Political issues vs. faith or faith issues vs. politics.
I was just a kid last time the issue came up. The issue is the possible election of a Roman Catholic to the White House. It was 1960 and the talk was that if John Kennedy was elected president than the Pope would run the country. Like I said, I was just a kid when the talk happened but as I have grown up I thought the whole discussion was silly. Better a chance that JFK’s biological father Joseph P. would run the country than the Holy Father, Pope John XXIII. But it was yet an issue. People were afraid that JFK was “too Catholic”, whatever that meant.
Now 44 years later the issue arises again. But this time the issue is about another JFK, John F. Kerry. The question asked now is, “Is John Kerry Catholic enough?” The conversation seems to be settled on some bishops stating they would refuse to allow the Senator to receive the sacraments of the church. You see, the modern JFK is an advocate for abortion rights. This is not a new position for Senator Kerry but since he is now in the national spotlight it’s time to make receiving the sacraments a national political issue. It shouldn’t be. It is a church issue.
I also believe it is bigger than one man vs. a church. There are millions of Catholics that are supporters of abortion rights and have been since before the days of Roe v. Wade. Is the church ready to put a litmus test on all members of the church on this one issue? What about other issues considered to be a sin? If you are a practicing sinner are you no longer welcome at the Eucharist? Now I don’t know every Roman Catholic world wide but I know plenty of them. They are in my family. They are my good friends. They are folks I go to lunch with weekly. And just like me, they fall short of perfection. They’ll admit it readily. So why is the issue of abortion the one and only issue to be focused on? What about issues of “loving your neighbor as yourself”? What about other issues that the Holy Father has included under the “pro-life” umbrella? What about other teachings of Pope John Paul? Where do we stop?
Then we hear from some U.S. Catholic bishops declaring they will refuse communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians. A few days ago, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs went even further. In a pastoral letter, he said: "There is... one right that is "inalienable," and that is the RIGHT TO LIFE." Therefore, Sheridan concluded, "Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion..."
But if the Bishops make a big deal out of Sen. Kerry’s pro abortion position, I am going to write a letter to the bishop over other politicians that are spouting non pro-life positions. The first letter will go to the Bishop of the First Brother, Jeb Bush. Jeb, like his brother W. share many non-pro-life positions, as defined by the church. You see, Pope John Paul II has said that the use of the death penalty is a pro-life issue and a good Catholic should oppose its’ use. And didn’t the Pope say that we should avoid war at all cost in Iraq? If you just look at these three issues (abortion, capitol punishment and war), there aren’t going to be very many parishioners going forward to receive the sacrament next Sunday. Probably a good thing that President stayed with the Methodist Church.
The liturgy in my church surrounding communion sounds like this: “Come to this sacred table… not because you have any claim on the grace of God, but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of his mercy and help; come not to express an opinion, but to see God’s presence and pray for his Spirit.” You see, maybe the first thing to realize is that none of us are perfect. Secondly, some need to realize that is the reason why some of us go to church. After all, isn’t a church a hospital for sinners and not a hotel for saints?