WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Catholic who "knowingly and obstinately" rejects "the defined doctrines of the church" or its "definitive teaching on moral issues" should refrain from receiving Communion, according to a document that will come before the U.S. bishops at their Nov. 13-16 fall general meeting in Baltimore.
The document, "’Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper’: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist," requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for passage.
In an introduction, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, said the draft document was the result of a proposal to the bishops in November 2004 by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., for a statement on how Catholics should prepare to receive the Eucharist.
"He envisaged this document as applying to Catholic faithful, not just to politicians or those in public life," Bishop Serratelli said.
Archbishop Myers’ request came after a presidential campaign in which some bishops had criticized the Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and said he and other Catholic politicians who supported abortion should be refused Communion under canon law.
But a footnote to the draft says that it is not intended "to provide specific guidelines" to the provision in canon law that says that Catholics "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin" should not be allowed to receive Communion.
"In order to receive holy Communion we must be in communion with God and with the church," the document says. "If we are no longer in a state of grace because of mortal sin, we are seriously obliged to refrain from receiving holy Communion."
Among examples of such sin, the document cites "committing deliberate hatred of others, sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, or physical or verbal abuse toward one’s family members or fellow workers, causing grave physical or psychological harm; murder, abortion or euthanasia."
Other "serious violations of the law of love of God and of neighbor" listed in the draft include swearing a false oath, missing Mass on Sundays or holy days without a serious reason, "acting in serious disobedience against proper authority," sexual activity "outside the bonds of a valid marriage," stealing, slander or involvement with pornography.
The document criticized those who "give selective assent to the teachings of the church."
But Catholics who have "honest doubt and confusion" about some church teachings "are welcome to partake of holy Communion, as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the church professes and are taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt," the draft says.
"If someone who is Catholic were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the church," it adds. "Reception of holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the eucharistic celebration, so he or she should refrain."
If a person who "is publicly known to have committed serious sin or to have rejected definitive church teaching and is not yet reconciled with the church" receives Communion, it could be "a cause of scandal for others," giving "further reason" for the person to refrain, the bishops said.
Most of the commenters at Amy Welborn’s blog think the document as it is reported so far is a good step in the right direction. Many commenters also pointed out the glaring omission of contraception from the example list of sins. I didn’t have to have prophetic knowledge when I starting to read how the list started that this would be one item not in it. An exhaustive list is of course not the purpose of a document like this, but you would think that a grave sin that a large number of Catholics are committing is surely contraception. There is no reliable statistic on what that number of Catholics commiting contraception might be but it would not stretch the imagination to put that number easily in 90 percent or more range.
I subsequently wondered exactly what the USCCB in its current or previous makeup had done towards educating people on this sin? Looking at their site I found this section "U.S. Bishops’ Statements on Marriage: 1980-2005" and under "Natural Family Planning/Contraception:" they list a whopping three statements made by bishops that included the topic of Contraception. This small list included Bishop John T. Steinbock, Bishop Charles Chaput, and my own bishop – Bishop Victor Galeone. Surely this can’t be right? I figured preaching on contraception by Bishops and the clergy in general was rare, just not that rare.
Well how about statements from the Bishop’s conference itself on contraception. The otherwise excellent Living the Gospel of Life only mentions contraception in passing in a footnote. Rather strange since the pill and other methods of birth control can act as abortafacients. Looking through there "Life Issues and Relationships" section again I find zero documents about contraception. In fact a search in this section of documents the USCCB sells only reveals Pope John Paul II’s excellent encyclical Evangelium Vitae when it comes to contraception.
One overall very committee of the USCCB is the the one that works with prolife activities. They do have a section on contraception, though I find it strange that their list of articles that they are not able to reference one from the Bishops themselves on this subject. Though this is not their fault since as far as I can tell no document like this exists.
So I guess I am going to have to rethink this issue. Obviously I was quite mistaken. The sin of contraception must be quite rare among American Catholics. I must have been harshly judging my fellow Catholics on this subject. The charge that most Catholics in the United States use contraception must be a vicious slander. Because if this was true and many Catholics were endangering their immortal souls surely the Bishop’s conference would have squeaked out one document on this subject.
Well actually I do have an idea on how to get the Bishop’s conference to respond. We should create some new stories saying that many people were building barriers keeping children from coming into the United States. That because of these barriers that people have erected and the Government endorses many children have died along the way. After all the Bishops recently issued a statement condemning the Secure Fence Act. Contraception does erect a barrier and surely puts into place a fence designed to keep children out. Some of those children that are conceived die when abortafacients cause a hostile environment in the womb and they subsequently starve to death. Bishop Skylstad said the border fence "contributing to an increase in deaths, including women and children." Same with contraception and the attitude it develops that often leads to abortion when it fails. There are also the medical risks involved in most contraceptives where for example oral contraception causes women to die at a rate of 1 in 200000 per year. If we start calling a child conceived when contraception fails an illegal alien fetus maybe we will get some movement on this subject.
Update: The Bishop’s conference through a monkey wrench in my rant, but I did write that the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities was excellent.
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Contraception introduces "a false note" that disturbs marital intimacy and contributes to a decline in society’s respect for marriage and for life, the U.S. bishops say in a draft document that will come before them at their fall general meeting in Baltimore.
The brief document, called "Married Love and the Gift of Life," is intended for use as a brochure and is in question-and-answer format.
Developed by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities in collaboration with the committees on Doctrine and Marriage and Family Life, the document strongly supports natural family planning, saying it "enables couples to cooperate with the body as God designed it."
"When couples use contraception, either physical or chemical, they suppress their fertility, exerting ultimate control over this power to create a new human life with God," the draft said.
But because natural family planning "does not change the human body in any way, or upset its balance with potentially harmful drugs or devices, people of other faiths or of no religious affiliation have also come to accept and use it from a desire to work in harmony with their bodies," it added.
The bishops disputed the view that the church’s opposition to contraception means that Catholic couples must "leave their family size entirely to chance."
"In married life, serious circumstances — financial, physical, psychological, or those involving responsibilities to other family members — may arise to make an increase in family size untimely," the document said. "The church understands this, while encouraging couples to take a generous view of children."
A circumstance in which I love being wrong and I do hope that the document becomes widely distributed.