No Eucharist for ANY OF YOU!

SC Priest: No communion for Obama Supporters

I have to admit that I’m more conflicted about this story than some of my liberal friends would likely want me to be.  But I do think that the Eucharist is serious enough that the Church should be cautious rather than reckless in administering it.  After all, I’m very impressed with the way that certain Chilean priests denied the Mass to torturers from Pinochet’s prison system.  I’m horrified that Fr. George Zabelka, a Catholic army chaplain, did not immediately excommunicate the men flying the atomic bomber over Nagasaki, where they would murder thousands of Christians in one stroke.  (He repented very publicly after the war.)  And I think that the Church would do well to return to the old just-war tradition that witheld the Lord’s Supper from anyone who killed anyone in a war, especially those who did so in a war that the Church opposed.  So by no means would I ever make the eucharist the “private matter” that so many would make of “religion.”

That said, I do wonder whether this is the time to do so, and I wonder whether limiting the interdict to Obama voters isn’t an act of crawling into bed with the GOP in the manner that Jim Dobson and his ilk have.  I would propose a broader excommunication, but before I get to that, I should rehearse what’s actually happening here.  As with most excommunications (including the ones I mentioned above), the edict is not a permanent ban but a call to repentance:

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.”

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.

In other words, parishioners can perform penance, publicly acknowledging their complicity with the public evil, and then live knowing that Christ has forgiven them.  Excommunication, from its earliest Pauline roots, assumes that contrition is a necessary precondition for repentance, and it’s basically a public acknowledgment that what one has done does not hold with what Church is all about.

Given that, I would have hoped that this South Carolina priest would have extended the call for repentance to those who voted in 2004 for the chief executive who was a perpetrator of an unjust war in 2003, to those who voted for any president who has not made the ban on abortion an actual policy priority, and for any president who advocated the proliferation of nuclear weapons, those diabolic engines so early used to exterminate all the Christians (and their beloved neighbors) in Nagasaki and which stand as the world’s foremost threat to eliminate children, pregnant mothers, and all sorts of unborn human beings.  I think that such a gesture would have been quite shocking to the good patriotic folks of South Carolina (after all, how could voting be a sin?), but I think it would have been the right sort of public gesture and started the right sorts of conversations, whereas a reasonable person could look at what Reverend Newman did and think his move an act of taking sides not against sin but against one faction’s sin while overlooking the sins of all other factions.

Had the priest made that sort of gesture, perhaps some in America would have remembered (the Church has always taught this) that our citizenship is not with any nation but with Heaven, that the votes we cast as sojourners here will always smell like the Prince of the Air.  Instead, he’s sent a fairly clear message: “Vote Republican, Go to Heaven.”

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13 Comments

Filed under Church stuff, Political Entertainment

13 responses to “No Eucharist for ANY OF YOU!

  1. I especially like his use of the term “pro-abortion.”

    Do you think that his church pays taxes?

  2. Oh, and are you intentionally making a sly connection between this priest and the Soup Nazi?

  3. I’m not nearly clever enough to be sly, but yes, that phrase did inform my post’s title.

  4. Oh, quit being coy; false humility is a sin.

  5. It’s hard to turn off; I’ve been teaching Socrates all semester.

  6. It’s cool; Dante made sure his favorite classic writers and thinkers didn’t go too far into the Inferno.

  7. I meant “classical,” of course.

    10 more papers to go. Sigh.

  8. So all of this is compounded for me by the fact that the Eucharist has saving power in the Catholic Church, and this priest is more or less denying salvation to Democrats. That’s horrifying to my Protestant mind–but then I don’t think salvation comes through the Church anyway, so I suppose I can’t quite understand it.

    V. and I were listening to the “Real Time with Bill Maher” podcast this weekend, by the way, and this Episcopalian guy said that the Church had no right to refuse marriage to homosexuals because it’s a sacrament and the Church has no right to refuse sacraments to anyone. And I laughed and laughed and laughed and said, “Only an Episcopalian could come up with that one.”

  9. I honestly don’t get it when Christians go on Bill Maher’s shows hoping to please him. It strikes me as the sort of futility that I see when real journalists try to prove to the AM radio and Fox News crew that they’re real journalists. It’s never going to happen, and one gets the impression that they just don’t get the joke.

  10. It’s hard to win an argument with him, especially when he can’t go a second and a half without the audience applauding him. I only hear the audio version as opposed to seeing the video, so thankfully I don’t have to watch his arrogant little smirk.

    Awesome political cage match: Dennis Miller vs. Bill Maher.

  11. About the only Christian I’ve seen who can shut him up is Cornell West. When West gets on a roll, I don’t know that anyone can slow him down.

  12. And West seems to genuinely like him, too. But West seems to genuinely like most people.

    I listen to the Adam Carolla Show every day, and while Carolla’s an atheist, it’s really funny to listen to him take a huge step away from Bill Maher (and Penn Jillette, who’s even more aggravating on the matter).

  13. West does seem to like him, true enough. He must have the heart-capacity of a saint.

    That, or making Ivy League coin just lays people back. I’d like to think that if I were a superstar prof at Princeton, I’d be more pleasant too.

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