Who Died And Made You Pope?

I hear a lot of talk these days from laymen and women in the Catholic blogosphere who would like to see the Eucharist withheld from certain politicians because of their stance on certain social issues.

I won’t disagree that many politicians who claim to follow the Catholic faith are guilty of promoting ideas and actions that are expressly contrary to Church teaching. However, as lay Catholics, we have zero authority on who should and should not receive. That power lies with the Bishops, and ultimately the Vatican.

Those who call for others to be denied the Eucharist may often cite Canon Law 915 which states: Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest graves sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

The first part of the law, dealing with excommunicated persons, is a given. They are not a part of the Church, so they are unable to receive on that merit alone. However, it’s the last bit, “others obstinately persevering in manifest graves sin” that I find is the foundation for this discussion, and the point I’d like to approach a few different ways.

I can understand how one can take the last part of 915 and use it to fuel the outcry for particular people to be banned from receiving, and honestly I think it begins in a good place. As Catholics, we recognize the Eucharist for what it is: The body and blood of Jesus Christ. We also know that the Church teaches that we cannot receive with the stain of mortal sin on our soul, it degrades the sacrifice. When we see any Catholic, public figure or not, commit a grave offense, our instincts flair up and say, “That person should go to confession.” It’s natural.

However, following those instincts to the point of publicly calling for those people to be refused the Eucharist is a dangerous road to travel. Regardless of how we may perceive any situation, and regardless of what all reasonable deductions may tell us, we have no possible way of knowing what is truly in a person’s heart. We have absolutely no knowledge of whether or not a person has gone to confession before receiving. Therefore, when we call for politicians, public figures, or anyone else to be refused the Eucharist, we are putting ourselves between a person and the saving grace of Christ based on what are ultimately just assumptions.

In fact, the only way that we can know for sure that a person is “persevering in manifest grave sin” and must be withheld from receiving is when they are divorced and remarried without an annulment. As we have discussed before, this puts an individual in a permanent state of adultery. Other than that, however, we don’t know. No one does, and until the Vatican officially declares otherwise, the burden to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace relies on the individual or at the discretion of the Church authority.

Let us recall what Paul said in 1st Corinthians:

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. 

We have the ability to recognize right from wrong, and that’s good. However, when we sin and our instincts flair up, we should turn our feelings inward instead of outward, and ask ourselves, “Am I coming to the table justly?”

I think one of the biggest problems is that we get too wrapped up in hot-button issues like abortion. A grave evil, yes, but where is the outcry for those who send troops to fight unjust war? Or those who advocate for “enhanced interrogation techniques” aka torture? Or those who ignore the needs of families stricken with poverty in our country, a sin that scripture clearly states cries out to God for vengeance?

Better yet, how many of us lie, covet, take the Lord’s name in vain, or allow something else to come before God in our lives? These are all grave sins, and the most dangerous thing we can do to ourselves is allow the sins of others to blind us to our own shortcomings. That creates in us the gravest of all offenses: pride.

When we call for the Eucharist to be withheld from someone, we attempt to act as a barrier between God and a person WE have decided is unworthy. That is not our place.  The Vatican makes that decision. The Bishops discern who receives. Not us. We are not the authority of this Church, and it is important we remember that.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Who Died And Made You Pope?

  1. This is great, and I think, much needed right now.
    The sin of detraction has been on my mind lately, as our local election cycle heats up. The race for sheriff is particularly getting a bit ugly. Where is the line between telling a truth that damages someone’s good name, and needing to tell such a truth because the circumstances are grave?

  2. “I think one of the biggest problems is that we get too wrapped up in hot-button issues like abortion”

    You are wrong.

    • I don’t think I am. Is it your assumption that I think abortion isn’t “all that big of a deal”? Because rest assured I recognize it for the evil that it is. The point here is that we focus so much on one evil, that we blind ourselves to the rest of it that surrounds us. That’s a favorite trick of the devil. In this situation, we are so quick to call for politicians who support abortion to be denied the Eucharist, but never those who throw their support behind other grave evils. It is very hypocritical and spiritually dangerous.

  3. “I think one of the biggest problems is that we get too wrapped up in hot-button issues like abortion.”

    Pope Francis speaks of a ‘disposable culture’. If we don’t respect life at it’s conception we will not respect life at any stage rich or poor.

      • Well that is the reason the Catholic Church gets so ‘wrapped up’ about abortion and homosexual marriage btw. Obviously a homosexual marriage is not open to life.

        CCC 2250 “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life

      • You should read my other blogs on abortion and marriage. You’re not saying anything I haven’t already covered. You’ve taken one sentence and made this post about something totally different.

  4. “In fact, the only way that we can know for sure that a person is “persevering in manifest grave sin” and must be withheld from receiving is when they are divorced and remarried without an annulment. As we have discussed before, this puts an individual in a permanent state of adultery.”

    As much as I disagree with this being the ONLY case, I agree it is a case.

    What do you think of what was made public about “Pope Francis” same day that the Crucifix toppled over and killed a man?

    He had Monday 21 of April phoned a priest and ordered him to give Communion to a woman in permanent state of adultery (as you just put it).

    This was made public knowledge Wednesday 23 of April. AND same day the Crucifix toppled over.

  5. “In fact, the only way that we can know for sure that a person is “persevering in manifest grave sin” and must be withheld from receiving is when they are divorced and remarried without an annulment”

    This is wrong on so many levels. First, we have no idea if the remarried person has gone to Confession and abstaining from sex until their annulment is decided.

    Second, you are not distinguishing between obstinately sinning and sinning. An obstinate sinner, like Nancy Pelosi for example, is far different from a normal Joe or Jane who falters and sins. Rep. Pelosi has been corrected about her rejection and opposition to Church teaching by her bishop AND the Pope. And yet she “OBSTINATELY” refuses to recant her views and continues to oppose Church teaching. This is FAR different from someone who knows something is sinful and falters and sins. That person is not contradicting Church teaching, they just didn’t live up to it. Rep. Pelosi causes scandal to the whole Church, the faithful, and those who are not Christian. Faithful Catholics grow frustrated the faith is being maligned, marginal or badly-catechized Catholics erroneously think Church teaching can be ignored by Catholics, and those outside the Church (especially other Christians who might consider converting) look and see a Church in disarray and may not convert.

    Third, the other key word is MANIFEST. An apostate Catholic like Rep. Pelosi is a public official, who has made her pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage”, and other views contrary to Church teaching EXPLICITLY clear in public forums. Repeatedly. At NO time has she ever changed those views. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt as you do, that she MAY have gone to Confession before Mass, she has NOT removed her contrary beliefs from her public webpages, or made any type of announcement of her changed views. As such, she has NOT repented of her views. She CONTINUES in those views. So her rejection of Church teaching is absolutely manifest to the all the world. Contrast this to the average Joe. His views are his own, they are not public, and so the bishop/priest has no idea on if he rejects or accepts Church teaching. So out of charity, he should assume that Joe accepts those teachings. This is NOT the case of Rep. Pelosi. Her views are completely known.

    In short, she is 1. obstinate, 2. manifest, and 3. persevering in grave sin. Canon 915 is NOT optional. It MUST be imposed on her. And faithful Catholics are right to demand that priests, bishops, and popes hold to Catholic teaching and Canon law. If laity never confronted our shepherds to demand they shepherd, we would still have the Bishop of Rome residing in France.

    • Again, I never mentioned Pelosi, but regardless…

      Wouldn’t it be better for the Church to just go ahead an excommunicate her? If she’s consistently going against Church teaching, wouldn’t it be easier if she were just booted out? On that same note, you mention that 915 is not optional and MUST be imposed on her. Maybe, but it’s still not your call. She’s been admonished. Receiving unworthily is on her shoulders, not yours. It’s up to the Bishop to decide. Not you. You have to ask yourself, why hasn’t anything happened? Do you believe that there’s some sort of apathy or corruption among the Church authority? Or do you think there’s a different reason? You ever stop to think that maybe this whole ordeal with ANY politician isn’t as clear cut as some of us would like to think it is?

      As far as your first charge, I stand by what I said. If someone is in the process of an annulment, been to confession, and is remaining chaste, then they’re absolutely doing the right thing. That’s why I put context on that sentence “without and annulment.” That is actually a clear cut condition when the Church won’t offer the Eucharist.

      Look, you say that faithful Catholics grow frustrated with badly-catechized Catholics. So speak up. And I don’t mean against something, speak FOR something. Instead of focusing on whether or not some other Catholic is “doing it right”, worry about whether or not YOU’RE doing it right. Be a witness to what is true. Spread that truth to others. If you want to fight back, fight with evangelization. If you’re honestly, truly concerned that someone is doing a disservice to the faith and turning people away from the Church, then speak up for the truth of Church teaching. And if you get a chance to admonish them personally, go for it! If you truly care about the should of a “badly-Catechized” Catholic, then pray for them instead of chastising them. And if at the end of it all you’re still stuck with the burden of the sins of another Catholic, then go to the Bishop, not the internet. Go out and Catechize correctly, and leave the penalties and laws and all everything else up to the Church authority.

      • “You ever stop to think that maybe this whole ordeal with ANY politician isn’t as clear cut as some of us would like to think it is?”

        And that’s the problem. It is clear cut. We fallen humans don’t want it clear cut. But the faith is clear cut. It is FAR past time for bishops, priests, AND laity to stop blurring and obscuring the faith. Proclaim it boldly! And when someone is working contrary to the faith, we must CLEARLY state the truth. This obfuscation of the faith does great harm. Pretending that there could be some justified reason for not imposing Canon 915 is hogwash.

        And let’s not forget something vitally important. We must never forget there is another Person we must consider in this equation. Namely, we must never forget that Jesus is really, truly Present in the Eucharist. And when we willingly allow His Body to be profaned by entering into the body of an obstinate, manifest, grave sinner, we do more injury to Him. He comes to us COMPLETELY dependent and trusting in our care. He is as vulnerable as He was when He was born a baby. Would we allow someone to harm Him as a baby? Why are we okay with it now?

        “If you’re honestly, truly concerned that someone is doing a disservice to the faith and turning people away from the Church, then speak up for the truth of Church teaching.”

        I just did. And will continue to do so. I’ll do it in my private life, with those I interact personally, AND when possible with those in public life in many different avenues, including the internet. The Christian faith is NOT private. And it is just as important to correct falsehoods about the faith as it is to properly proclaim it. When we as a Church don’t correct obstinate, manifest, grave sinners, we invalidate everything we proclaim. We are NOT living out what we claim to profess.

      • Well, God bless you in your walk. I mean that sincerely. You’re obviously passionate about the faith, and that’s always uplifting to see. I appreciate you reading, and I hope you’ll continue to do so.

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