Charlie Angus and Celina Symmonds had their lives turned upside down when they were told by their parish priests that they could no longer take communion because their stands on social issues conflicted with church teachings.
Only fitting since they have turned the teachings of the Church upside down.
Angus, a New Democrat MP who represents a northern Ontario riding, ran afoul of the Roman Catholic church over his support for the federal government’s controversial same-sex marriage bill.
"It’s quite disturbing,” said Angus, pointing to what he called "the rising militancy of language within the church. I went to Ottawa feeling that I would be speaking as someone rooted in a faith tradition and rooted in a justice tradition.
"Then your involvement in the sacraments becomes a political pressure point. It was unacceptable.”
Maybe one day they will realize that this was a mercy – to be spared receiving Communion unworthily. Unfortunately they will not experience mercy from many parishes who instead will affirm them in their sinful support of laws contrary to both the natural law and the Church.
Symmonds, who once managed the now closed Planned Parenthood office in Medicine Hat, Alta., had to find another place to be married about a month before her wedding in September 2002 after her priest discovered from a newspaper article that she was pro-choice on abortion.
"I was shocked,” says Symmonds. "When you grow up Catholic you grow up awaiting the day where you can walk into that great big cathedral with your husband. It’s something you dream of as a little girl.
"And it got crushed within seconds.”
An all too common idea of the Church as just a beautiful building to hold social events in with no connection to the moral order.
Angus, who represents the riding of Timmins James-Bay and lives in New Liskeard, has only attended mass a couple of times since the incident in the spring. "I haven’t accepted communion,” he said. His wife and three daughters have stayed away from mass.
"It’s something I don’t feel very comfortable discussing,” he said, his voice quavering. "So much of politics is spin … party position … (or) having some one-liners. But when it speaks to the essence of what you feel and what you believe, it’s very hard to rationalize it or to articulate it.”
Symmonds remembers well the day when the priest’s assistant phoned, and she hasn’t attended church since the incident. "It hurts that you’re told that you’re not welcome to be a part of something that was very precious in your life,” she said, her voice trembling.
"Getting the courage to go back, it’s tough because you feel ostracized as far as what you believe … You become intimidated going into a church because you don’t know, will I be welcome, will I be stared at?” [Source]
Maybe one day more people will realize that Communion actually means communion with both the mystical body of Christ and the teachings of Christ’s Church. The idea of community has been excessively stressed as the local body of believers to the detriment of its fuller Catholic meaning of believers united in truth and worship of God.
That is very interesting they both have stayed away from Communion since then. It seems that maybe the priests denying them communion has made some type of impact on them both. Good post.
This post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Flannery O’Connor. At a dinner party someone asked her if she really believed the bread and wine were real or just symbols, and she said, “If it’s just a symbol, then the Hell with it.” I just love that quote.
“Symmonds remembers well the day when the priest’s assistant phoned…”
That’s a little odd. I hope the priest had discussed the whole situation with her first and that this was just the final phone call confirming she could not use the church.
I’m over here in Mary Gibson’s neighborhood, at UST’s dept. of Catholic Studies, writing a paper on the loss of a sense of the sacred in American Eucharistic liturgies. May I quote you / the last paragraph in your post?
“It hurts that you’re told that you’re not welcome to be a part of something that was very precious in your life…”
It hurts me that they choose to defy clear Church teaching, bring scandal to younger people by insisting on that defiance and then present themselves unrepentantly before Christ Himself.
More importantly, it hurts Christ. He longs to bless them, but He cannot bless sin.
I think managing a PP clinic is a bit MORE than being “pro-choice”. When push came to shove these people made their choices and godspeed to them but aren’t these the same people and the same newspapers that say that the Catholic Church has a right to “discipline its own members” as long as they don’t inflict their beliefs on others? Wasn’t that a mantra during Kerry’s run for President? Yet when the RCC does just that, people cry foul. They can’t have it both ways.
These are obviously people who wear their religion as a set of clothes as opposed to having it infused to their heart and soul. The same crowd who can’t understand when a devout Catholic actually DOES oppose abortion and gay marriage not for political reasons but as a belief. They sound like they should go join the UCC (Universal Church of Christ) where nothing seems to be off limits or reason for admonishment, and no responsibility needs to be taken for anyones actions.
Symmonds is in my diocese. I wonder how surprised she could have been? Our bishop has been making headlines for insisting on pro-life and pro-marriage stands for all catholics. There is no way she could have not known this would be a problem. Basically she tried to hide her position from the priest and it didn’t work.
She says she hasn’t been to mass since the incident. How often did she go before? I mean the priest had no idea what she did for a living. I can’t imagine she is a regular. I am even cynical enough to think she is feigning all this outrage. She is probably just milking it for publicity.
Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but I can’t help but think that the Symmonds will become the poster children for the push to deny charitable status to the Catholic Church. Of course this makes no sense, but that’s never stopped activists before.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised, Linda. Especially since those making these decisions don’t seem to care about reason.
I had my own spin on this article over in my blog, From the back pew. (http://backpew.blogspot.com/)
I too had more sympathy for Angus – but little for Ms. Planned Parenthood. – Lee
I’m taken aback by the statement that this is “only fitting.” It may have been the correct thing, even the merciful thing, as you put it, for their priests to deny Communion to these two. But should we be reveling in the sad event of two Catholics losing touch with the teachings of faith and a relationship with Christ?
It just sounds too much like gloating, as much as I’m sure it wasn’t intended that way.