Cardinal Burke has issued a bit of advice to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: Don’t take communion.
His reason: Her “public support for abortion is grave sin.”
My guess is that there will be a flurry of blog posts and angry comments in com boxes about this advice, while Congresswoman Pelosi continues to take communion and her bishop says nothing. Then, everyone will go on to the next new thing.
Frankly, I think it’s time our leaders in the Church (the bishops) got their heads together and came up with some sort of consistent way of dealing with situations like this. The paradigm the Church is using is that Congresswoman Pelosi is under the spiritual guidance of her personal religious leader, which would be her pastor, who is acting through her bishop. They are supposed to make decisions such as whether or not she may take communion, I would guess because they are the ones who know her and understand her spiritual situation.
I would guess that things are done this way because the Church is a pastoral rather than a political institution. The purpose of excommunication is not to bash someone over the head and punish them. It is to save their souls by bringing them face to face with the gravity of their sins and giving them a shove to repent and change their ways.
Public admonishments to not take communion such as the one directed at Congresswoman Pelosi are rare, and they should be. I think it’s appropriate only when the person in question is doing what Congresswoman Pelosi is doing: Committing grave sin in a public manner that encourages other people to also commit this grave sin. This is called scandal, and it should be taken seriously.
There will always be temptations, but woe to those who do the tempting, Jesus said. Some translations use the phrase stumbling blocks. What it means is that there will always be people who lead others astray, who lead them away from following Christ, but that those people who do this are in even bigger trouble with God than those they lead.
Public figures of today have a mind-boggling arrogance about the way they tempt others away from following Christ. They assert that their sins are not sins. They proclaim themselves faithful followers of Christ even as they trample all over His teachings and commit the most vile sins in front of everyone. They even twist their sins around and proclaim publicly that these sins are righteousness and that those who disagree with this are the ones who are committing sin.
Whole denominations have thrown in the towel and forsaken the Gospels in their official teachings. They have themselves become tempters to sin.
The Catholic Church has refused to do this. But powerful members of its laity, as well as many of its priests, have joined the other side in the culture wars against the Church, while maintaining that they are, in fact, faithful Catholics. The Church has taken a wink-wink attitude toward this for decades, and now we are all paying the price.
This is not just individual sin. It is a vast cultural rebellion against the Church led by Catholics who occupy positions of power in our society. I agree with Cardinal Burke. Congresswoman Pelosi should not take communion. However, I think that singling out one member of Congress and aiming the discussion at her alone flies in the face of the reality of the situation.
Catholics in public positions, including the clergy leaders of some of our Catholic Universities, are teaching an alternate form of the Gospels that conforms absolutely to the shifting paradigms of our deconstructing society and defies the teachings of the Church with equal absoluteness. This is not just one person, however prominent. It is a widespread, almost universal, defiance of the Church by those of her sons and daughters who sit in the seats of secular power.
These people refuse to humble themselves and follow Christ. They insist that Christ should follow them. They don’t leave the Church. They demand that the Church change its definition of sin to suit them. They admonish the Church with all the arrogance of self-made gods that it should change 2,000 years of consistent Christian teaching to conform to them and their newfound personally created gospels of self-worshipping narcissism.
They teach this to the whole society through their powerful positions in politics, media, education and science. They are as deadly for the soul of the Church as a basket of snakes.
The old paradigm of individual bishops dealing with individual sins does not address this new reality. The fact that every single one of these self-made gods has found a bishop who will support them in what they are doing is an indication of how seriously deficient the Church’s response has been.
We need consistent patterns of reaction from our bishops concerning this mass apostasy in the pews from prominent and powerful Catholics. They need to get together on this.
At the same time, they need to follow their own rules themselves. Catholic institutions should inspire us to follow the Church’s teachings by their faithfulness to those teachings. I have had it with hearing about Catholic organizations that pay for contraception in their insurance, Catholic hospitals that do abortions, Catholic universities that ban the Knights of Columbus, or yet another priest who was making passes at boys and it was overlooked.
We are entering tough times. The only way we are going to come through these times is if we begin by facing reality on reality’s terms. We need leadership in this from our bishops.