Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Violence of Exclusion

I am working up an idea about the terms "Conservative" and "Christian" and how they have been co-opted by the mendacious Right, but meanwhile I wanted to post this reflection from Douglas Kmiec, a Roman Catholic who was denied Communion for the egregious sin of supporting Obama for president. Now, I grew up Catholic and I know what Communion is supposed to mean. I think it's useful to reflect that in my time as the token atheist who hangs around Episcopal blogs, I have not heard one liberal say they refuse to share Communion with a conservative. But the conservatives are very willing to perpetrate this kind of, welll, spiritual violence as though they will be contaminated by being in the same place. What's up with that? (By the way, Kmiec is a strong conservative, not a typical liberal!)

From Beliefnet:
My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief.....My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States....I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. ...My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? ..... I pleaded with empty hand outstretched: "I think you're making a mistake, Father." His red complexion redder now, betraying righteous anger. His stretched hand over...the container for the consecrated bread as if I was going to grab a handful and make a run for it, and then the pronouncement: "No, you are the one who made the mistake."

From the back of the Communion line someone shouted out, "Are you judging this man, Father?" I was grateful for the intervention. Will the Last Day be like this? One friend making an appeal for another? The response was cold: "He has judged himself and been found unworthy."

With no further appeal possible and with my wife exiting in confusion, tears, and offended embarrassment, I returned to my place along. My place? Did I have a place any longer? Was I expected to leave? The double significance of losing the body of Christ--of not having ingested and no longer standing among "the body"--was suddenly all I could think of. Condemned for announcing to the world that I intended to vote for a man who I thought lived the Beatitudes.....

..... After the even became public, Cardinal Mahoney called the priest into his office, and several months after that meeting, Father ______sent Carol and myself a letter of apology. The letter is thoughtfully written and the apology accepted. Perhaps there was a Providential hand at work using the two of us to teach a lesson to a larger congregation. The lesson? Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error.


FranIAm said...

You know IT, call it synchonicity, call it what you will, I don't always click into this blog... but when I do I always seem to encounter one of your posts. Even if I do not always comment, I must tell you how frequently and deeply you touch my heart.

I think you know that I am RC. And not- well um, not your average conservative.

Kmiec, an unlikely friend for me, has become my touchstone. You seem to know that he is very conservative and I do mean very.

He is deep into the pro-life movement, which underscores this all the more.

As I read this, as I have done when reading his words at other times, I weep. I can't imagine being denied communion.

You rather aptly point out that this cruel twist, is generally enacted by those who would wish to exclude and not by others of us... Who while we may differ, are not in the practice of pushing others away from the table.

Ann said...

Thanks for posting this IT -- I read it earlier and have been thinking about this issue. I also don't know any liberal who wont share communion with whoever shows up. God is the host of the party and clergy et al should be servers - not gate keepers. But as long as I have been attending General Convention I have seen the conservatives huddle off in a room so they can receive "pure" communion -- somewhat Donatist IMO. But no girl or gay cooties touching their bread and wine. Wonder what they would say to the bleeding woman who touched the hem or fringe of Jesus' clothes?

IT said...

Thanks for the kind words, Franiam. I have edited th post slightly to make it clear that I'm the atheist oddball hanging around the Episcopal blogs. Still, as an ex-RC and soon to be married to my beloved, a current RC, I understand the violence and hatefilled-ness of this action.


Cany said...

I cannot even imagine being treated like this. I just cannot imagine it. Ever.

I know Biden, Pelosi and Kerry have all gotten into hot water, and probably others, too. Really makes me shake my head.

Марко said...

The worst thing that has happened to American Roman Catholics has been their political affiliation with GOP neocon christianists. And many Evangelical christianist Republicans don't believe Catholics are "real Christians." You never heard about anyone in the Catholic Church refusing communion to supporters of Democratic politicans in the 70s and 80s. The only human life many Catholic neocons care about is pre-natal. War, torture, and economic inequities aren't on their radar screen. You certainly never hear about priests excommunicating any supporters of politicians who are pro-torture. But I also realize that there were Catholics and Protestants who supported the Nazis in Germany. This isn't the first time in history Christians have been allied with immoral politics. And an Episcopal priest offerd prayer for the GOP convention. I am sure there are christianist Anglicans in the GOP, too.

Erp said...

Well not the only oddball atheist hanging around though I'm fairly new at this hanging around.

The refusal is cruel

"Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?"

Grandmère Mimi said...

If the priest believes what he was taught, then the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus, and the priest has no right to judge who is worthy to partake of the sacrament. I'm sure Jesus can take care of himself. Violence is the proper word for this kind of action.

Thank you, resident atheist. What would we do with out you?

dr.primrose said...

Episcopal Cafe has posted a link to this related New York Times article -- Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes. The article says in part:

"Dozens of interviews with Catholics in Scranton underscored the political tumult in the parish pews. At Holy Rosary’s packed morning Masses on Sunday in working-class North Scranton and the Pennsylvania Polka Festival downtown that afternoon, many Clinton supporters said they were planning to vote for Mr. Obama, some saying they sided with their labor unions instead of the church and others repeating liberal arguments about church doctrine broader than abortion.


"But more said they now leaned toward Mr. McCain, citing both his experience and his opposition to abortion. Paul MacDonald, a retired social worker mingling over coffee after Mass at Holy Rosary, said he had voted for Mr. Kerry four years ago and Mrs. Clinton in the primary but now planned to vote for Mr. McCain because of 'the life issue.'


"One parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. 'Are they going to make it the Black House?' Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen.


"The same debate is already playing out almost every day in the letters section of Scranton’s newspaper, said Jean Harris, a political scientist at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton. 'It is a running debate between Catholics saying "abortion is the only issue’ and others saying ‘you have to look at the whole teaching of the church,"' she said."

Anonymous said...

I would be more impressed with these voters if they voted a consistent ethic of life with respect to anything OUT of the womb.


Mark said...

(By the way, Kmiec is a strong conservative, not a typical liberal!)

This is the one good part I see in this.

If this sort of cruelty, this perversion of God's Law of Grace happens to enough self-identifying conservatives, as well as self-identifying liberals, we'll begin to see more clearly that it isn't about being conservative, but about being insecure, terrified of the different, hate-filled.

"Conservative" in its essence is good -- it conserves the precious.

"Liberal" in its essence is good -- it liberates the mind and soul.

Both are threatened by a totalitarianism of mind and soul that destroys the precious.

Arkansas Hillbilly said...

Sadly, I've heard of this before. I've been listening to the local "Relevant Radio" catholic radio station and find it anything but. Something I heard from them two days ago is that the American Council of Bishops is planning to address the subject of "pro-choice" RC polititians and whether or not they can recieve communion in their meeting next year. How sad is that?

Fred Schwartz said...

I beg your indulgence for another story. My wife and I shared our church goings early in our marriage. We would attend RC one week and Piskie the next. Sometimes we would go to both on the same day.
Once upon a time there was an RC priest I knew as "Old Blood and Guts". I knew him from my seminary days (another long story). He was a radical holdover from pre-
Vatican II days that just really never got the message.Anyway, it was his turn in the barrel and his sermon was particularly pointed. He got to the point that ONLY RCs are in heaven AND that all my wifes relatives were burning in hell. This came as more than just a shock to a person who believed that her relatives were good, honest, God-fearing people who lived Christian lives, and, who by the way was pretty well convinced that most (maybe all) her relatives were enjoying eternal life with their Creator. She was sooo angry she did not set foot inside an RC church for a verrrry long time and to this day I hear this every time the RC church comes up.
Now, I knew this guy and was well aware he was "off the hook". Much like many of our Conealone friends todday but I just did not see the sermon coming and Wowsers! But, it is a perfect example that every church has clergy out of step with the doctrines and disciplines of the denomination.
BTW, bet he was sure surprised when he met "Wilma's" relatives. Oh, maybe he didn't get there!

Anonymous said...

Just a practical note. Voter guides are ok. Sermons on issues are ok. But if this priest actually refused this man communion on the publicly stated grounds that he was supporting Obama, that crosses a line. The IRS ought to be breathing down this priest's neck.

Anonymous said...

Read the article, Scott. The priest gave his sermon about how evil this guy was and THEN denied him communion....all for the stated reason.


Марко said...

A good book on this painful topic is "Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation" by Miroslav Volf

James David Walley said...

Paul MacDonald, a retired social worker mingling over coffee after Mass at Holy Rosary, said he had voted for Mr. Kerry four years ago and Mrs. Clinton in the primary but now planned to vote for Mr. McCain because of 'the life issue.'

Uh...Mr. MacDonald, you do realize that Senator Obama's position on "the life issue" is exactly the same as those of Senator Clinton and Senator Kerry, both of whom you did vote for, right?

So what's different this time? Might it be not so much the "life issue" and more the "light issue" (as in "Senator Obama's skin color isn't light enough")?

David said...

This just illustrates why I have so little respect for the "neo con" sort of Christian Conservative - the blatant hypocrisy of it all.

Pro-Life/Pro-Death, denying the existence of God's grace,... everything is just a thin veneer of religiosity over their socio-political beliefs.

And they accuse us of bending to cultural whims :P Gits.

FranIAm said...

I went out and bought Kmiec's book that was published this week... I am halfway through.

It is outstanding.