This week, Ted Kennedy’s son, Patrick Kennedy, was denied communion because of his pro-choice stance by the head of the diocese in Rhode Island. While this news may be shocking to some, it helps exposure a much greater problem in U.S. society.
The idea of a man being able to deny someone the body and blood is something new for me growing up in a Protestant background. However, it is especially chilling because it was done because of someone’s political beliefs.
If this time a conservative priest denies someone communion for being pro-choice, who can say that next time that the more liberal priest down the road will not deny someone communion for supporting a war such as Iraq, voting against giving millions of Americans healthcare, or failing to vote for environmental legislation.
For that matter communion could be denied for not alleviating economic difficulty or refusing to teach sex education which can help to greatly bring down the abortion rate. This selection of who can participate in communion and who cannot is a dark path to go down.
I think the church does have a role to play in stating their beliefs related to the issue of the day, whether the issue is abortion, the environment, healthcare, war, poverty, etc. We all know that the whole civil rights movement would have probably failed if it were not for the support of the African-American churches in the South.
However, this new move takes it a step too far, and comes very close to blurring the line between church and state. However, it is not just a problem with the Catholic Church. In fact, I think the Catholic Church has probably been better-rounded in their politics and social ideas in recent years than the evangelical movement which in many ways has married itself to the conservative policies of the Republicans.
Christianity is already often being split in this nation on the grounds of politics. We have white middle and upper class “Republican” churches and then we have more lower class and minority “Democratic” churches. I think this breaks the heart of God. Are we soon going to need to show party membership cards to join a church?
I do think abortion is an important issue, just like I think war, healthcare reform, and the environment are. However, to start selecting who can sit at the table with Jesus because of their political beliefs or even their perceived sin, is taking a step too far and sets us on a road that we do not want to walk.
Only in about the last 200 years have we have been free from direct religious rule, let’s not go back to those days. Let’s work for all our social causes, but let us also realize that Jesus’ arms are open, even to those with whom we might disagree with or who may be just like us, imperfect and flawed.