The Sacrament of Unity, continued

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 08, 2004

"Eucharist is not a place to deform the meaning of our beliefs," said Cardinal Francis George in a radio interview. "Our most profound act of worship is receiving Holy Communion. We can talk [controversies] through in other places, but not make the Eucharist a statement -- except that this is the Body of Christ and we receive it on His terms."

Well, yes and no. Cardinal George's doctrine is correct of course, and fellow bishops J.H. Newman, Charles Borromeo, Augustine of Hippo, and Irenaeus of Lyons would have recognized it as such without a quiver. But the lived reality of Catholic life is so grossly contradictory to the Cardinal's statement that almost anyone -- layman, priest, or bishop -- who takes it at face value finds himself in continual conflict with his fellow Catholics.

In 1991 I brought a new convert to Mass at the chapel of a certain religious order that shall remain fordhamless. Halfway through the first reading a priest entered dressed in shorts and running shoes, eating a bread roll. He smiled, apologized, popped the rest of the roll in his mouth, and proceeded to concelebrate, leaning forward in his chair and giving a kind of weak Nazi salute toward the altar at the time of consecration. My friend was shocked. He knew the doctrine, you see.

All of us have Eucharistic horror stories of our own to tell -- not only about the Mass, but about RCIA, First Communion preparation, and so forth. Bishops and religious superiors are not unaware of the problems, but the post-Conciliar "compulsory optimism" (as Prof. James Hitchcock names it) forbids even the tough-guy ecclesiastics to take the kind of action that suggests anything more than fine-tuning is required by way of correction.

As a consequence we coach ourselves, as well as our kids and new converts, in a kind of controlled schizophrenia: we play-act membership in the church before our eyes while simultaneously cultivating an interiorized focus that mentally replaces the actual personnel with bishops who believe Catholic doctrine, priests who enact Catholic rituals, etc. And "virtual charity" bids us reinforce the delusions of others. "That was a wonderful reflection Father gave!" Yes, wasn't it.

My naive friend mentioned above was shocked at the beach volleyball Mass because he hadn't yet acquired the schizophrenia (or rose-colored glasses, or post-Conciliar sensibility) that allowed him to bilocate. He was still stuck in real time. Later he came to understand that he was no see no abuses, to hear no heresy, to feel no indignation when lied to.

That's why the communion wars are so disorienting. They provide brief moments when it appears that the interiorized Church of authentic teaching has fused with reality, that a doctrine has been found worth defending in fact and not just in words. Sometimes the call seems so unambiguous that even veterans are lured back from bilocation to make a stand in the trenches, only to be let down with a thud.

Take this simple test. Examine the photo below: do you see "our most profound act of worship" exemplified therein -- the same event that Irenaeus, or Augustine, or Pope Pius IX might recognize as the Eucharist? The Mass of Sacrosanctum Concilium or, for that matter, Sacramentum Redemptionis? If you don't, chances are you're judgmental and a source of divisiveness. It's your vision that's defective, your attitude that needs to change.

I'm aware of no abuses

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.