Saturday, April 05, 2014

Politicians and Communion

I wrote to Bishop Philip Egan thanking him for the stand he has taken in his public pronouncements on the reception of Holy Communion by those politicians who voted for same sex marriage and for abortion. I told him I thought it was courageous and thanked him for setting an example. Fr Dickson draws attention to the fact that Greg Pope's letter, written at the behest of Mgr Marcus Stock and therefore presumably under the rather nuanced direction of Vincent Cardinal Nichols, says the Bishops of E&W 'have no plans' to withhold Holy Communion from such politicians.

I think the great problem is that many Catholics including politicians are unaware of the existence of Canon 916 and a bishops or priests duty regarding the admission or exclusion of anyone from Holy Communion. No wonder Bishop Egan's words came as shock. I suspect that most, and my suspicion is born out by the responses to the German bishops questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on the family that after years of silence on sexuality, the family etc by us clergy most Catholics are profoundly ignorant both of what and why the Church teaches what she does. If they have any understanding at all it is a mere caricature of the reality fed by the media. I simply wonder what formation Catholics in politics have regarding their faith. The Church's 'opposition to SSM was a non-starter from its beginning bcause we have failed to teach effectively about the Natural Law, about the nature and effects of sin, or the richness of the Church's teaching on gender or the family. How many sermons or pastoral letters have you heard on these subjects in the last 30 years?

For too long we clergy have taught a hotch potch of the faith, barely believing it ourselves and convincing very few, the words of S Paul to Timothy are entirely apposite, when I stand before Christ to be judged, as a priest I dread them:
Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement 
We simply haven't done it! The "message" hasn't been proclaimed, it has been eviscerated. Falsehood hasn't been refuted and error hasn't been corrected, most of us have insisted on nothing. We have fallen into the trap of groups like ACTA of faffing with deckchairs whilst the Titanic slips below the North Atlantic. After ten/eleven years of Catholic education in this country most 'Catholics' simply have no idea how to live or even how to die a Catholic, indeed the vast majority simply give up in their teens if not before. If there is any faith it has little exterior expression.

Vatican II said somewhere that Episcopal Conferences were suppose produce regional catechisms, as someone said to me recently we that have YouCat but something more fundamental is needed. Most Catholics don't know why they should baptise their children or how to pray with them, what to say in the Confessional or why, what marriage is, what the Church is or even how to die well. It is no wonder that in most dioceses in England and Wales, cities like mine with a dozen or so semi-active priests within two decades will been down to one or two if they are fortunate - some French dioceses will actually have that number for their whole diocese long before then. The easy, non-biblical, liberal answer is to dilute the faith, which probably works for one generation but is ultimately unconvincing -look at the demise of European Protestant Ecclesial Communities- rather than to concentrate and distil it and live it in its intensity.

I posted the words of Bishop Egan's own MP, he says 'we have a new gentle shepherd preaching a Christ-like message of inclusivity, love, tolerance and forgiveness', that is, I think, what many Catholics think the Gospel and Christ is about, it is the 'Church of Nice', which is as far removed from the Sermon on the Mount and the Cross as the Women's Institute scone making advice leaflet.


Ttony said...

Little comfort I expect, Father, but it's not just priests and those ordained who need to dread those words.

Physiocrat said...

It is not just the sexual teachings of the Catholic church that Catholic politicians are in conflict with. The economic programmes of all the main parties are in conflict with Catholic Social Teaching. Of course it all goes together - politicians' first duty is to their political careers. Many are probably not even aware of their neglect of Catholic Social Teaching, largely because the clergy have rarely exhorted the laity to get to grips with it.

To deny Catholic communion to politicians who vote for legislation that is clearly against church teaching would send an important message to Catholics thinking of going into politics: the two are almost incompatible now.

philipjohnson said...

fr, you are so right!i am 61 yrs of age and knew the church prior to the second vatican council.what a difference!!it isn't the same anymore.your observation of priests who,either don't know about venial and mortal sin ,or don't bother to talk about these thing has,indeed,left us with a church of is breaking my heart what is happening to our holy catholic church and i don't know what to do about it.everybody goes to holy communion but never to confession!nothing is said.the society of pious the 10th looks good to me !not to worry tomorrow i am going along to the birmingham oratory for high mass -that will take some beating.god bless you father you really tell it like it is.many graces you will receive from heaven.god bless.philip johnson.

Newefpastoremeritus said...

Thank you for this blog. The dilution and betrayal of the Faith began with introduction of "Here I Am" programme and its like. Those of us who opposed were regarded as being old-fashioned or though there was something wrong in being that! I resigned as a PP in Ramsgate rather than accept it in our local school.

Bishop Egan is in very good company when one remembers that Cardinal Saint John Fisher was deserted and betrayed by his brother bishops when he opposed the State.

Supertradmum said...

Excellent post. About time that the shepherds warn the sheep. People's souls are at stake and the problem needs great clarification.

You, too, are brave, Father. Keep up the good work.

And, the lazy laity need to stop blaming priests for any lack of knowledge regarding morals. Natural law dictates right and wrong even without Church teaching and separates us from the lower animals.

To support abortion,contraception, ssm. etc. is to support ideologies and sins contrary to the natural law.

A sign of a mature lay person is that one is willing to take responsibility for one's own salvation and relationship with God. These false Catholics create scandal by presenting themselves to receive Communion.

DomJP said...

Well said Father. I think you will enjoy this sermon by a zealous American priest who speaks of these problems:

Jacobi said...


Sadly, there has been years of silence, and a vacuum will always be filled.

Our bishops should have been crying out against abortion and same sex marriage ten, twenty years ago before the Secularists got into their stride, but all we had was silence except for a few isolated voices, mainly lay.

The post Vatican II attack, by those from within, on the Church, has been so effective. Their main weapon was to stop Catholic education in Catholic schools.
This has been so effective.

Most “Catholics” today simply do not know their Faith so how can they be expected to behave as Catholics?

And still the “silence “of the Hierarchy continues.

gemoftheocean said...

I agree with what's been said here, but one note of caution: About 20 years ago in San Diego, there was a local middle aged woman, from a fairly prominent family who held local office and was moving on to bigger public office. [Her son was a high school classmate of mine.]

The family is/was Catholic but being of the "modern 'RAT" party persuasion mom parroted the "I'm personally against abortion, but if a woman wants ones, blah, blah blah, yes I support a woman's choice" garbage.

Well, San Diego is still largely a republican town and 20 years go even more so. She decided to run for the state assembly, and her opponent, a republican, who was a prolifer to boot who was well qualified and WELL ahead in the polls, ended up LOSING to her. WHY?

Because the then Bishop of San Diego, Maher, had LOUSY timing, FAXING her office not long before the election, telling her he was invoking canon law and she was not to receive Communion.

Well, this was an "off year election" i.e. (not in a presidential year, but every other year) where turn out is generally lighter. Well, well, well. Talk of the town. The bishop was "picking on" poor little Lucy. The 'RAT party voters would have voted for her anyway, but the normally "I can't be bothered to go out and vote for state assembly types", and a percentage of the undecided were FOR SURE thrown her way. Result? She won that election and was in the state legislature for years. And the California state assembly, was less pro-life than it might have been.

I agree politicians like her SHOULD be ex-communicated until they publicly repent. But for heaven sakes do it uniformly and AFTER election season. By the next election cycle the non Catholics will have mostly forgotten about it.

And frankly, the TV production of dozens of priests and a bishop showing up to praise Teddy pro-abort Kennedy, the hero of Chappaquiddick was disgusting. Now who knows? Maybe Teddy DID see the light when he could no longer speak from the brain tumor and repented. But unless someone like that publicly repents after ALL the damage he did is NO reason to make a circus at his funeral, with masses of clergy in attendance and many eulogies at his funeral (which NEVER should be done anyway except for one given by the priest) He should have gotten ONE priest max, and NO public eulogies from his family and adoring sycophants. Catholics in that heavily "Catholic" so-called state have a LOT to answer for, voting for that a-moral man over and over again after all he did -- which was to actively champion non-Catholic state-in-place of-God" teaching.

If US bishops REALLY had their acts together, they'd be ALL doing doing it in a block, AFTER election season when it can have no effect on the elections, but may just get the politician to have a "come to Jesus moment" or be honest and change religions or stop pretending to be Catholic.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Well said Father. We should all be writing to Bishop Egan and Mgr Stock.

On the side of the angels said...

At present I'm working my way through the updated Archbishop Sheehan's "Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine' - written a century ago - for the Laity and especially Schoolchildren...

The I look at the Catholic Evidence Guild Training Outlines - and see what teenage members were expected to learn,understand and preach...

...and then blush when I see that the Summa Theologiae is a guide for beginners...

Pope St Pius X introduced Parish instruction of the faithful - by the Priest - on a Sunday afternoon; this directive has never been countermanded...

...and when RCIA has been replaced with a few Robert Barron videos of how lovely Catholics are but notions of creed, code and cult with an credible, explicable apologetic have been eliminated for the group hugs and the pretty pictures and the smug mutual back-patting for being 'one of us'?

Vatican II states a child should be instructed in the faith until they are 16 - so why do all dioceses wash their hands of any children not in Catholic schools post-Confirmation?

...and there is the awkwardness of Canon law commanding that every cleric continues academic study throughout their ministry - and that a Bishop must be studying for a doctorate if he hasn't already got one...

Never has the average Jo-Catholic been more ignorant of their Faith.
..and yet how many claim to be self-professed experts and qualified/experienced/accredited commentators on the Faith?

The CEG needs to rise again...

Nicolas Bellord said...

gemoftheocean: I am afraid I do not buy that purely utilitarian argument. The voters who voted for her because she was easy on abortion are going to have to answer for it on the day of judgement. Bishops should speak the truth regardless of the consequences. What happens on the day of judgement is more important than what happens in this world.

Just remember Christ was betrayed by one of his apostles; the rest either fell asleep, deserted or denied him - and they were the first Bishops. Perhaps they thought that was not the moment to stand up and be counted. A sobering thought.

nickbris said...

Politicians do know where the power lies in this country and being excommunicated is less dangerous for them than falling out with that power,they could even find themselves on the wrong side of Operation Yewtree.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father,
The task of evangelizing and defending the Faith today is daunting surely. I often am overcome by the apparent enormity and complexity of it, but then I remember when the apostles first looked out onto that sea of humanity after they emerged from the upper room on Pentecost. And so I pray 'Come Holy Ghost' and do what I can as best I can and as God grants me the Grace to do it.

Sister Lucy of Fatima told Father Fuentes in December 1957:

"Father, we should not wait for an appeal to the world to come from Rome on the part of the Holy Father, to do penance. Nor should we wait for the call to penance to come from our bishops in our diocese, nor from the religious congregations. No! Our Lord has already very often used these means, and the world has not paid attention. That is why now, it is necessary for each one of us to begin to reform himself spiritually. Each person must not only save his own soul but also help to save all the souls that God has placed on our path."

"The devil does all in his power to distract us and to take away from us the love for prayer; we shall be saved together or we shall be damned together."

Pray, perform penance, and save one soul at a time. God grant I shall ever remember this when my little boat is tossed by the tempest.

Lepanto said...

Silence would have been sin enough but to actively undermine a bishop telling a hard truth is surely a very terrible offence against God and His Church. Are those involved totally unaware of the situation that they have now created both for the falsely reassured politicians and their own eternal souls? If they have ceased to believe what the Church teaches, they should at least have the honesty to tell us clearly what they do believe instead of leaving us to deduce it by their behaviour?

Fred W. said...

Is the current Catechism (not the Compendium, not Youcat) really so difficult to read (with guidance), in bits and pieces ?

Physiocrat said...

Fred W - In my view, yes. It is a typographic disaster. Whoever put it together broke some of the most important rules of typography. This makes the pages look daunting and people put it aside. To make matters worse the English style is unnecessarily ponderous which also puts people off engaging with the text.

In principle, it consists of a main text, plus commentary and references. The traditional way of setting out this type of document was to use a large size of lettering for the main text, which was continuous, and smaller lettering for the commentary and references in wide margins at the sides and bottom of the page. This was used in medieval manuscripts including the scriptures.

The whole book needs to be edited and re-set to make it to make it clearer and easier to navigate. Which is what the Youcat and Compendium have done to plug the gap.

The definitive Catechism should end up looking something like this.

There is an on-line version of the Catechism which also suffers from a bad layout which makes it difficult to read on screen. That would be a simple matter to fix. Re-translating the text and changing the layout of the printed version would be a bigger task but given that the volume is going to be around for a long time, probably worth while. It would be a nice job for someone in a religious community to take on.

We need to be professional in the way we communicate.

Genty said...

You know as soon as people cite their off-piste opinions as being in keeping with a non-judgemental Christ or pose the question 'What would Jesus have done/said?' that they have made God in their own image.

Pelerin said...

Following Physiocrat's comments I'm glad I have the abridged French edition!

It is very clearly set out with heavy print for the questions and light print for the answers and comments and easy to navigate. It is also beautifully illustrated with no horrible modernist art whatsoever.

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. Ray, thank you for writing to Bishop Egan. A little bird told me that the amount of support he has received for his comments is surprisingly (or not) overwhelming.

If this subject were left to the practicing laity to decide, I don't think his comments would be seen as controversial at all. The politicians seem blissfully unaware of the vast numbers of their fellow parishioners whom they have alienated.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Augustine,
I have heard that too, I think there is a sea change, many of our young people react strongly against the liberal 'orthodoxies' promulgated by the creatures of the 70s.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Ray,

Ireland will vote on whether or no to permit 'same-sex' unions within the next 12 months (if not sooner). Would to God that Bishop Egan's example will buck-up our Irish Bishops who did nothing to prevent the recent legislative approval of abortion in Ireland and said nothing about Catholic politicians who voted for such murderous legislation being banned from the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Ireland now permits abortion through all 9 months (yes all 9) of pregnancy.

Jane said...

The problems we face today all have their roots in the clergy`s failure to teach Humanae Vitae. A contracepting congregation will always get out of line and use their `pick and mix` mentality in other areas of Church teaching.

Had the Church proudly and loudly proclaimed the evils of contraception, as prophetically laid down in HV, the Church would be in far better shape now and so would society.

Who should be telling popliticians and society that sex outside marriage,contraception, abortion, IVF, embryo research, remarriage after divorce, sex education in schools, adoption by same-sex couples, surrogacy, and same-sex `marriage` are wrong? The Catholic church of course.

A society which has gone wrong has either not listened to the Catholic Church or else has been neglected by the Catholic Church.
Now, I wonder which of the above is true in Britain today?

Unknown said...

I certainly don't know the best "method" to get these sorts of things to happen, but I wonder if there some way to have more emphasis, not on the "punishment" or "defensive" or "preventative" aspect of refusing communion to offenders, but, as with excommunication in general, on the practice's desire to draw the offender BACK into the wholeness of the Church.

In other words that it is not the "us against them" attitude that the world wants to see it as, but rather as a longing by the Church for the offender to have the fullness of Christ's peace and joy that cannot be had in rebellion to Church teachings.

I'm not suggesting that the Church has been unduly presenting it exclusively as "punishment" or whatever (I don’t know that I have seen the Church presenting it one way or the other at all), just that the world is intensely inclined to see it that way to the exclusion of its "positive" intention. So it might behoove us to try to get that other side of it out there more.

It's probably a bit idealistic to think such an approach would have any noticeable effect, but it's just a thought.

I do know that it is easy enough for me to get into the mode of seeing what appear to be CINO politicians exclusively as "enemies" that need to be shunned (and of course there is certainly merit in the idea of protecting the faithful from scandal and such). But in that mode, it is equally easy to ignore or forget about the desire to want their repentance and return.

Cettis Warbler said...

Bishop Egan is my bishop and he's great. Looks like I should write and tell him!

I can't see the point in being Catholic unless you want to follow the teachings of Holy Mother Church. After all, other "ecclesial communities" are available!

Jacobi said...

We should not forget that while 47 “Catholic “ MPs voted for a law which permitted something which we Catholics regards as inherently and gravely sinful, that is same sex “Marriage”, 35 Catholic MPs did not.

While the first lot obtained understanding and implicit support from the Hierarchy, those loyal and courageous Catholic MPs who presumably were prepared to put their principles above their jobs, did not!

Fred W. said...

hmm, interesting to read your opinion of the Catechism and the compendium and the online (vatican website) catechis,.
I find the Catechism clear and straightforward. I find the Compendium rote and rather oversimplififed. As to the Vatican's online catechism, there are so many ways to look up any topic that I find it a remarkably useful resource.
I'm just a convert.

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