The Irish Times recently reported a story about 52 “Catholic groups” who wrote Pope Francis a letter to request a meeting and urging the Holy Father “to take immediate steps” to appoint more women to leadership positions and “to end the practice of banning people from Communion.”
The press release and full text of the letter are here. Just to give you a flavor, some of the signing “Catholic groups” include: Call to Action, Catholics for Choice, Chicago Women-Church, Dignity USA, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Women’s Ordination Conference, etc., etc.
So, these are not really Catholic groups in the sense of speaking for or promoting the actual moral teachings of the Church. These are Catholic groups in the sense of being composed of individuals who were possibly baptized as Catholics and may or may not actually practice the faith in some form, but hold what are essentially schismatic and/or heretical beliefs contrary to the Magisterial teachings of the Church.
These purported Catholic groups open their letter by addressing the Holy Father, “Dear Bishop Francis…” Even for one so humble as Pope Francis, who has referred to himself several times as the Bishop of Rome, this form of address is simply not appropriate for the Supreme Pontiff. I quibble.
The more troubling aspect, however:
With regard to pastoral care of God’s people, we hope to experience an end to the use of Communion as a reward for doctrinal orthodoxy. Communion is a sacrament of love and peace, of mercy and forgiveness offered by Jesus to all on the night before he died. It does not imply conformity with Church teachings in all instances and it does not endorse all aspects of moral choice made by the recipient. It does, however, offer love and healing to Catholics who experience alienation and rejection. Communion gives a place at the table to those who have been made to feel they were not worthy. This includes many who have felt alienated from our Church and its sacramental life for many years, including divorced and remarried Catholics, Catholics in same-sex relationships, and others.
Okay….. just a brief primer here. Contained in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is perhaps the earliest description of the institution of the Eucharist — one that pre-dates the Gospels. It’s interesting, because as we all know, St. Paul wasn’t actually present at the Last Supper, and so it tells us something about the significance of the Eucharist generally in the early Church. But following the description itself, Paul writes:
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. (1 Cor. 11).
The official Catholic translation at the USCCB website offers the following relevant footnote:
* [11:28] Examine himself: the Greek word is similar to that for “approved” in 1 Cor 11:19, which means “having been tested and found true.” The self-testing required for proper eating involves discerning the body (1 Cor 11:29), which, from the context, must mean understanding the sense of Jesus’ death (1 Cor 11:26), perceiving the imperative to unity that follows from the fact that Jesus gives himself to all and requires us to repeat his sacrifice in the same spirit (1 Cor 11:18–25).
Communion is not about good feelings or giving a place at the table to those who “have been made to feel unworthy.” Regardless of feeling, we are all unworthy. We only become worthy when we conform ourselves to Christ. Thus, Communion is about unity. There can be no unity while certain members hold to teachings about Jesus’ very nature which are untrue. It most certainly does imply, and require, conformity with the Church’s teachings on matters of faith and morals, because without a fundamental level of conformity, there can be no actual unity among the Body of Christ. Jesus cannot both be and not be something. He is. If I seek to receive Jesus while obstinately rejecting His Word, then I receive unworthily.
So, if the Holy Father grants a meeting, he may first attend to the principal issue among these “Catholic” groups: catechesis.