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Should a pro-choice Catholic receive Holy Communion?

  11/09/15 22:09, by jsignal, Categories: life with god
Last Supper

A person who identified as strongly pro-choice recently asked me if they should receive Holy Communion. Here are my thoughts:

Thank you for asking your question, and I commend you for your love of the Church.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ can be challenging. Every one of us is a sinner in need of deeper conversion to Christ. That entails examining our lives, seeing what is compatible with the truth proclaimed by Jesus and the Church, and then having the humility and docility to do what the Lord asks (or to avoid what he forbids) via his Church (which has the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in the world).

That does not, of course, mean shutting down our brains and following the Church blindly. It means trusting the Lord, and obeying him, while still seeking deeper understanding of the issues at hand. The Church does not propose the pro-life position only because it's God's will. It also supports the pro-life position because it is a position rooted in objective, scientific truth: abortion ends the life of a human person. Even common sense and reason, devoid of religion and faith, can see that to be the case, especially in this day when we have such amazing imagery from within the womb. Most non-religious people would agree that we should not kill innocent persons, and who is more innocent than the child in the womb?

Our faith reaffirms that respect for human life by telling us that every single person has dignity and worth because we are all God's creatures. Both a mother and her unborn child, whether she intended to become pregnant or not, have equal dignity. To choose one of their lives over another is an invalid choice. The two are not enemies. Both must be respected and supported. With modern medicine and sound Catholic medical ethics, that is always possible. It is never necessary to directly kill an unborn child. There are always other options.

Holding that position does not denigrate the "rights" of women. In fact, I argue it respects the rights of all women--even those who have not yet been born.

Now, back to your original question. Should you receive Holy Communion?

Communion is actually a dangerous thing. As one article put it, it's a "matter of eternal life and eternal death!" It really is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. If we receive it when we are free of mortal sin, it has many great effects in our lives. It unites us to the community (a community that agrees on the tenets of the faith and on moral teachings). It forgives venial sins and gives us the grace to avoid sins in the future. It, of course, also brings us closer to Jesus. That said, if we obstinately reject some teachings of the Church or live in a state of unrepentant mortal sin, it would be a lie for us to receive Holy Communion. Receiving Communion in that state is actually a sacrilege--a very serious sin in itself. See these paragraphs, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53). To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor 11:27-29). Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion. (CCC 1384-5)

And this, from one of my favorite (ha ha, that's a joke... but it is a good reference!) books, Catholicism for Dummies:

"... Catholics who don't follow the Church's laws on divorce and remarriage, or who obstinately reject Church teaching, such as the inherent evil of abortion, shouldn't go to Communion, because they're no longer in communion. It's not a judgment on their moral or spiritual state, because only God can know that. But receiving Holy Communion is a public act, and therefore, it's an ecclesiastical action requiring those who do it to be united with all that the Church teaches and commands and with all the ways that the Church prays" (p. 107).

In short, I wouldn't refuse you Holy Communion if you showed up at Mass unless you were a very public person who has made their views on this known publicly and you were receiving Communion to make some kind of public statement (and I'd want to consult my bishop on this matter beforehand). Still, though, you might want to voluntarily refrain from Communion for your own good. After all, your eternal life is really on the line when you approach Jesus in Holy Communion. Ask yourself, honestly, if your stance on life issues is in agreement with the Lord's position. If not, perhaps that position should change? Trust Jesus, the founder of this Church that you so love!

I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I love the Catholic Church is that she stands for the truth, even when popular opinion and political will in each age opposes her. The Church was given the truth by Jesus, and she's protected it from errors for more than two millennia. We can humbly trust that she still does the same today.

You are in my prayers,

Fr. Jason Signalness

1 comment

Comment from: The Mewsh [Visitor]

Very interesting article that helps me understand things better.

11/13/15 @ 08:48
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