It’s dangerous to write about religion, but here I go.
The tentative decision by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to place restrictions on the sacred offering of communion to President Joe Biden for his pro-life views on abortion strikes me as patently stupid. It politicizes a religious ritual that exists to provide parishioners of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal faiths an inviolate connection to Jesus.
Some years ago, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maryland pointedly criticized then-Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a longtime Catholic, for his views on abortion. If I recall correctly, the archbishop suggested that parishioners consider whether to vote for O’Malley. I was horrified at the archbishop’s audacious political intervention.
As former Governor Robert Ehrlich was wont to say, “Give me a break.” Said out of frustration, this sentiment echoes my attitude toward unseemly interference in politics. The Catholic Church should concern itself with its shrinking attendance and its views toward married and female priests.
It demeans itself when it feels compelled to punish a public official who dares to support a policy antithetical to church beliefs. It is hubris.
I admit that I have a somewhat jaded perspective. Having attended three Catholic weddings in our family, I chafe at the often-unwelcomed attitude by priests toward the taking of communion by Christians who are not Catholics. It’s a shameful shunning by the Catholic Church, a practice that my wife and I often ignore.
The proposed doctrine to block the Eucharist from politicians like Biden who have pro-life views flies into the inclusive nature of Jesus Christ’s ministry and words. He welcomed everyone, including sinners of all degrees of flawed behavior.
Far from being a student of the powerful Catholic Church, I have always frowned upon its forbidden and foreboding nature, its withholding of the sacrament to those it deems unworthy, its pronouncements about the human condition, such as the marriage of gay couples.
The Catholic Church said little or nothing about the morals and behavior of President Trump. Is the church’s moral compass tied only to abortion, a subject that consumes much too much space in public discourse? I would like to hear the Catholic discuss economic inequality, health care, racism, civility and environmental degradation.
Rather than spending 3-1/2 hours on drafting a document for debate in the fall to determine who should, and who shouldn’t be invited to the altar rail, the Catholic Church should focus on unifying our fractious nation, not further dividing it by arbitrary decisions about the recipients of the Eucharist.
Are Jesus’ teachings simply paid lip service? Is the Catholic Church now measuring and evaluating sin and determining that a political position on abortion or gay marriage or the death penalty warrants exclusion from the holiest act of obedience?
Again, give me a break and smell the sweet odor of change. Perhaps the bishops should seek counsel from Pope Francis, who espouses a far more inclusive Catholic Church than the small-minded majority of U.S. bishops.
Were I an unlikely member of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, I would urge my colleagues to take a collective breath and confirm the obvious: Joe Biden is a decent, church-going person who is proud of his Catholic faith and openly displays his devotion to his religion.
Praise, not debar him.
His political positions are just that. They are divorced from the church, unrelated to the invitation to every Catholic to enjoy the Eucharistic and its explicit belief in Jesus Christ and his open-arm embrace of all people regardless of their sins.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.