by Cathy Pankiewicz, St. Joseph, Missouri Companion
Those of us who are faithful Catholics and have homosexual children and grandchildren (many of whom have loathed themselves into near suicide) find ourselves in an unsettling place—yet one that offers us an exciting opportunity to speak for the marginalized in our Church. In light of the recent controversy in our diocese where a pastor denied the Eucharist to baptized homosexuals—living in a monogamous relationship and pursuing a relationship with God—one is left to wonder if this is really what the message of Jesus Christ is all about. What gives one the power to embrace selective scriptures and ignore the rest of the Bible?
Was the Bible really meant to be used as an arsenal of judgmental “stones” for people to throw at one another? Clearly, some in the Church want to do that, convinced that God is on their “side,” that any confusion we feel is from Satan, and that theirs is a “holy war.” These same individuals must be quite concerned about a recent statement from Pope Francis: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house to the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Evangelii Gaudium, p. 40-41). The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as to make moral decisions…he must not be prevented from acting according to his conscience especially in religious matters”(1782).
Clearly, there are some people who should NOT receive the Holy Eucharist. Those who do not believe it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and who are not open to that possibility should not come to Communion. I wonder if the priest in Chillicothe asked everyone in the congregation to abstain from receiving Communion if they were just “ going through the motions.” Did he ask all divorced and remarried Catholics to abstain as well? What about those Catholics who favor capital punishment or who struggle with issues involving contraception? Did Father ask them to abstain from the Body and Blood of Jesus so as to avoid scandal?
One can only hope that this event stirs the consciences of Catholics everywhere to recommit themselves to the belief that all blood is Precious Blood, that all of us are sinners and unworthy except by the Blood of Jesus to receive the Eucharist; that we do not choose our sexuality any more than we choose eye color; that people are lonely and crave relationship with someone who loves them; that all are made in the image and likeness of God; and that people who disagree vehemently with each other on the issue of homosexuality are expected to “love one another” none the less. The latter may be the hardest one of all. Most heterosexuals don’t hate homosexuals. The Church doesn’t hate homosexuals—but the dialog often seems that way.
Societal pressures are many. Some sadly lead us away from a relationship with God. But others can be a force for the good, and thankfully the Holy Spirit can be at work in a multitude of venues. A woman’s right to vote, desegregation, and the right to health care are only some of the outcomes of societal pressures that make this country a more Godly and humane place.
Finally, as Catholics, let us pray for one another. Let’s pray for those who hate us for speaking up. Let’s pray for those in our Church who just want this issue to go away. Let’s pray for our priests, bishops and Pope Francis. Let us pray for those who feel “different.” Let us pray that everyone who hungers can “come and eat without price.” Let us pray!