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Denying Eucharist over abortion ignores the big picture

By Tony Magliano,

St Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians writes, “When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. … Do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this matter I do not praise you.”

And then, after reciting the earliest written account of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament, Paul further emphasises the need to always celebrate the Eucharist with a proper respectful spirit.

And warns that, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.”

And so in light of the biblical admonition not to receive the Eucharist unworthily, some US Catholics, led by several US bishops, are strongly advocating that the Eucharist be denied to Catholic politicians who promote abortion.

While on the surface this appears to be a legitimate position to pursue, logically and morally, it’s just not that simple.

Abortion – the intentional killing of an unborn baby – is always, in every situation, under all circumstances, objectively gravely sinful.

I once interviewed the late Nellie Gray, the founder of the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. She told me that if just Catholics alone tirelessly stood up and demanded an end to abortion, it would end! So, why are we–both laity and clergy–not tirelessly standing up for these little brothers and sisters who are being brutally ripped apart every day?

People, especially those in leadership positions–very much including politicians–who support abortion, should be pastorally and boldly challenged by their pastors and bishops to stop the killing!

However, if pastors and bishops take the further step to deny Holy Communion to abortion proponents, then logically, consistently and morally, they should likewise do the same to all those who promote and participate in all the other many death-dealing actions and inactions–certainly including destructive legislative and public policy decisions–that also inflict brutality and barbarism upon humanity and humanity’s earth home!

Politicians promoting legislation and policies supporting war and various armed conflicts, arms sales and grants, nuclear weapons, global warming and earth destroying fossil fuels, the death penalty, and euthanasia should be firmly told that such behaviour displays a clear disregard for God’s commandments to love all people –including enemies–and to care for all of creation.

And likewise, those who ignore or give relative token assistance to refugees and all other desperate brothers and sisters suffering and dying from hunger, poverty, human trafficking and religious persecution should be challenged on their fitfulness to receive the Eucharist.

But in the final analysis, no human being can know the inner workings of a soul. That is God’s domain. To signal that a soul is not worthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist crosses over into territory where angels fear to tread.

Instead, what is firmly, regularly and consistently needed is courageous preaching and teaching that all life, from the moment of conception to natural death–especially the poor, vulnerable and also our earth home–need and deserve the full active support of all who claim the name Christian.

And that those who are working against life, who are indifferent to life, may be in a state of serious sin; and should seriously consider not receiving the most holy Eucharist until their death-dealing behaviour changes.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.