CNN recently reported that Joe Biden was denied the Eucharist/Communion at a Catholic Church in South Carolina. “Father Robert Morey, the pastor at Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, told the Florence Morning News that he had denied Biden communion because “any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”
“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that,” Morey said in an email to the newspaper. He said that “as a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers.”
Here’s what I don’t understand, Morey said, “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that” I don’t understand how Morey’s actions reflect his oneness with God and each other.
I understand that Joe Biden and the Catholic Church are at odds over the abortion issue. I don’t understand how that means Morey can decide that Biden isn’t at one with God or others. Yes, Biden is “outside the Church’s teaching on abortion,” but he certainly can’t be outside the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.
The last time I checked, Jesus gave Himself to us as an act of love and grace. Those who come to the table of grace to receive communion/Eucharist don’t come because they have earned their place there. They come because Jesus has called them to come. You don’t earn your place at the table; your place is a gift from Jesus.
For a priest or any minister for that matter to deny communion is to deny that Jesus died for everyone. To deny communion to any person is to deny what Jesus accomplished through his death. Joe Biden and the priest are both at one with God. They didn’t become one with God through their alignment with Church doctrine. If we had to be in alignment with any church’s doctrine to be at one with God, then none of us would be in alignment. If communion was denied to every practicing Catholic who is not in alignment with the Church’s teaching 100%, then few would be at the table. The priest who denied communion is not in alignment with the church’s teaching. He has forgotten that receiving communion is an act of faith through grace. His actions should reflect that.
One thing I try to remind myself about, as a minister, is that my actions reflect the God I serve. If I deny any person any religious service, such as communion, marriage, funerals, etc., I communicate that the God I serve is a harsh, judgmental God who expects legalistic perfection. I deny no services to any person in need. The God I serve is Jesus, who served Judas and me. Who am I to judge another?
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