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13 April 2004

A reasoned response to the Kerry Communion thing

Senator Kerry showed up at BF’s parish on Sunday morning.  We knew
in advance (how good it is to know the priests!), so we stayed away
from a potential circus.

Melissa Henneberger has a very excellent piece on this in the electronic version of Newsweek.  A couple of quotes:

…it was a relief to hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington
respond with a pastoral voice on the Kerry issue. McCarrick is heading
a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to handle
Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. In an empty meeting
room at St. Matthew’s in downtown D.C., where the cardinal led a prayer
service last Wednesday, he pulled a couple of dusty folding chairs down
from a stack so we’d have someplace to sit while we talked. When I
asked about Kerry’s standing, he seemed pained by the idea of turning
him, or anyone else, away. “I would find it hard to use the Eucharist
as a sanction,” he said gently. “You don’t know what’s in anyone’s
heart when they come before you. It’s important that everyone know what
our principles are, but you’d have to be very sure someone had a
malicious intent [before denying him communion.]” McCarrick is
surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. “It’s between the person
and God,’’ he said….

Though this attitude is sure to be criticized as more watered-down
Catholicism Lite, I don’t see it that way. At a less orthodox time in
my own Catholic life, a nun in my parish in Northern California
improved my understanding and appreciation of the sacraments through
the underused—and doubtless desperate—strategy of working with me
instead of turning me away. I had agreed to teach a parish Sunday
school class for second-graders preparing to make their first
communion—until it dawned on me that I would also be expected to
instruct them on the sacrament formerly known as confession. “I haven’t
been in a while myself,” I told her. “That’s fine,’’ she said briskly.
“Maybe you’ll go now.’’ Like her, McCarrick seems to feel that we only
get better if we stick around and practice.

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