Faith

What Does Denying Communion Really Communicate?

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San Francisco’s archbishop recently said he was denying communion for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her support of abortion rights.

If you learned your church was denying communion for you or a member of your family, how would you feel? The Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, said on May 20 that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be denied the sacrament of Holy Communion. He made the decision based on Pelosi’s vocal support for abortion rights, The Washington Post reported.

Many have given us plenty of opinions on this subject. I planned to post something on this a week earlier, but other things took precedent.

Cordileone sent Pelosi a letter about the decision. He said she could not receive Communion until she publicly repudiates her “advocacy of the legitimacy of abortion.” She must also confess and receive absolution for what Cordileone called “this grave sin.”

So a politician in America, a nation in which people demand and expect rights (based solely on what they want) gets punished by the church for advocating a woman’s right to choose? Maybe this is a good example of why a church shouldn’t step into politics. Pelosi, as far as I can tell, isn’t performing abortions. She merely wants to ensure women have the right to make that decision for themselves.

I see a huge difference between the two. But maybe that’s just me.

Let me say it now: I’m not Catholic.

With respect to my Catholic readers, I will also say that I don’t understand the mechanics of your religion. I was raised Southern Baptist. That meant when we wanted to talk to God, or pray, or confess a sin, we just took care of that ourselves. We didn’t have to go through a middle man for that.

I have never understood the idea of confiding in a priest when it comes to your sins, then expecting him to come up with the perfect “punishment” to get you off the hook.

Yes, I’m being a bit facetious here. But Catholics, I respectfully ask you to see that process the way that some of us non-Catholics might. It’s sacred to you; it can be a head-scratcher for those of us who have not gone through the Catechism.

Let me also say this: I’m not saying our way is better.

I know of plenty of Protestant churches that do things I disagree with. One of them, which I’ve discussed before, is the absurd and inaccurate rule that one must be baptized to reach Heaven. They base this silly notion on Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist. They insist that since even Christ was baptized, one cannot reach Heaven without being dunked.

“It’s Biblical,” they insist.

They ignore, of all things, the story of Christ’s crucifixion, in which Christ Himself promises a robber who was crucified next to Him that he would be in paradise that evening after the robber acknowledged Christ as his Savior. Clearly, there was no possibility that Christ could baptize the man. But Christ said the man would join Him and His Father in Heaven that night.

That’s in the Bible, too!

That leaves us with two possibilities: Christ was a bold-faced liar or baptism is not, in fact, the determining factor for one being saved.

There’s also the absurd notion that a growing number of Protestant churches embrace when it comes to music. Many churches are ditching traditional, sometimes tired hymns in favor of what appears to be ear-shattering rock concerts. Churches largely ignore complaints about loud volume and mock concerns about hearing loss.

I might even point out the number of Protestant churches that refuse to install women as pastors. Many will give women roles and responsibilities that mirror those of a male pastor. But they just won’t call the female with those duties a “pastor.”

Surely that little game of semantics must be enough to fool God, they must think.

I was once denied Communion in a Catholic church.

In my case, it had nothing to do with my stand on abortion. I attended the funeral of a co-worker’s loved one at a charming Catholic church. The priest gave a beautiful eulogy for the departed.

But when it came time for Communion, it wasn’t for Christians. It was a gesture for Catholics only. I’ve “officially” been a Christian, by Southern Baptist standards, since 1983 when I was immersed. I had prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” that one can legitimately argue is enough by itself before that.

In any case, for decades before the funeral, I was legitimately a Christian.

But because I happened not to be a Catholic, I was not allowed to take Communion at the funeral.

I didn’t make a fuss at the church. Instead, I respected the sacrament as they established it. But I wondered if the Catholic Jesus is somehow not the same one as the Southern Baptist Jesus. Or the Episcopal Jesus. Or the Presbyterian Jesus.

In the Bible, I’ve only found the one.

I didn’t feel cut off from God by that slight. But I did feel that at least as far as the church was concerned, I was not worthy to sit at Christ’s table.

Therein lies the problem with denying Communion.

I recently read with great interest a post by Pastor John Pavlovitz, a man I have quoted several times here over the years. I’ve spoken personally with John and respect him. In fairness, I may not agree with everything he says, but I definitely agree with his take on denying Communion:

The idea that any person, clergy or not, could deny someone access to proximity to or fellowship with Jesus, is and has always been patently antithetical to his message and to the teachings of the New Testament.

John Pavlovitz

Pavlovitz reminds us the sacrament of Communion is based on the “Last Supper,” Christ’s final meal with His disciples.

But Catholics seem to ignore one person who had a seat there: Judas. Yes, that Judas, the one who would betray Jesus and whose actions would lead to the crucifixion.

Why would Judas be invited? Christ knew Judas would be the betrayer. Yet Christ made room for him. Christ knew Judas would commit a huge sin. Yet Christ had Judas at the table, without Judas confessing even the idea of the sin.

“He bends to wash Judas’ feet, he breaks bread with him, he shares this intimate moment with him,” Pavlovitz writes. “Jesus’ invitation is never about someone else’s worthiness but about their belovedness.”

I can tell you that when I was un-invited from participating in Communion at that funeral, I did not feel I belonged there. I certainly didn’t feel “belovedness.” That church — whether it meant to or not — told me I wasn’t worthy.

The Church seems to be saying, in its view, that Pelosi isn’t, either. I wonder how many of the people who contributed to that decision are truly without sin themselves. I wonder how they would explain, for that matter, why Judas was at the table.

Whether you agree with the church certainly depends on your political persuasion.

But I suspect that all of us, at times, aren’t “worthy” to sit there. But I suspect we’d be invited to take our seat, anyway.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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