Monday, February 15, 2021

The extremely sensitive issue of excommunication has to be handled with kid gloves, lined with compassion and love.

There is such a growing discord and acrimony in the Catholic Church in America right now, with many Catholics, lay as well as clergy, petitioning their bishops to excommunicate both Catholic President Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, from receiving Holy Communion at Mass.  This is due to a few hot button issues of moral concern that both of them have promoted officially in the public sphere, of which pro-choice and the LGBTQ are at front and centre.

In no uncertain terms are these unimportant moral issues, and there is also a whole backstory of why and how America has come to this state of affairs. Abortion is indeed a most heinous sin, because it is in effect the intentional killing of life.  To support this sin in any way is to be aiding and giving cause for this sin to persist.  Marriage is a divinely instituted state of life where a male and female are joined as one.  Any other union that is outside of this male-female unit is therefore in direct polarity against something instituted by God.  


For many Catholics (both in America and in all other parts of the world as well), these issues are fundamentally so wrong and sinful.  The degree to which they are sinful and contrary to the faith have caused many to publically call Biden and Pelosi to task and to be denied the reception of Holy Communion, which is a most serious censure that a Catholic can receive from the Catholic Church.  


While I am not saying at all that we should treat these issues lightly, what I am more disturbed with is what I see to be missing in a glaring waywhenever I read about these calls for excommunication.  What I see sadly lacking is the love and concern for those who are asked to be denied Holy Communion.  


Why is a person denied Holy Communion?  At the heart of it, is there only the punitive rationale in such a denial? No.  There is more.  Apart from denying one the grace that comes from the reception of Holy Communion, what is perhaps even more important is that the Church is deeply concerned with the soul of the person who is denied Holy Communion.  Because in the Eucharist is the true presence of Jesus, Body, Soul, Humanity and Divinity, receiving him when we are not in a state of grace is going to be most detrimental to our soul.  We are, as it were, adding insult to injury and would cause our souls to suffer in unthinkable ways.  The Church sees this supernatural reality that will impact negatively the health and well-being of our souls, and it is for our own good that we be denied Holy Communion. It is because the Church cares and loves souls that these sanctions are applied.  


This is also what lies behind the highly misunderstood reason why our brothers and sisters who are not in communion with us in our Catholic belief and Creed are not given Holy Communion.  It is for their benefit and protection that we do not impose our belief in the true presence (among other doctrinal beliefs) on them.  We love them and do not want to cause them to sin.


When Jesus says that we are to love our enemies, there is a lot of truth behind that instruction.  Loving those who don’t love us, and loving those who don’t love the things that we love are perhaps the most challenging things to do in life.  The cacophonous cries that are coming from the ground amongst many of the Catholics in America to deny Catholics like Biden and Pelosi Holy Communion may be missing something very germaine to the faith, and that is deep and sincere compassion for those who they feel are sinners.  


While I am hearing a lot of the crying out for them to be denied Holy Communion at Mass, I wish that I could hear a similar cry for their souls to be protected, for calls to fast and pray for their continued conversion to become the saints that all the baptized are called to live toward, and in that way, to courageously love the enemy.  


Christian doctrine firmly and clearly believes that every human person who is alive has been loved into being by God.  Each person who is alive and has come into existence therefore can never be said to be a mistake.  God loves all whom he has created unquestioningly so, and unconditionally as well.  If we have problems with any human person, if we have issues with loving them, perhaps we need to apply this truth and begin to see them through the eyes of God, and it will become less of a challenge.  


I think many, if not most people who find others intolerable is because we see them only through our own small and very often biased eyes.  We in Singapore may not have issues (or at least not in a clearly direct way) with Biden and Pelosi’s Catholic identity, but we may have issues with someone within our own community who we strongly think should be denied Holy Communion at Mass.  


If it is your abhorrence of these individuals that causes you to have these feelings and sentiments about their receiving the Lord at Mass, ask yourself if you are caring for their souls and want the best for them.  Are you willing their good for their sake, rather than standing proud and tall on the proverbial soapboxes to show who is right and who isn’t?  If it is the latter, then even though the truth is that they should be refraining from receiving Holy Communion, our reasons for applying these sanctions are coming from self-righteousness.


And that cannot be pleasing to God.



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