worldwide?
But perhaps the most outrageous quote comes from the1994 Congressional record: "The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are -- a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure... [A]bortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice. And by the same token, if our children are to be safe from the danger of fanaticism, tolerance needs to spread out of the mainstream churches, mosques, and synagogues, and into the religious fringes."
Abortion is simply "a medical procedure"? If that were true, then on what grounds could he possibly be personally opposed to it? He certainly doesn't seem to be struggling with the issue here. And how exactly does he propose to "spread tolerance" to the "religious fringes"? Presumably, he's referring to the people who, as an article of faith, believe abortion to be immoral. But didn't he just claim to be one of those very people?
John Kerry says he believes that abortion is wrong and that life begins at conception. And yet he vows to do everything he can to make sure that women have the freedom and right to end that life.
You can say a lot of things about a position like that. But you certainly can't say it's Catholic.
Jill Stanek, pro-life activist and columnist for the IllinoisLeader.com, had this to say in her July 6 column:
“Wait, John. If you believe life begins at conception, there can be no ‘but.’ If your first statement is true, killing innocent human life after conception can only be called murder. And then, would it matter to you what the law states? In 1857, the Supreme Court said blacks weren’t human. Would you have sided with the Supreme Court then, because it was the law?”
Frank Joseph, MD (http://www.hometown.aol.com/dfjoseph/abortion.html) had this to say in a recent e-letter:
“If the majority of bishops who were reluctant to deny John Kerry Holy Communion even though he embraces the proposition that women should have the right to have their unborn children killed, they should no longer be hesitant, because Kerry now admits that human life begins at conception. “This admission as to when life begins coupled with his advocacy for killing these same human beings should be all the evidence that the weak bishops need to know, to not only deny Kerry the Eucharist, but to publicly excommunicate him.
“No longer can bishops claim ignorance as to the spiritual mindset of Kerry. If bishops cannot see that Kerry is doing the work of Satan, then the Pope should defrock all but six. This admission by Kerry presents a whole new ball game. If he is not excommunicated after admitting that human life begins at conception, then the American Catholic Church can no longer claim to be Catholic. It is being pulled into hell by these lukewarm bishops who refuse to follow Canon Law for political reasons only. They want Kerry to be president. There can be no other explanation.”
These are strong words and I do not agree that the bishops are politicizing the issue, and simply want Kerry to be president. Nor do I agree all but six should be defrocked. By the same token, I also do not think this whole issue was started by the Republican Party to paint Kerry in a bad light in an effort to get Catholics to back Bush. No, Kerry and the rest of the dissenting, so-called Catholic, pro-abortion politicians have brought this on themselves. This is not a political issue as I see it. Yes, some journalists and politicians would like to make it one, but this is not about politics or U.S. law, this is about faith and Canon Law. Just as the U.S. law is meant to protect us from harm, in our daily lives, Canon Law is meant to protect us and prepare us for the other side of eternity. This is the job of the bishops, to guide their flocks with confidence and clarity, not confusion with differences from diocese to diocese.
For those of us Catholics, who come down on the side of this issue, wanting to deny pro-abortion Catholic politicians Communion, let me say this, “It is not our desire to refuse someone, or for that matter, see someone denied Communion at all. That’s not the goal. It pains one to have to even contemplate this. The goal is to first safeguard the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the Catholic, who comes to the altar for Communion; from the scandal of unworthy reception, further separating them from God, by committing a sacrilege.
I will close with this quote from Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis, Mo. From his article in American Magazine in June:
“For a bishop or any pastor to exclude someone from Communion is always a source of great sorrow. The sorrow is caused by the care that a pastor naturally has for a soul who rejects the teaching of Christ and his church. What would be profoundly more sorrowful would be the failure of a bishop to call a soul to conversion, the failure to protect the flock from scandal and the failure to safeguard the worthy reception of Communion.”
What are your thoughts?