Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

"Poignantly Painful." And Public.

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 23, 2003

Milwaukee auxiliary bishop Richard Sklba has a column on inter-communion which makes some good points but also scores a couple own-goals.

The Holy See's 1993 Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism lays out the specific conditions when someone not of our Catholic faith may receive Communion at a Catholic Mass: possessing a deep spiritual hunger, being properly disposed, sharing our Catholic faith in the Real Presence and being separated from one's own minister. ... An open invitation to everyone present does not respect the individual decision required for such a step. It may even put social pressure on someone who prefers not to come forward for whatever reason. At the same time, a priest or Eucharistic minister should be respectful and never refuse a person who approaches.

But what is the priest meant to be respectful of -- the personal desires and subjective theological intuitions of the communicant or, where they conflict, the doctrine of his own Church? Suppose an Episcopal prietess presents herself for communion. Her claim to be in Holy Orders is ipso facto a declaration that she does not share the Catholic faith regarding the connection between valid ordination and the Real Presence. Is Sklba's priest obliged to pretend that in the interval between her donning her roman collar and the Agnus Dei at Mass she has rethought her eucharistic theology and renounced her errors and her orders? Note that the Pope (in Ecclesia de Eucharistia 46) makes no mention of respecting individual predilections:

These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them.

Sklba renders the waters yet murkier by his remarks on the ecumenical exchange of blessings:

In our national Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue we have developed a practice which has become both enriching and poignantly painful for each of us. Attending a neighboring Catholic parish on Saturday evening, the entire group comes forward at Communion time, with Catholic members of the Dialogue receiving Communion if they so choose, and our Lutheran partners simply crossing their arms over their chests and requesting a blessing. The same practice is reversed the following morning when the entire group participates in the service at a nearby Lutheran congregation: Lutherans come forward for Communion while the Catholics ask a blessing.

The entire group participates. So what does it mean when a Catholic bishop folds his arms across his chest and asks a blessing of a Lutheran minister? Are we to understand that the bishop is requesting a purely personal gesture of good will from John or Mary? Or is there some implicit theology of benediction by which the Lutheran minister is to be viewed as a conduit of grace for the Catholic bishop? Or is it, at bottom, a kind of We-Would-If-We-Could agit-prop?

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