Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oppressive Catholic Church

On the heels of my last post about fascism, I was directed from the Daily Dish to this piece on by Douglas Kmiec, a former Reagan official who is staunchly pro-life. In it he recounts the time earlier this year when he was denied Communion at his church because he was supporting Obama for president. Public shaming, public humiliation -- might as well have been a public flogging. Money quote:

With no further appeal possible and with my wife exiting in confusion, tears, and offended embarrassment, I returned to my place along. My place? Did I have a place any longer? Was I expected to leave? The double significance of losing the body of Christ--of not having ingested and no longer standing among "the body"--was suddenly all I could think of. Condemned for announcing to the world that I intended to vote for a man who I thought lived the Beatitudes. A black man; a caring man; a talented man. A man different from conservative self and yet calling me to find the best of that self. A man who, in so many ways, asks to care for the least advantaged as he seeks the public responsibility to carry with him, as if it was his own burden the plight of the marginalized and unemployed worker, the uninsured, the widowed mother grieving over a son lost in Iraq. Their hurts, far worse than mine. It was wrong to be damned; to be excluded from the grace of the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all I could think was the old Tolstoy folk wisdom "God knows the truth, but waits."

I have attended Catholic or Episcopal masses a few times in my life. When friends got married, at the memorial of my friend Chris Newton who was killed on 9/11, or the funerals of my friend John's parents who died within a year of each other. But never just a typical Sunday Mass.

Every time the priest encouraged non-Catholics or non-Anglicans to get in the line and participate in the communion ritual, even if just to receive a priestly blessing once at the front. I have never seen anyone denied communion before. I have never seen a vengeful act by a priest or heard a sermon that took political overtones and/or singled out a specific congregant for having views that were counter to church teaching. Although Kmiec eventually received an apology from the priest after intercession by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, I can't help but wonder if Kmiec still believes he has a place in the church. The last sentence of the piece, which contains the lesson he learned, offers a glimpse:
Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals
to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.

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