In a deeply divided church and country, most of us long for voices that can bring us together, working for unity and understanding. Is it possible to have a discussion with someone who has a different opinion and not view the result as “winning or losing?”
Our current church drama involves the United States bishops moving toward approval of a document that would deny communion to President Biden and any Catholic politicians who are pro-choice. Most Bishops favored moving the document forward. This brings up a familiar question, “What would Jesus do?” For anyone who reads the Gospels, I think the answer is clear; he comes down on the side of unity, compassion, and non-judgmental attitudes.
Bishop Stowe of Lexington provides comments that are relevant here:
“There are at least three places in the Gospels that involve people thinking they know what is best for Jesus.
When they try to prevent children from coming to him, Jesus rebukes his disciples as he does, he reminds them the kingdom of heaven belongs to those they would turn away.
When confronted about the woman caught in adultery, Jesus stops the mob by reminding them of their own sins. We bishops have a wealth of material to offer in that department.
And in the garden, Jesus rebukes Peter himself for using violence in protecting him. Jesus does not need our protection for him to carry out his saving mission.
There is a reason the long-standing pastoral practice of the Church is to presume people present themselves for Communion in good conscience. We should reverence the mystery of God’s grace at work in every person, and the gift of faith present in every heart that seeks him in the sacrament.
Jesus is not a legalist. He seeks to draw people to himself. His arms outstretched on the cross and in the sacraments are where the saving occurs.”
When Pope Francis spoke of communion, he said, “It is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.” We say, “Lord, I am not worthy.” When I stand in line for communion, I stand in line as a sinner. What the bishops are doing by denying Communion on political grounds is disturbing because it models judgment, a lack of striving for unity and failure to hear Jesus saying, “that they all may be one.”
We find a sacrament being weaponized and politicized. For a moment, pretend that all 46 presidents were Catholic. Looking at their actions, decisions, and words, would any of them pass the test and be deserving of communion? We have had several slaveholders, adulterers, pathological liars, and those who approved dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, going to war in Iraq. Many have, through their political actions, cost hundreds of thousands of lives around the world.
If we treat the Gospels as a roadmap for living, the path to unity is clear. Leading compassionate, nonjudgmental lives is hard work, but possible when we recognize that we all have feet of clay; and when we fall, continue to get up.