Saturday, April 24, 2004

April 24, 2004

10:30 PM When I arrived at church this afternoon to perform the wedding ceremony for Luke Bartlett and Pamela Gonwa, I noticed two things immediately. First, there was a horse and carriage tied up to the rail by the ramp leading into the sanctuary. A man in top coat and tails sat in the carriage. Luke had arranged for Pamela to be picked up in the carriage and brought to the church. After the ceremony, Luke and Pamela were taken away to get ready for the reception. Nice touch. I’ve heard of that and read about it, but today was the first time I’ve seen it at a wedding. Second, we have a brand-new, beautifully manicured yard in front of the West Wing. The Hoy Landscaping workers spent many hours this week getting the area ready for a sprinkler system, new sod and new plants. Led by Pastor Bob Boerman, the Men’s Ministry spent last Saturday and this Saturday putting in the sod and the plants. The result is a completely new grassy area and all-new plants. With one of the trees having been removed, the whole area looks open and inviting. Kudos to everyone involved in this important project. 10:27 PM John Kerry and Communion—Part 1 I actually wrote the following last night but didn’t post it because I thought I would finish it. Rather than wait any longer, I will post this as the first installment of a multi-part series. Should Catholic priests withhold communion from John Kerry because his pro-abortion views are against official Catholic doctrine? I hadn’t given the matter much thought until the question came up at the Thursday afternoon Pastors’ Roundtable on WYLL. The Catholic priest who took part in the roundtable answered with a very definite yes when the question was put to him. A gentle and refined man, his quick answer somewhat surprised me simply because it would have been easier to equivocate and say, “It depends.” That would have been a popular answer, but the priest did not take the easy road. “Being a Catholic means giving assent to certain basic moral truths. If you cannot give assent to those truths, you should not take part in the Mass.” Now it happens that I agree with every part of that statement, and even though (or perhaps because) I am not Catholic, I appreciate anyone who in these days of spiritual compromise, actually stands up for what his church believes. Note how I put that: “what his church believes.” That’s a different formulation than, say, “what he believes.” The issue is not what the priest believes, or what Mr. Kerry believes, but what the church believes, or more precisely, what the church teaches. In the discussion that followed, the Baptist pastor on the roundtable took some exception to what the priest said. The argument followed these lines: “We are all sinners, and it is only sinners who come to the table of the Lord. Who are we to judge one sinner as less deserving than another of the Lord’s body and blood? How can we say that abortion is a worse sin that lying or cheating or tax evasion or any other sin? If we start passing judgment, who will be able to take communion?” He added the somewhat gratuitous point that with the scandal in the Catholic Church, and the moral compromise of some priests, how could the priests be trusted to make moral judgments on anyone, let alone Senator Kerry? Scott Thomas (the host of the program) pointed out that many Catholics differed with the church’s teaching on various points. He didn’t mention the ban on most forms of birth control (which many Catholics are said to ignore), but he could have. The priest replied that when you know that a person openly rejects any central Catholic doctrine, you should withhold communion. We then discussed how that would happen, and the answer is, when the person comes forward, the priest quietly refuses to serve them communion. And they go back to their seats, no doubt unhappy and perhaps angry, but having been rebuked for their unfaithfulness. Since I wrote the above, I have seen two different articles (written by Catholics) differing with the opinion expressed by the priest at the roundtable. While my sympathies are clearly with his position, the issues are complex and deserve some careful thought. I hope to explore some of the issues in this series. Stay tuned. More to come.

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