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"But does it matter how I happen to be dressed...?"

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 26, 2004

Why should a priest refuse communion to a congregant who approaches him wearing a rainbow sash?

Jewish men are required to cover their heads on entering a synagogue. Consider the case of a man who tries to enter a synagogue on the feast of Simhat Torah wearing a Nazi stahlhelm. Most of us would think the elders justified in refusing him entrance. Why? Because bending steel in a particular way impedes worship of God? No, because the elders understand the stahlhelm precisely as it is meant to be understood by its wearer, as an expression of contempt for Jews and Judaism. The key point is the mutually recognized intention in the wearing of a Nazi icon.

Prof. Michael Levin writes: "Just as reference is secured by a mutually recognized intention to refer ... so an insult is a word or a gesture used with the intention of causing affront through the recognition of that intention."

Would the situation change if the person wearing the Nazi helmet were himself Jewish? Only to the extent that one would acknowledge more complex psychological motivations behind the intention to express contempt. We can imagine a 17-year-old Jewish boy who showed up on Simhat Torah in a Nazi helmet, and most of us would intuitively recognize that there must be some deep-seated anger (directed at a parent, perhaps) at the bottom of the desire to wound, and consequently we might interpret the action as the product of pain and confusion rather than of true hatred. But the desire to wound is there for all that, and must be recognized. To allow the boy to attend services wearing the helmet would be grotesquely irresponsible indulgence.

Wearing a rainbow sash at mass likewise is an action with a mutually recognized intention, in this case, that of expressing defiance of the Catholic Church's teaching against homosexual acts. It is not, of course, the equivalent of a perfectly univocal statement, any more than wearing a Nazi helmet is a univocal statement, but the intended expression of defiance is not in doubt.

Therefore: I do not refuse this rainbow-sashed man communion because the sash implies that he is an unshriven sodomite. I refuse him communion because the sash unambiguously expresses his defiance and rejection of Church doctrine, and, by entailment, his rejection of the Church as a reliable teacher of God's law, and, by entailment, his apostasy -- in the literal, not the formal canonical sense: the rainbow sash is a declaration by the wearer that he "stands apart" from the Church. It makes not the slightest difference, then, if it's a gay man's 74-year-old mother wearing the sash in solidarity with her son who presents herself for communion. I refuse her the Eucharist not because she failed her blood test but because she herself has declared, "I am not in communion with the Church."

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2004 12:25 PM ET USA

    The;arguments against giving H.C. to such persons who present themselves with a sash are truly precisely the same as for a person who publicly goes against the Church's teaching on abortion or contraception, or divorce, or iv fert, or a batch of other things. A politician's vote in a legislature is just as defiant as any sash - more so. Card. George, what's the matter with you?

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2004 5:35 PM ET USA

    Liberals spread their moral relativism under the guise of “tolerance” and “diversity.” After all, no one wants to be seen as intolerant. And this is where the fathers of VCII did the Church disservice. In an effort to seem less rigid and hierarchal, the Church started down the road of a false ecumenism (compromise, not conversion). Now, we have many who believe their conscience is always right and that the disciplines of the Church are arbitrary and optional. Thus, what reason to refuse anyone?

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2004 4:34 PM ET USA

    Diogenes - once again you have penned a masterpiece! In St. Ambrose's cathedral there would have been no line for the old lady and her pink-trousered son to join. He would have held up the Mass until they left or until the police arrived to carry them away "into the outer darkness" where they could wail and gnash their teeth (or dentures).

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - May. 26, 2004 10:51 AM ET USA

    This is the logical consequence of the emotivism that both Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue) and CS Lewis (The Abolition of Man) spoke of in their respective books.

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - May. 26, 2004 7:52 AM ET USA

    There is a dangerous emotional regression in our society that, for many, fixes the age of development in the teen years, no matter if they are 74. So seemingly intelligent judges make decisions dictated by emotions worthy of a junior prom chairwoman, and homosexual activists parade their contempt for the Church as if they were stoned members at a rock concert. This is part and parcel of the whole emotional dumbing down of society promoted by our most "progressive" members.

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