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  • The Eucharist is a schooling for sinners, not a reward for the just

The Eucharist is a schooling for sinners, not a reward for the just



Looking from outside at the debates among American Catholics about whether President Biden should be refused communion has been a little like watching the crowd in a Rangers v Celtic game in Glasgow. Much that was said and done fervently in the name of faith showed little familiarity with it. To understand the issue we must enter the Catholic imaginative world in which the Eucharist is central.

Main image: Priest giving out the host (Thays Orrico/Unsplash)

This is built around the story of a God who in Jesus enters a fractured human world to offer healing, hope, freedom, wholeness and model a way of living. Jesus’ faithfulness to that promise and way of life ended in conflict with the powerful forces responsible for fracturing the human world and in the manifest defeat of a tortured and dehumanising execution. That defeat, however, turned out to be a victory. His rising from the dead vindicated his way of life, made him present to those who believed in him and promised a life beyond the conditions of this world.

In the Catholic imagination the Eucharist draws people into Jesus’ story at the eve of his trial and killing. It is the meal when they ‘do what Jesus did’. They are associated with the risen Christ in doing what Jesus did, namely offering themselves with him and with one another to live as he did. In receiving the Eucharistic body of Christ, they enact the commitment that ended with tortured body of Christ and are formed into the risen body of Christ as church.

That is a bald account of the Catholic imaginative world within which to set the United States Bishops’ discussion of the Eucharist and the proposal to exclude some politicians from it. In Catholic terms, the central question is whether such a proposal is compatible with doing as Jesus did. And to answer that question, we need to set what Jesus did against the two opposed constructions of human life revealed in his execution

St Augustine gave a typically penetrating account of those two constructions, perhaps best described as operative imaginings of the world. The division between them is not between groups of people, but runs through each human being. One construction is bounded by individual desire without any reference to a benevolent God. It leads to a life based in self-interest, competition, violence, appeal to power, injustice, war, a unity based on power and exclusion, and self-righteousness. If it includes a God, it will be a God who demands compliance. For Augustine this construction was embodied in the Roman Empire. The second construction sees the world as bounded by love. In it God is a God of gift. This leads to respect for the world and other people, to fraternal relationships and to a hospitable community. Most people would recognise themselves as acting at different times out of each of these constructions.

Against this background, the pursuit, isolation and sentencing of Jesus, and the dehumanising of his body embody the world of self-interest, power, injustice and violence, and its apparently decisive victory. His acceptance of death as a victim of such violence and his rising to life, however, represents the triumph of the victim, of self-sacrifice for others, of the possibility of a world based in love and care, and of the shaping of a community built around Jesus that follows his way. It vindicates a paradoxical way of living and opens out to a distinctive polity.

From this perspective Jesus’ instruction to do this in association with him refers to his offering of himself and his being offered. In celebrating the Eucharist people join him both as perpetrators and victims of injustice, power and self-interest, and join him in the joy and freedom of finding in this the gift of hope and the promise of full life to come. In being associated with Christ in his giving himself, they are also given, and shaped into a community that welcomes people, which is based in respect for human dignity, forgiveness and resists self-serving and power domination. The Eucharist is a schooling for sinners, not a reward for the just. It expresses gratitude to God for gift, and challenges any polity based in competition, power and violence.


'If Catholics believe, as I do, that the Catholic tradition offers a better construction of life, they should not exclude but reach out to people with whom they disagree, and particularly to those who are drawn by compassion to endorse positions with which they disagree.'


That is the background against which exclusion from the Eucharist should be judged. The history of the Catholic Church offers many reasons for self-exclusion or imposed exclusion. They include sinfulness, specific sins, differences in faith and church allegiance, decrees of excommunication, episcopal whim, membership of the military, recent sexual relations, unavailability of the sacrament of reconciliation, and prohibited marital relationships. Many of these instances of exclusion have later been seen to involve a misunderstanding of the Eucharist or an abuse of power. If people are associated with Christ in being offered as well as offering, then it is clear that they can’t be excluded on the grounds of sinfulness. The Eucharist is an invitation and an instrument of conversion for the self-seeking to become part of a community of reconciliation.

The understanding of the Eucharist as a discipline for hospitality, in contrast to the discipline of power and exclusion, means that exclusion from the Eucharist should be rare. Exclusion is normally a countersign because it is so readily read as an act of power, of self-righteousness and of division. One situation where it might be justified is in the case of behaviour that replicates and endorses within the community the forces which dehumanised and isolated Jesus in his dying. Torturers who were excommunicated in Chile, for example, were not committed to do what Jesus did, but to do what was done to Jesus. They inhibited trust that Jesus’ death had overcome the death dealing forces, and preached a grim God of compliance. They dismembered the body of Christ instead of re-membering it. Even in this case, however, the purpose of excommunication was properly to encourage forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does President Biden’s record of voting on abortion constitute such a dismemberment of the body of Christ? Though I believe abortion to be a social tragedy, I do not believe that voting for particular legislative proposals contradicts the Eucharist in the sense that I have described. My colleague Chris Middleton has set out well the prudential reasons against denying communion to politicians on this issue.

The deeper question raised for Catholics by the proposal to exclude President Biden is whether it is compatible with the polity of the Eucharist. Does it help sinners, who have been brought together by their joy in the gift of being freed by the tortured body of Christ, to share that joy with others who have been excluded? Or is the proposal tainted by the polity that led to the dismemberment of Christ’s body — the competitiveness, the hostility, the reliance on power and punitive judgment and self-righteousness? Is this a case of the polity of the Eucharist purifying a society, or the polity of a society corrupting the Eucharist? I believe that history of the proposal to exclude Biden from communion suggests the latter to be more likely. The church has allowed itself to be used.

How then should Catholics respond to abortion and other practices they see as wrong? The understanding of the Eucharist that I have sketched suggests that it should first reach out to victims, and particularly to those who are excluded. These especially include women who have abortions because of rape, poverty and lack of support to raise a child. They should be welcomed.

In reflecting on practices they see as wrong, too, they should focus more on exploring the two constructions of human life that underlie behaviour than on the behaviour itself. The root of many such practices is to be found in precisely the construction that led to Jesus’ death. In the assumption, for example, that the decisive consideration in abortion, euthanasia and other social issues is individual choice to the exclusion of other relationships. Does this isolated focus lead naturally to competition, the appeal to power, violence and self-righteousness? If Catholics believe, as I do, that the Catholic tradition offers a better construction of life, they should not exclude but reach out to people with whom they disagree, and particularly to those who are drawn by compassion to endorse positions with which they disagree.

That is a more Catholic response than excluding people from communion.



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Priest giving out the host (Thays Orrico/Unsplash)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Biden, Eucharist, abortion, St Augustine



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Existing comments

Thank you once again for your scholarship, wisdom & compassion Andy. This is important background to arguments that are caught in prejudice & uninformed bias that is not informed by an ecclesial & authentically Christian understanding.

MARYANNE CONFOY | 08 July 2021  

How is a public political stance actively condoning the unholy systemic exclusion of society's most vulnerable and innocent reconcilable with God's gift of human life and Christ's self-sacrificial nourishment of it in the holy communion realised and signified by Eucharistic hospitality?

John RD | 09 July 2021  

As usual, an excellent article from all angles of the subject. What you have done, once again, Andy, is made me think. I agree with all you say but must add that this is very much the orthodox, insightful Latin Rite perspective. There is another genuine orthodox Christian vision which comes from outside the Latin Rite and its Scholastic tradition. This is the more mystic insightful tradition of the Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Traditions. Whilst compiling my genealogy I found that there is a familial connection with the Armenian Apostolic Church through one of my female ancestors. The Armenians are the oldest Christian nation on earth, bar none and have suffered for their Faith for centuries under both the Zoroastrian Persians and the Muslim Turks. They are a little like the Welsh. They never, ever, give up. I find I am moving from the Latin perspective to a more Eastern Catholic one. Both my grandfather and my late father were in the Middle East during their military service in WW 1 and WW 2 respectively. I find the Melkite Rite (the Catholic parallel to the Orthodox Church of Antioch) hits the bullseye for me. Eastern Christians see the Eucharist as The Medicine of Immortality. That nails it for me. I agree with you the Eucharist is not a bargaining tool.

Edward Fido | 09 July 2021  

Sinners? and Sin? In our society, and especially in Christian circles, there is probably not one word more emotionally charged with negativity than the word sin. But what does sin mean? What is the biblical definition of sin? It means missing the mark. It is a term in the Greek that comes from an archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. In Romans 3:23 the Bible says that “ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD.” So please allow me to reword it just a bit. “All have missed the mark and didn’t get their arrow to hit the perfection of God.”

AO | 09 July 2021  

As usual Andrew, your commentary is refreshing in a period of pious judgementalism by more extreme conservative groups in the American Church. It pains me deeply when Bishops take it upon them selves to make judgements that only God can make. I can recall the time, pre Vatican II when receiving Holy Communion was reserved for the pious, supposedly 'sinless' communicants.

Gavin O'Brien | 09 July 2021  

Fr Andrew what does the church say about this? When Must You Go to Confession Before Receiving Communion? This absolution frees us from the guilt of venial sin; it cannot, however, free us from the guilt of mortal sin. If we are conscious of mortal sin, then we must receive the Sacrament of Confession. Until we have done so, we must refrain from receiving Communion. Eg if a woman is divorced and marries another (a State sanctioned marriage) then according to the teachings of the Vatican, she may be in a state of mortal sin. Of course in the immortal words of Francis "who am I to judge?" Indeed, to receive Communion while conscious of having committed a mortal sin is to receive Communion unworthily—which is another mortal sin. As Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 11:27) tells us, "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord." Perhaps Roy, MF and John RD can chew on this bone as well.

Francis Armstrong | 09 July 2021  

Your concluding paragraph, Andy, points to a 'piece de resistance'. I well remember Cardinal Hume addressing a gathering of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and saying: 'Please remember that to oppose abortion is not anything like enough because it is a symptom of a society and culture that in many complex and hidden ways debases much of human life, regarding it as expendable, especially in its treatment of women and the poor. Let us go therefore and open up hospices as well as critique our culture for what it does to us socially, economically, spiritually and politically and which leads inexorably to the undercover extermination of all but the most privileged of future generations.' (Taken from my tape-recording. There would also be a BBC recording as I saw them present at Westminster Hall. Records of the Cardinal's speeches are available from the Catholic Truth Society).

Michael Furtado | 09 July 2021  

I've read this article a couple of times and I very probably would benefit from reading it again and again and thinking deeply about it. It is extraordinarily compassionate and scholarly writing. The Eucharist (thanksgiving) is Christ's gift to us, our central sacrament. In bringing politics into this gift the celebration is compromised. And I agree, Andy, that abortion is a social tragedy.

Pam | 09 July 2021  

“(T)hey enact the commitment that ended with the tortured body of Christ and are formed into the risen body of Christ as church.” Thanks for the read, Andrew. How to get to where we can grapple with what you write and the common context of so many Eucharistic celebrations that lead to queues in long church aisles is a huge challenge.

Noel McMaster | 09 July 2021  

It’s admirable the US bishops want to promote “the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.” That most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence is testament to 50 years of catechetical failure. Their proposals are not primarily about politicians, but about Eucharistic consistency for all Catholics. Biden’s position on Catholic moral teachings has conformed to the increasingly radical position of the Democratic Party. Biden once thought Roe v Wade “went too far” but now wants it enshrined in federal law. He appointed Xavier Becerra, a Catholic, as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra has been relentless in wielding state power to enforce pro-abortion policies against religious and pro-life groups. The Little Sisters of the Poor have endured 9 years of legal battles, and he prosecuted pro-life activist David Daleiden who exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in baby parts trafficking. Says pro-life group SBA, “Becerra is aggressively pro-abortion and a foe of free speech.” Yet if the bishops attempt to chastise the likes of Becerra who mercilessly persecute other Catholics, they are accused of “weaponizing” the Eucharist. George Orwell wrote: “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

Ross Howard | 09 July 2021  

Well argued and in line with the compassion of the New Testament leader who urged followers not to judge. This Biden matter would not be the first case in history for dogma to be weaponized to attain political ends. Unfortunately I think many of the arguments above would be a bit too profound for many of the Fundamentalist Christians across the Pacific, and locally for that matter. That devalues the argument in no way, but it does make a statement about the recipients. It also raises the matter of the responsibility of the hierarchy, clergy to teach and to give moral leadership. If sufficient of the US clergy urged compassion and personal conscience instead of jumping on the bandwagon which stormed the Capitol there might be a glimmer of hope. Finally, isn't it strange how matters of sexuality always seem to occupy the moral space where justice, fairness, honesty, greed and abuse of power are more pertinent issues?

Michael D. Breen | 09 July 2021  

Edward, You teach me a lot here. Many Anglo-Indians, being polyglot, have a large admixture of Armenian in them (as did Princess Diana!). Several Middle-Eastern Armenians fled South to India, Singapore and Hong Kong to seek the more mellow protection of British rule. (Heaps of others made it to France and the Americas). My mother had a nose on her that put Gladys Berejiklian's to shame. So do I! Another 'external sign of inward grace', no doubt ;) ?

Michael Furtado | 10 July 2021  

Francis Armstrong. That's certainly a very important point to "chew on" that you raise, and one to which its magisterial addressing in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", based largely but not exclusively on the Pauline scriptural passage you cite, is highly relevant - though not in the eyes, sadly, of those who think the idea of mortal sin outdated, and/or who recognise Christ's call to repentance as applicable only to structural (as distinct from personal) sin.

John RD | 10 July 2021  

Father Middleton pulled the rug from under this article. Should not have Archbishops Ritter and Rummel weaponised the Eucharist on behalf of African Americans?

roy chen yee | 10 July 2021  

Thank you, Fr. Hamilton, for a brilliant reflection

Sheelah Egan | 10 July 2021  

If the American bishops are Heaven-bent on joining the theocracy of fundamentalism (which includes Islamic as well as Christian fundamentalism), let them take care what it is for which they wish. The principle of double effect is certainly not working in their ideological favour. A self-declared theology of sanction, of pharisees and publicans, of inners and outers (who will invariably end up pilloried in the public sphere - hopefully, only symbolically); is that really better than living and working for social repentance? Well may the worthy US bishops "go to the Altar of God"; on this one they're going without me.

Fred Green | 11 July 2021  

Andrew's invitation to enter into the Catholic imagination and behold the inherent transformative powers of the Eucharist is worth taking. Using an Augustinian construct, he focuses the believer's attention on an opportunity of deliverance which is at once cathartic and confirmatory. Here is a glimpse of the Christian “mysterium tremendum” at work – with allusions strongly reminiscent of Teilhard's “Mass over the World.” But, notwithstanding the power of these images and the graceful reality on offer, Church debates seldom rise to such sublime levels - slogans tinged with truth but laden with partisan perspectives too often dominate discussions. I suspect the need to dust off Aristotle's treatment of phronesis and revive some of the best of Catholic casuistry will be needed to resolve the current controversy. Andrew's turn to Augustine may offer further relevance: for Augustine was no shrinking violet in separating denizens of the earthy city from the City of God, but, on occasion, he took his faith and reason into the market place to examine how Christians may address their responsibilities in their secular surrounds without compromising their religious profession. One outcome was permission for Christians to accept military service obligations as a derivative of his Just War reflections. Our challenge is to emulate Augustine in examining the issue at hand before jumping to judgemental positions.

Bill Burke | 11 July 2021  

AO is spot on about the 'sin' bit. Sin is, quite correctly, seen as falling short of the Grace of God, which that spirituo-psychological flaw within us, termed Original Sin, obscures but cannot blot out. I don't want to go down the pernickety 'Confession Road' Francis Armstrong takes. This is not a discussion about Confession, which has, in the past been grossly misused both by the Church and some of its clergy. 'Nuf said. One should come to Communion with boundless joy. So many Irish-Australian 'basher' priests, brothers and nuns have destroyed joy in so many innocent souls by false teaching, harsh and ill considered 'discipline', as well as sexual crimes they should have been hanged for at the time they were committed. They are all rotting in Hell, I believe because their sins obscured from them their need to seek forgiveness. Fortunately there are decent priests who preach true, like Andy. Armenians were in India in Mogul times, Michael, and as you know, stayed and flourished after then. La Nartiniere College, Lucknow, the male section still headed by a distinguished Anglo-Indian, was granted colours for its students' actions during the Mutiny. The Armenian name Aratoon is near the top of the list. It is an incredible heritage. I am proud I share it with you and so many others.

Edward Fido | 11 July 2021  

Perfect Sometimes is never quite enough If you're flawless, then you'll win my love Don't forget to win first place Don't forget to keep that smile on your face Be a good boy Try a little harder You've got to measure up And make me prouder How long before you screw it up How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up With everything I do for you The least you can do is keep quiet Be a good girl You've gotta try a little harder That simply wasn't good enough To make us proud I'll live through you I'll make you what I never was If you're the best, then maybe so am I Compared to him compared to her I'm doing this for your own damn good You'll make up for what I blew What's the problem... why are you crying Be a good boy Push a little farther now That wasn't fast enough To make us happy We'll love you just the way you are if you're perfect Songwriters: Ballard Glen, Morissette Alanis Nadine For non-commercial use only. Data From: Musixmatch

AO | 12 July 2021  

John RD I remember my father (who went to mass every day of his life and was in St V de P for 50 years), telling me that it was a mortal sin to steal one days wages from a worker. When I went to St Vincents in Surfers the big time developer McMaster regularly came to mass in a silver Rolls and smilingly put $5 on the plate. Countless times he wound up the intermediary company between his Construction company and the subbies and didn't pay them ( a common practice on the Gold Coast) costing said subbies far more than a days wages.

Francis Armstrong | 12 July 2021  

Doesn't a mortal sin separate a person from the Body of Christ? The issue is whether it is a mortal sin to legislate for the killing of a certain group of people.

marita | 12 July 2021  

For this article to make sense, at least one the following statements is untrue. Which one? A. Mortal sin separates a person from God/Jesus, until repented. B. Killing people is a mortal sin. C. Advocating the killing of people is tantamount to actually killing people. D. The unborn are people

marita | 13 July 2021  

Pope Francis called abortion "contract killing". I'm certainly no fan of his overall, but I think he at least got that one right. Unrepentant public contract killers, and those aid and abet them, should not be allowed to receive Communion. For the sake of their souls. And it's my understanding that it's a serious sin to lull them into a false sense of security. "Hi Joe! Great to see you at Mass today!" "Great to be here!" "Good! Look, I couldn't help noticing you received the Blessed Eucharist." "Sure I did ... I'm a practicing Catholic!" “Yeah … about that Joe … what’s your stance on abortion?” “Well, abortion is a complex issue, but I believe it’s up to the conscience of every individual to decide on that, and the law should reflect that.” “Hmmm, Joe, do you know that the Church teaches that abortion is a violation of the fifth commandment … that it’s murder?” “Well look, I’ve heard some say that the Church teaches that, but I’ve got an awful lot of priest friends who are perfectly happy with my position. I play golf with them, and we have drinks together on Monday nights!” “Oh well, then, Joe, if lots of your priest friends tell you your position is fine with them, who am I to judge? Maybe I’ve got the whole thing upside down! See you next Sunday! And maybe even tomorrow night at the golf club?” “Sure! We can dip our nachos into the guacamole together!”

HH | 13 July 2021  

Marita is right to insist upon her question. Cardinal Winning of Glasgow put it another way: 'E'en afore ye ye were born Ah knew your name,' intoned he on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which is commemorated throughout the British Isles as Atonement for Abortion Day. 'But hark ye', one might almost hear Thomas Winning whisper, 'Beware of being sensitive, scrupulous, consistent, fearless and just, but only on our laptops. When we venture out into the world, do we behave as if we have left our compassion and understanding stuck on our typescripts?' 'Ay; there's the rub, Marita', seems Hamlet now to respond as he morphs into the American episcopate, caught upon the soliloquising horns of their silence on child abuse and their too-easy excommunication of abortionists.

Michael Furtado | 14 July 2021  

Hello Marita: My understanding of a public statement made by Emeritus Pope Benedict to clarify the question on the status of an unborn (option D) is that only after God intervenes directly to introduce the soul to the biological entity does it become a human person. Prior to this divine act we are not “people”. During the period between conception and God’s intervention abortion does not violate “Thou shall not kill”. Different theologians at different times have nominated different stages of the pregnancy for this intervention. Benedict’s further clarification was that since the date is not known to be on the safe side it is set at the moment of conception. I know nothing about theology and of course I could be wrong. However, I have known a number of friends who have spent a considerable period of their adult life-while the rest of us pursue other things, some careers in the Church - revisiting the turbulence of their childhood. I was given the privilege of witnessing their private oftentimes harsh, inner journey. In time I came to see that they were moving to a place where they would no longer see themselves as a son or daughter of a mother or father. They were a child of something else. My “theology” if I am allowed to have one, is that the more they become aware of being a child of something else the more human they became.

Fosco | 14 July 2021  

A dear friend of mine (R.I.P.) confided to me without any art or confection his personal story on the road of the annual Christ the King Pilgrimage a few years back. He had led a somewhat dissolute life, but by the grace of God came back to the Faith, and acquired a devotion to Padre Pio who was still alive at the time. He decided to confess to this holy friar, saved up his money and ventured all the way from Australia to San Giovanni Rotondo. When he got there, he had to wait two or three days in line before his turn came in the confessional. At last the time came, but as soon as the confessional window opened, Padre Pio said (without seeing him) "You're not ready yet. Get out!" Back he came to Australia, and then worked and saved until a year later, when he went back to Padre Pio for confession. Same sequence of events. Three days in line for confession, confession window opens and Padre Pio says (without seeing him) "You're still not ready. Get out!" Back to Australia. Work, enough money scraped up, a year later back at S. Giovanni and days in line for confession. Finally, the Confession window flips open and Padre Pio, not seeing him, says "Ah! You're ready now." I shudder to think what Padre Pio would say to me right now if I landed in his confessional. But I know I would be the better for it, even if he kicked me out, if I learned thereby the right attitude to my sins and Our Lord's readiness to totally and instantly forgive. To borrow from Fr H but to slightly distinguish: sincere confession is a schooling for sinners, not a reward for the just. C.S. Lewis famously said “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” The older I get, the truer this seems, every moment of the day. I win (with God’s grace) and then, wham, I lose (mea culpa). I pray for poor Joe Biden, but not from some point of superiority. I’ll have to answer for myself soon enough! I have fewer excuses. Indeed, Padre Pio stares searchingly at my heart from his picture on my lounge room wall. I'm sure I can tell exactly what he's thinking. Sometimes I cannot bear to look.

HH | 15 July 2021  

God is Love. Where Love is absent, so is God. Hence, we are separated from God. We can sin still having the full intention to Love God and Love others. We are rewarded for our intention (to Love) in all of Life's circumstances. If I steal some very expensive medicine to help cure a very ill other, because neither I nor he having the means to buy this medicine. And I have only a very short time to help save his life. This is not a sin. It may be unlawful. However, as I am doing it as an act of Love. It is my intention that counts. It is said. In Hell there is no Love. Hence, those in that place, are separated from God. Hell is the absence of God. God is all things Good. There is no goodness in Hell. The only sin is absence of Charity. The refusal and neglect to Love. Hello to MF, in advance, were you to have an answering comment for me... There is way too much importance given to sin. And not enough given to the most important commandment, given to us by Jesus: To Love.

AO | 15 July 2021  

HH: Amazing story. If there is a right time for confession, what makes one think one can just rock up for Communion? One would be prudent to check with Padre Pio before Mass about Communion or one could become very embarrassed if it was withheld. Or perhaps one might want to check with him afterwards as to whether Communion was in fact received worthily or whether he distributed to you to save your face, God being above his sacraments.

roy chen yee | 15 July 2021  

In 2019, during a campaign stop in South Carolina, the Associated Press reported on Joe Biden's position on abortion: He said,"I'm prepared to accept for me, personally, the doctrine of my church [on when life begins]...but I'm not prepared to impose that on every other person." In so doing, Biden displayed an awareness and personal capacity to work within the conditions set out for Catholic politicians in “Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life” a document prepared and presented by the then Cardinal Ratzinger and authorised by Pope John Paul II in November 2002. Now, some American bishops and contributors to this thread are free to advocate for more rigorous thresholds for Catholic politicians, but, in the immediate present, owe Joe Biden a presumption of good faith and good standing as he continues with the practice of a lifetime – being fully involved in Sunday worship.

Bill Burke | 16 July 2021  

'Ah cannae say', I hear Tommie Winning saying. 'The bottom line here is surely love, as you so endearingly put it'. For my part, AO, I too am caught upon the horns of my own moral dilemmas, for that is the human condition, as it seems to be for every single person who has posted so inspiringly here! It follows that at the end of the day, the Eucharist would become so precious, were we to absent ourselves from Christ's Table, that no one would receive it (not even Padre Pio, whose name is sometimes invoked to justify some very weird practices). As Andy implies, and I agree as I quake on my way to the Altar: 'Its Bread Broken for a Broken People.' A post-script from the late cardinal: 'Remember the Little Flower, who despite her multiple afflictions (doubtless sent by HH's wee devil) made sacramental reception the frequent occurrence it is today. The time in which Theresa lived was one in which only the celebrant received the sacrament on a daily basis. Therese changed this: 'Because of my desire, I obtained permission to go to Holy Communion on all the principal feasts' ('Diary of a Soul', p. 123).

Michael Furtado | 16 July 2021  

“In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.” The Doctrinal Note implicates any Catholic who regards some but disregards others of the four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance. https://www.catholicculture.org//commentary/crying-to-heaven-for-vengeance-8257/

roy chen yee | 16 July 2021  

Roy – good to see you checking the sources, but it would have been more economical had you quoted the section which explicitly comments on Catholic Legislators and the discretionary judgement the Vatican Instruction accords them. “As John Paul II has taught in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae regarding the situation in which it is not possible to overturn or completely repeal a law allowing abortion which is already in force or coming up for a vote, «an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality».[20] As I said before – Joe Biden knows the expectations placed on him and has acted accordingly.

Bill Burke | 17 July 2021  

Bill Burke: ‘could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law’ Thanks, Bill, but what is Biden doing of the sort? He seems to be going along with the idea that Roe v Wade mustn’t be overturned and the matter returned to the States, some of which will protect the foetus and others who won’t. From his bully pulpit, he urges people to be vaccinated. From the same pulpit, has he urged the number of abortions to be fewer? It's not hard: he stands at a podium and reads a script. If an issue is important enough to him, he’ll insist it be put in his script. If a Supreme Court vacancy came up, won’t he be going along with the majority Democratic Party premise that a justice should be appointed who won’t overrule Roe? I suspect your statement is true --- “Joe Biden knows the expectations placed on him and has acted accordingly” --- if the expectations are those of his party for whom, like social left parties elsewhere, the issue of abortion is ‘settled’.

roy chen yee | 18 July 2021  

I am in full agreement with you here, MF. And St Therese is my guardian saint! Thank you, for your words. You are very eloquent! : )

AO | 18 July 2021  

Great Thanks, AO. Reflecting on Therese de Lisieux, I'm reminded of the strange case of that other stigmatist, the alleged Bavarian mystic, Therese Neumann. Hailing as she did from a region where the Benedictine Cardinal Abbot of Trier daily interrupted the Consecration to fish out the thigh-bone of St Peter (at the last count St Peter's 56th!) for veneration, I wonder where that leaves HH's account of the good Padre. I suppose that in St Pio's favour he was a male, so that kinda trumped his case over the unfortunate Fraulein Neumann's, who, in another sense, being from 'beyond the Alps', both geographically as well as in terms of her being a woman making claims about receiving Christ's wounds, would have made it much more difficult for her to establish the veracity of her claims. Of course, seeing that she remained assiduously silent during the Nazi era, that hasn't told in her favour, either. As it is that third stigmatist, Teresa of Avila, is better known for her status as a Doctor of the Church and not for her stigmata, because Bernini's unmistakably orgasmic depiction of her in Santa Maria della Vittoria greatly offends those who place cult above spirituality.

Michael Furtado | 19 July 2021  

So, MF, are you saying that I'm lying, or that the man that told me his self-abnegating story as we were walking together on the Christ the King Pilgrimage, was lying? As to the former: I'm sure his family and friends will know the story. I could get contact details if you are really interested in pursuing the matter from a perspective of historicity. And fair enough - it's an amazing story. But (forgive me), I suspect from the vibe that you're not that much interested. My door is open! Here's your chance to expose some nutters! Sancte Padre Pio, ora pro nobis (that's you and me).

HH | 21 July 2021  

While I bow to your newfound - in terms of your other posts - pietism, HH, but you miss my point. There's more to miracle stories and deathbed sagas than meets my not necessarily jaundiced eye. Indeed, our Church advises caution in our approach to such things. While I have no doubt that some mystics can see into a sinner's heart, it doesn't negate Andy's case for open and unhindered Communion, but makes an important point instead about the importance of sincerity and a firm purpose of amendment in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Stay well.

Michael Furtado | 21 July 2021  

One of the matters we need to clarify here. Andy is the word 'sinners'. In the Christian context it refers to that ambivalent amorality in our human nature called Original Sin. This is why we commit discrete sins. The Christian message is that nothing can alienate you from The Love of Almighty God except you yourself. Of course, some people being seriously mentally ill or impaired, this is taken into account.

Edward Fido | 26 July 2021  

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