I usually start these off with a quote from a song. Today, I start with a disclaimer. I feel somewhat uniquely qualified to talk about this because I am a member of the church, but I don’t want my comments to be construed as a statement that these beliefs are any better or worse than anyone’s else’s. I know I have a diversity of readers and don’t want any explanations or statements to be seen as anything other than my own.
The American Council of Bishops is strongly considering denying the Eucharist to Joe Biden. To understand the gravity of this one needs to understand exactly what the Eucharist is. For centuries, the Catholic church have been the only group to believe in something called transubstantiation. Put simply, this is the belief that the host one receives actually becomes Jesus Christ.
Again, that’s pretty heavy stuff. However, it is also the thing which separates us from all of the other Christian churches. Sure, we have rules and regulations. All of them do. Sure, we have traditions. All of them do. We have idiosyncrasies that people believe about us that aren’t true. As a Catholic I get these questions all the time. They can become tiresome, but most people are asking innocently enough.
The Eucharist is the very center of our faith. It is the very reason why we go to mass. It is the thing I miss the most when I don’t go and it is the thing that has been a hole during the pandemic. The church offers a spiritual alternative for those that are unable to go, but that hardly measures up. So in short, it’s the whole ballgame.
Catholics are taught from a very early age that they are mot supposed to receive the host if they have a mortal sin on their conscience. I’m certain this is where the bishops are getting their mojo to deny Biden. However, I have never witnessed any priest deny anyone the host that comes up to receive it. It is supposed to be a personal decision that is governed by the individual and their conscience.
While this rule has been in place as long as I’ve been a Catholic, the mechanics of it really have never made much sense. We are receiving God. We are receiving God’s grace. God’s grace is given freely to anyone that chooses to accept it. How are we as mere mortals supposed to decide who is worthy of that grace?
How do we decide that Joe is not worthy, but Sally over here is? We are all sinners. We all need God’s grace. Forget heaven for now. Sometimes, that grace is something I have needed to get through the week or even through the day when I attended daily mass. The president of the United States certainly can use God’s grace. He attends mass regularly. By most accounts he is a good and decent person. I’m still not sure what the problem is here.
Except we all know what the problem is here. Biden is politically Pro-Choice. Privately I’m not sure what he is exactly. That describes millions of Catholics across the country. It describes me. I believe in the sanctity of life. The funny thing is that this extends to the death penalty and wars of choice as well. Yet, those same bishops have no problem supporting politicians that support the death penalty and tend to be hawkish. Yet, they are somehow free to receive God.
I don’t know if being Pro-choice is a sin. It’s a complex situation that has any number of perspectives and theologians will certainly disagree. I do know that we can support people’s rights to choose what is right for them without necessarily agreeing with the choices they make. That extends to a whole lot more than just abortion. We can accept them. We can love them. I certainly believe my God does and I don’t think any human should say otherwise.