Wednesday, December 29, 2004

MH - Ad Limina, Et Al...

Our Archbishop, Harry Flynn, recently returned from his ad limina visit to Rome. During the visit, the subject of his treatment of members of Rainbow Sash came up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rainbow Sash, it’s basically a group of homosexual activists demanding equal treatment from the Church. Their technique is to present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow colored sash to identify themselves as members of the movement. An article in the archdiocese newspaper gives details of the meeting.

Rainbow Sash has been fairly controversial in this archdiocese. Some bishops, such as Cardinal George in Chicago, have refused Communion to members of the group “on the grounds that they were using the Eucharist to make a political statement against church teaching.” Others, including Archbishop Flynn, have given Communion to the members, saying they didn’t want to use the Eucharist as a weapon. Archbishop Flynn has added “sash-wearers would not be denied Communion because members of the movement had assured him in writing that their presence was not in protest of church teachings.”

There’s a lot to be said on this issue, probably too much for one post. What I want to focus on here is this excerpt of the newspaper article.

Archbishop Flynn said he discussed the issue in a private meeting in early December with Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

He said Cardinal Arinze agreed that it was a complex problem requiring clear teaching and pastoral sensitivity. The archbishop said he was not asked to change his policy.

“I got the clear understanding that this is recognized as a very complex pastoral issue which must constantly be looked at in all its ramifications,” Archbishop Flynn said in an interview in mid-December."

And here is the part I don’t understand:
Archbishop Flynn said it was recognized that U.S. bishops have come to different conclusions about how to respond to Rainbow Sash members who present themselves for Communion, but he said he got no sense that the Vatican was pushing for a single policy on this.

Now, what I don’t understand is this: everyone involved seems to agree that the Church teaches against homosexual behavior. In the article, Archbishop Flynn is quoted thusly: “We all stand very strong in our teaching concerning human sexuality, and what is right and what is wrong, and the teaching of the church concerning homosexuality, the teaching of the church concerning marriage between one man and one woman.”

So at least in this case, everyone seems to be on the right page. Therefore, if this is true, why shouldn’t there be a single policy on this? Seems pretty clear-cut to me.

Reception of the Eucharist is not a right, it’s a privilege. In order to receive in good conscience, one must be in a state of grace, i.e. no unconfessed mortal sin. While it’s true that you can’t read a man’s mind or know what’s in his heart, you most certainly can draw conclusions based on their outward actions. Generally, in our don’t ask-don’t tell atmosphere, the priest has no way of knowing the inward disposition of communicants. Under those circumstances, he’d have no choice but to give Communion, and that’s fine. But here we’re talking about people who’ve publicly declared their position, and back it up by wearing these sashes.

Now, if Rainbow Sash isn’t challenging church teachings, why are they wearing their sashes in church? Why be so demonstrative?

My point is not to argue with the Archbishop here. As I said, you could write an entire book about that question, and I’ll probably write more about it later anyway. (N.B. Considering the recent fiasco involving Cardinal McCarrick’s “interpretation” of Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter regarding administering the Eucharist to pro-choice Catholics, I would be very interested in knowing exactly what Cardinal Arinze actually said, rather that what the newspaper or Archbishop Flynn says he said. Could be the very same thing.) Anyway, I don’t want to be putting words in anyone’s mouth.

But my question stands. If the church recognizes homosexual behavior as being wrong, why isn’t there a uniform policy on how to handle administration of the Eucharist to those who publicly identify themselves with a policy at odds with church position? It can’t be right in one diocese and wrong in another. As the good priest Fr. John Paul Echert has pointed out, the truth can’t contradict itself. And yet here we find ourselves. Is it any wonder the sheep are confused when the shepherds don’t seem to know what direction to take them?

2 comments:

  1. What troubles me, in addition to the rainbow sash folks, is what I hear about the St. Joan of Arc parish. I understand their masses are pretty weird--and they are pretty "in your face" about their lifestyle preferences.

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  2. Cradle,

    Tried to send an email in response to your comment with some additional information, but we keep getting an error message. Can you send us your email address, and we'll reply with more info. Like your website!

    Mitchell

    ReplyDelete

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