More clarity needed about Communion

Various media have reported on the reactions triggered by a homily from Deacon Edwin Veldman, in which he spoke about homosexual acts being inherently sinful. It caused some people to leave the church before the end of Mass and Fr. Cor Mennen, pastor of the parish in which Deacon Veldman works, to pay attention to it in an article on Catholica.

At the same time, the COC has announced that they want to take their discussion with the parish council in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to a higher level: the bishops. The topic of the discussion is, of course, the question of actively homosexual people receiving Communion. The Church teaches that only people in a state of grace can receive Communion, and with homosexual acts being a sin, those practicing them are not in a state of grace. The Dutch situation is complicated further by the fact that many people apart from homosexuals receive Communion in a state of sin, but the attention is on the latter. A feeling of them being singled out is perhaps understandable in that light. But that, of course, changes nothing about the actual teachings around the reception of Communion.

Judging from the articles I read, the focus of the discussion now revolves around homosexuals ‘feeling welcome’ in parishes and services. That has, of course, never been questioned. The Church welcomes (or should welcome) everyone, but she can not close her eyes to their errors, mistakes and sins. The purpose of the Church is to lead people to God and so also to prepare them for the encounter with Him. Since God transcends us so much (he literally stands outside creation) it is logical to assume that we need to prepare, often even change before we can meet Him. And we meet Him most closely in the Eucharist, when we receive Him at Communion. If we don’t prepare ourselves for Him, by conforming to Him as much as we can (which, admittedly, is not a lot), if we don’t take His commandments and words seriously, Communion is an empty ritual. Worse, since it is the Lord we receive, it becomes a profanation. We place ourselves above Him, consider ourselves more important, better judges of ourselves than He is. In another context, Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo calls this ‘self-idolatry’ (A special circular on the Year of the Eucharist, 2.1*).

Anyway, back to the COC’s plan to take their issues to the bishops. Obviously, they, like everyone else, have a right to contact the bishops about anything they wish, and I think this specific issue deserves an official response from the bishops. That won’t just benefit the Church, but also the faithful, the COC and other parties involved. What we need, everyone who has something at stake here, is clarity. An explanation about Church teachings and the reasons why some things are possible and some are not. And, most importantly, we deserve clear, expansive and thorough education about the Eucharist and Communion.

* I will pay attention to this letter at a later time.

2 thoughts on “More clarity needed about Communion”

  1. “If we don’t prepare ourselves for Him, by conforming to Him as much as we can (which, admittedly, is not a lot), if we don’t take His commandments and words seriously, Communion is an empty ritual. Worse, since it is the Lord we receive, it becomes a profanation. We place ourselves above Him, consider ourselves more important, better judges of ourselves than He is. In another context, Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo calls this ‘self-idolatry’”

    I personally cannot see it this way, even though the Church and for example Fr. Mennen seem to portray it as simple as you suggest: you should not go to Communion in a state of sin, ever.

    As I cannot look into the heart of sexually active unmarried individuals deciding to take part in Communion I would never use words like:

    * unprepared
    * not taking commandment and words seriously
    * empty ritual
    * profanation
    * placing yourself above god
    * self-idolatry (as an extra authority argument from a different context)

    Concerning the relation of subject of sin and sexuality a lot has been said in the past within the church, a discussion which has been officially closed now if I’m not mistaken. But I have difficulty with the easy, clear message of ‘perpetual virginity’ in edge cases because this attitude raises questions which the Church does not seem to answer satisfactory. This does not necessarily mean I don’t take the word of God or the Church seriously, it means I don’t understand it – that’s a less sharp assessment.

    For example, while completely according to church law, the below raises questions – like how can the difference between sinning and not sinning be an operation.
    http://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/instructions/catechesis/questions/impotence-marriage/

    To me it’s a bit like if catholic homosexuals want to go to Communion and still show their affection in a sexual way they could do a sex change to enable them to have marriage, provided the church acknowledges and allows a sex change as such and they can have biological children, which is i believe not technically possible yet. It’s all so mechanical.
    As a semi-related question, does the Church acknowledge the possibility of the so called Third Sex, is it regarded as an abbaration?

    1. It’s a complicated issue, and I’m not an expert, just an interest layman, and so I possibly oversimplify matters.

      You are right that no one can look into the hearts of people, which is why receiving communion ultimately requires a well-developed conscience. You are the one who needs to decide whether you are in a state to receive communion. No one can do that for you.

      However, the Church, via Tradition and Scripture, has a fairly well-described concept of sin and grace. There are certain acts, sex out of wedlock and homosexual activities, which simply are sinful, regardless of the context. From those certainties we can extrapolate what is and is not allowed in related contexts, such as the reception of communion.

      I fully sympathise with what you are saying about not understanding everything. That is why we need clear explanations and education from those people who are in a position of authority and who have the obligation to teach: the bishops and priests.

      Your last paragraph revolves around the basic question of how we are created by God. He created us man and woman, two genders that complement each other. Sex changes and third genders are therefore either denials of God’s creation or simply impossibilities. I’m not saying that there are people who are convinced they were born in the wrong body or are of some unspecified third gender. But is that truly a physical condition, or are their psychological causes as well? I don’t know. From the fact of our creation, I would say no to these options.

      You are right, this is a clinical discussion, but we are talking in general terms, after all.

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