Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on "communio" & respect for the Eucharist 

As for the controversy about pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion, we must hope that the discussion started will continue. This is not just about pro-abortion politicians. It engages the much deeper question of the connection between “communion” and receiving Communion.

To be rightly disposed to receive the Eucharist is to be in communion with the Church, which includes faithful adherence to the Church’s magisterial teaching. Especially in America where there is a multitude of Christian denominations, many Catholics have assumed the Protestant attitude that the local parish is simply their religion of choice.

The parish is the local franchise of the Catholic Church, much as they might patronize the local franchise of McDonald’s. It is further assumed that everybody has a “right” to receive Communion, just as everybody has a right to purchase a Big Mac.

Obviously, this is a severe debasement of “communion” and Communion. In the Eucharist, we receive Christ and Christ receives us, incorporating us into his body the Church, which is, most fully and rightly ordered through time, the People of God in communion with bishops who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

To be rightly disposed entails confessing whatever in our lives contradicts or compromises that “communion” with Christ and his Church and then receiving absolution. Sadly, the sacrament of reconciliation has fallen almost into desuetude in many places, and certainly not only in the United States.

One, therefore, must hope that the election-year controversy over pro-abortion politicians will lead to a much more comprehensive renewal of Catholic understanding and practice with respect to authentic “communio.”

Excerpt from Zenit’s interview w. Fr. Neuhaus “On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to “Communio” January 23, 2005.

Questions for further reflection and discussion:

  • To what extent have American Catholics understood the communion controversy in its proper light — that is to say, a question of the individual’s relationship with the Church and “in faithful adherence to the Church’s magisterial teaching”?
  • To what extent do American Catholics retain a distinctly Protestant attitude toward communion and their role in the Church? — Exemplified, I think, by Senator Kerry during the presidential election: hopping from one denomination to the next, receiving communion from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and appearing oblivious to the underlying meaning and implications of his doing so.
  • How have the Bishops performed in taking the communion controversy of last year to educate Catholics in their diocese about the meaning of (and respect for) the Eucharist as a sign of one’s communion with the Church?
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