Monday, October 18, 2010

What the Church can't do

An alert reader has sent me something rather disturbing; a group of Catholics has created a petition calling for the Church to do something she simply can't do--consecrate rice hosts at Communion.

The petition's formatting is odd, but here's an excerpt:

Fellow Catholics, we need your support to help raise awareness and hopefully change concerning a Canon Law that in effect discriminates those born with food allergies. The Canon Law centers around the requirements of the ingredients of the communion host. According to Canon 925 of 1983 code of Canon Law, all communion hosts must be unleavened bread made of wheat and water � no exceptions. However, no where in the Bible does it say �of wheat�. It only says unleavened bread. Just like today, there were many grains available in Jesus� time. We simply do not know if the bread at the last supper was wheat, barley, or another grain. And after all, it was Jesus who said, �This is my body which is given up for you. Take this ALL of you and eat it.�

Up until a few months ago, our son who has life-threatening allergies to wheat had been receiving a specially manufactured rice host. We were fortunate that our previous parish priest used his pastoral judgment to do what he and we consider to be the right thing and give our son Holy Communion with the rice host.

However, we were recently told by our new parish priests that our nine-year old son can no longer receive his rice host, as according to the Catholic Church �a rice host cannot be consecrated� (see US Council of Bishops web site). We had to try and explain to our young son why the host was being taken away, which was a tough thing to do, especially when we nor the Church have any good answers. [...]

Now, the Church doctrine holds that full communion is the receiving of either the Body (host) or the Precious Blood (wine). So that is the solution that has been offered to us and is what we are doing now. However, only receiving one is not what the disciples did at the last supper. Jesus washed the feet of others, cured lepers, prayed with sinners � he welcomed all. Now, our son who deals with his food allergies on a daily basis is being separated out from the Church, the one place he should seek comfort.

I have asked many ordained clergy what they thought Jesus would do, since as simple as that may be, that is how we are called by the Church to live. The ones who would give me a straight answer stated they do believe Jesus would give my son the rice host. In my opinion, that should be the end of the conversation, but the Church is a Church of rules. We found a Bible verse that I wish the Church would keep in mind. It is Mark 7: 5-8, �These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.�

You can read the whole petition, which calls for a change to Church law, here; over seven hundred people have signed it so far.

Now, I want to approach this with the utmost sympathy for those who suffer from various food allergies/intolerances which make the receipt of Holy Communion under the appearances of bread and wine difficult or even, in extreme cases, impossible. This is indeed a difficult cross to carry, and many Catholics who suffer from various forms of gluten or wheat allergy deal with it on a weekly basis.

The Church has been doing her best to approach the situation with pastoral care. The option to receive under only one species exists, as the petition's author points out. There are low-gluten hosts, some of them extremely low gluten, which are tolerable for some Catholics who otherwise cannot receive the Body of Christ. Many priests are very sensitive to their parishioners who have special needs, and will ensure, for instance, that a chalice other than that in which the commingling occurs will be available for those parishioners who can't tolerate even microscopic amounts of wheat. Any lack of such sensitivity and willingness to accommodate should be addressed to the proper diocesan authorities.

But there are things the Church simply can't do--and consecrating rice is one of those things.

This excellent article goes into many details about why the Church uses wheat bread, and wheat bread only, as the matter for the Body of Christ. Suffice it to say that there is more than some vague custom behind the idea, just as the use of wine only as the matter for the Blood of Christ is not a mere human tradition. What Christ Himself did, we do; the Church takes care not to alter what should not be altered. The matter of the sacraments comes from Christ Himself; the Church is the guardian of these holy things, but she does not "own" them in the sense of having created them, and she can't change or abolish them, because she has no power to do that.

The petition's author illustrates the harm that can be done when a well-meaning but, perhaps, undereducated pastor sets a precedent that later leads to a grave misunderstanding. The child in question was receiving, for some time, a piece of rice bread when everyone else was receiving Jesus. The priest never had the power to consecrate the rice host, and so it remained merely bread. If the child was also receiving from a chalice, he was receiving Holy Communion--but if not, he was not.

The new pastor has quite rightly suspended the odd practice of feeding the child rice bread at Communion--and now his parents appear to believe that he is being deprived of Holy Communion. It's not possible to illustrate better the harm being done--because, again, the child never received Holy Communion under the appearance of rice bread--he only received bread. But the hurt feelings and sense of entitlement persist; the parents appear to believe that their son has a right to receive Communion under both species, not only the Precious Blood. Yet there are many people who cannot or who choose not to receive under both species at every Mass--and not one of them is being deprived in any way of Holy Communion. Should a person who is allergic to alcohol demand that the Church consecrate grape-flavored soda for him, so that he can receive under both species? Of course not (and I don't know anyone who would do that). But having come to believe that their son was receiving the Eucharistic Lord when he was only receiving rice bread, the parents now see the withholding of this as a deprivation.

I am sometimes asked why I have reservations about the prevalence of Holy Communion under both species, and why I think it would be better if, on ordinary Sundays, only one species were to be used. This whole situation illustrates one of my reasons: because when people are accustomed to receiving under both species, they begin to think that this is something to which they have a right, and that being asked to receive only under one species is somehow a lesser experience of Holy Communion. In fact, as Catholics should know, the smallest portion of the Host or the smallest drop of the Precious Blood contains the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus; it is not necessary to be able to receive under both species to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. But the authors of this petition, and indeed, perhaps many of the signers of it as well, seem to think that those who cannot receive the Host because of a wheat allergy or intolerance are somehow being kept away from the fullest encounter with Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament--which is so clearly wrong that it is painful to contemplate it.

It is my hope that the archbishop to whom this petition is being addressed, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, will use the opportunity to educate the faithful in his flock about the nature of the Blessed Sacrament, and about the Church's inability to change what Christ Himself has ordained. No efforts by any Catholic priest can suffice to consecrate invalid matter--and what a pity it was that the innocent boy at the center of this controversy was, for years, given a piece of mere unconsecrated rice bread in place of the Blessed Sacrament, when it has been possible all along for him to receive Christ--Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity--by receiving the Precious Blood.

88 comments:

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Should we consider sending the Archbishop a letter of support for the new pastor's decision? I don't see where his name is mentioned. Anyone know if Archbishop Buechlein would be inclined to listen to opposing views?

Red Cardigan said...

I think contacting the archbishop would be a great idea, Charlotte! I don't know any of the parish information, but even just a letter of support for Church teaching would probably be a nice counter to the petition.

John Thayer Jensen said...

My wife has coeliac disease and purchases from a nun in Auckland (who also has coeliac disease) low-gluten hosts. My wife is well-known to a lot of priests in our area now :-) She attends Mass about 5 times a week (her work means she cannot normally go on Tuesdays and Thursdays), so she gets a lot of mileage out of them!

jj

Katie said...

Something I've never before considered! Thank you for making us all aware!

L. said...

I always thought the rice thing was pretty stupid, for countries that don't produce wheat and have rice-based cultures. I wish they used rice hosts here in Tokyo -- it would just make so much more sense.

L. said...

"Stupid" in my comment above is not what I meant to say, and I apologize for its tone. I meant something more along the lines of "arbitray" -- Canon law does indeed specify wheat, but...Canon law changes sometimes. It's hardly carved in stone.

Erin Mc said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
c matt said...

Canon law does change from time to time, but not in all respects. The purpose of canon law is to implement the teachings of the Church. Canon law cannot abrogate a core teaching.

Using wheat bread is not arbitrary - Jesus often alluded to wheat as a metaphor for His body, and in the Eucharist that metaphor becomes reality.

Deirdre Mundy said...

On the other hand, if God had WANTED the Eucharist to be rice-based, he could have incarnated in a rice-based culture.

Abraham and the Isrealites did not HAVE to be the chosen people. God could have chosen anyone he wanted. He's God! He can do whatever he wants.... and he WANTED the last supper to be bread and wine, not rice cakes and saki.

**

Also, I really unclear why, if it's not just about picking a fight with the new pastor, you wouldn't just get your own small chalice and have your son recieve only one species. What's the big deal?

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Deirdre,
What I read for the language of the petition was that the parents believe it is their son's right to receive both the body and blood of Christ, which they seem to only acknowledge separately in the form of bread and wine, ie... if he only receives from the chalice, he is only receiving the Precious Blood, not the Body (but maybe I am reading that wrong). Oh yeah, and that Jesus would do it if he were pastor!

Nârwen said...

I know a couple of people who receive the Precious Blood on a regular basis . They simply tell the priest before Mass, and go to the end of the Communion line when it's time. That way, Father can return the ciborium to the altar, and come back with the chalice. As far as I know , nobody's ever had a problem with this.
Then again, we only have Communion under both species on special occasions, i.e Holy Thurday, Corpus Christi, etc. ....

priest's wife said...

Another great post, red cardigan!

I think this is an arguement for parishioners to really know their priest so he can accommodate them (precious blood only for this person- perhaps precious body only for a recovering alcoholic)

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Deirdre:

"Also, I really unclear why, if it's not just about picking a fight with the new pastor, you wouldn't just get your own small chalice and have your son recieve only one species. What's the big deal?"

Actually, this is what my wife did before she got onto the low-gluten hosts. There are several in our parish who do just receive the cup, and I presume they are gluten-intolerant, at least, perhaps coeliac.

At our parish they had four chalices. She had always to watch carefully not to go to a server with the chalice the priest had dropped his particle of Host into. In addition, some places she would go they did not serve the cup to the people, only the Host.

Not a huge problem, but she found the low-gluten hosts simpler. She does still make sure she goes up at the beginning. Some priests fumble a bit and the low-gluten Host can get contaminated.

And if we go to some large Mass, where it's not convenient to see the priest, she just makes a spiritual Communion.

It need not lead to a contest!

jj

romishgraffiti said...

If it was just a canonical law, that would be one thing, but it is doctrinal as well. See Redemptionis Sacramentum

L. said...

"Abraham and the Isrealites did not HAVE to be the chosen people. God could have chosen anyone he wanted. He's God! He can do whatever he wants.... and he WANTED the last supper to be bread and wine, not rice cakes and saki."

Bread and wine were the staple of the time and the place. Surely there was a reason for the incarnation in a particular time and place, but requiring a particular meal that just happened to be the staple at that particular time and place seems arbitrary to me.

(We offer cups of sake on the little alter of our household Shinto shrine -- I suppose we could offer cups of wine, but it seems like the local gods prefer the local staple.)

L. said...

Oh, and an aside -- allowing the alters of my partner's Buddhist/Shinto religions into our home and allowing my children to be raised in another religion as well as Catholicism used to be an excommunicable offense -- until Canon 2319 was abrogated by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

I predict someday the excommunicable offense of ordaining women priests will change in the same way, though likely not in my lifetime.

freddy said...

"L." From what you have written above, it's not clear that you have a good understanding of what the Catholic Church really teaches. You might want to read the following link. The relevant canons, from both the old and new Canon Law, are referenced.

http://catholicexchange.com/2009/01/22/115217/

Anonymous said...

Freddy, I would say that from most things "L." writes, it's not clear that she has a good understanding of what the Catholic Church really teaches.

Sorry, "L," but it's true.

L. said...

Hmmm, I don't claim to be an expert on Catholic teachings in general, nor a devout Catholic at all, and I admit there are gaps in my understanding the size of Rhode Island. But I daresay I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to mixed marriages.

"Can. 1366 Parents or those who take the place of parents who hand offer their children to be baptized or educated in a non Catholic religion are to be punished with a censure or other just penalty."

As I said in my comment above, it's still not considered a good thing to do -- quite undesirable, in fact. But the penalty is no longer set forth as excommunication. That's a HUGE difference.

Also, a Catholic can marry a non-Catholic -- even a non-Christian, as I did -- if he/she gets the proper "Dispensation of Disparity of Cult," and only promises to "make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church."

I couldn't get the dispensation because I couldn't make that promise, since I didn't want to upset my partner. His religion has to come ahead of mine, in our household, because he's the oldest son in his family, and I agreed to this when I became part of his family.

My kids ended up getting baptized Catholic, anyway, many years later, but I certainly am not doing "all" in my "power."

We were married in a Catholic Church by a priest, in what was essentially a civil ceremony with no mass or communion, and the understanding that the circumstances of our marriage would make me ineligible for communion. I accept this.

eulogos said...

What would you all say about the situation in Greenland in the late middle ages?

Greenland's climate did not allow the growth of wheat or the making of wine. So long as there was communication between Greenland and the rest of the world, hosts and wine were brought there.

But after the Black Death, no more ships arrived.
They started making hosts out of seaweed. They had some kind of oat bread, but could only make something which looked like a "host" out of the seaweed. They used the mass prayers over seaweed wafers and pure water.

Then their old bishop died. And some years later, the last priest. Someone who was in training but never ordained went on saying the mass prayers....

At the same time the climate was getting more an more harsh, as it was the beginning of the Little Ice Age.

Eventually the colony perished.

But those seaweed wafers brought home to me more than anything the abandonment of the Greenland colony by the rest of Europe.

Do you suppose God still gave them grace through their attempts to celebrate mass when wheat and wine were simply unavailable?
Perhaps not eucharistic, sacramental grace, but
and extraordinary replacement for it?

Susan Peterson

The Cottage Child said...

As a recovering Episcopalian, whose understanding of the Elements was that they were largely symbolic, I can see how easy it is to incline toward substitution.

That said, what I appreciate most about Church teachings is the clarity. What was once (to me, as a Protestant) a quaint ceremonial practice is now properly understood as a reality. I hope I am able as a parent to impart - with the help of the Holy Spirit - the fact of the sufficiency of the Precious Blood - as you said, Erin, even the smallest drop - to cover, entirely. Allergy and illness are not what will separate our children from that fact.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Susan:

"Do you suppose God still gave them grace through their attempts to celebrate mass when wheat and wine were simply unavailable?
Perhaps not eucharistic, sacramental grace, but
and extraordinary replacement for it?"

Yes.

I think it likely that wheat and grape wine must be used for validity - though I am not certain the Church has made this clear with absoluteness. But it seems likely. After all, water is necessary for baptism. You can't use beer, even though it has water in it.

But I am quite certain that those who receive what they believe to be Our Lord's Body and Blood receive His grace. That, after all, is what a Spiritual Communion does.

jj

Susan said...

If the host is truly changed to the body of Christ, then why would the ingredients matter? If there is truly the real presence of the Lord, then couln't it be cardboard? Wheat is an arbitrary grain. Fact is, no one knows what grain was used in the last supper. Part of what I love about the Church is how it has remained true to tradition in some things, but part of what I loathe about the Church is its utter inflexibility in others. The Church has adapted to the times in many ways. See the History of Blatant Corruption and Utter Ridiculousness of the Church. C'mon! The church has had some moments, and I think that's a pretty generous statement. Maybe this couple is working through the Holy Spirit to enact this change because that's what is meant to happen. Here's the Truth...I don't know, but neither do you. Walk a mile in the shoes of parents who have these allergies on their minds 24/7, who love the Church through all her flaws. Consider a faith filled little boy, who might be called to something BIG! Maybe this is his first fight to bring about a better world.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Susan:

"If the host is truly changed to the body of Christ, then why would the ingredients matter? If there is truly the real presence of the Lord, then couln't it be cardboard?"

The fact is that if the ingredients are not wheat bread and grape wine, they will not be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is fairly clear from everything in the history of the Church.

Catechism 1412, for instance:

"1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you. . . . This is the cup of my blood. . . ."

The Church appears unable to confect the Sacrament from anything else - at least that is what I understand. It wouldn't matter what was in the canon law.

It is like the whole business of the ordination of women. If a bishop says the proper forms - well, unfortunately, if the 'ingredients' for the Sacrament of ordination are a woman, then nothing happens. She doesn't actually become a priest. If she goes through the form of saying Mass, the elements do not become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Don't know why God chooses one material over another - but He does.

jj

The Cottage Child said...

Susan, not long ago, my reaction would have been much like yours - but I can't support them with facts.

"Consider a faith filled little boy, who might be called to something BIG!"...then a wafer - or not - won't hinder him.

"Maybe this is his first fight to bring about a better world." It doesn't seem to be his fight, rather that of his offended parents, and a misplaced sense of entitlement rarely amounts to a better world.

"Walk a mile in the shoes of parents who have these allergies on their minds 24/7" I have, I do.

"... who love the Church through all her flaws..." as Christ loves us through all of ours - it's not a simply a political agenda employed for reciprocity, is it?

Of course none of us understands, perfectly. I don't think anyone in this conversation suggests otherwise.

Red Cardigan said...

Susan Peterson, I would say that that situation is known only to God--we can't possibly know what He did or did not do.

Susan at 9:14, the ingredients matter because a)Christ referred to them before He used them, b) Christ used them at the first Mass on Holy Thursday, and c) the Church has continued to use them since then. Clearly there have to be *some* parameters--otherwise what's to stop the celebrant from consecrating the altar linens, the altar stone, and anything else in a five-foot radius when he is saying Mass?

Either the Church has the authority to do the things she does, or she lacks this authority. If she lacks it, then she can't consecrate anything anyway, and we might as well enjoy pizza and cola at Mass. But if she has this authority, then maybe we ought to listen to her instead of thinking that fighting against the Church is a good idea.

susan said...

one of the things I love about (most) Catholics is their ability to not take everything so literally. Not so much here. I only took a look at this blog because I am a signer on the petition in question. I can tell you that the priest who gave that child the rice wafer is a beautiful and Christ-filled man. You can go on and on about Jesus' words, but we all know that there are flaws in translations of the Bible through the ages. Yes, there are references to wheat, and blah blah blah. Brass tax is this: Jesus wants people to love one another. done.
Sorry, Red, I am one of those loathesome "Catholics, but..." people whom you describe on your intro. YOu clearly are not. This argument about the ingredients in the bread of the eucharist to me, is SO beside the point of what communion is all about. The devil is in the details here. The Lord is in the spirit. the spirit is telling me that Jesus is happy when people are gathered in his name. I really believe that he wouldn't really mind if we did, as Red suggests, have pizza and cola at Mass. I am not a cradle catholic. I have been Catholic for almost 20 years. I know how I feel at Mass on a personal level, and that is why I go. So I may be a "catholic, but"...but I daresay, there are a lot of us who would like to see some things grow and change within the church. Allowing some options for the host is one of those things that I am signing for right now. This seems like a pretty small change to me.

romishgraffiti said...

one of the things I love about (most) Catholics is their ability to not take everything so literally.

One of the things I love about the Church is that not only does it have authority in matters of faith and morals, it knows the limits of its authority, and the Church simply has no authority to change the matter of the Sacraments.

I can tell you that the priest who gave that child the rice wafer is a beautiful and Christ-filled man.

No one disputes this, but even Christ-filled men can labor under an error even when he has good intentions.

You can go on and on about Jesus' words, but we all know that there are flaws in translations of the Bible through the ages.

Even if we grant that for the sake of argument, all that proves is that there is a need for an extra-biblical authority protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Frankly appealing to flawed translations is arbitrary and recognizable when doing apologetics with muslims. That is, when a Scripure passages is consonant with Islam, the muslim says it's authentic; when it supports Christianity, the muslim says it's a corrupt translation. Well that's certainly convenient for someone determined to draw the graph before plotting the points, but it is useless for getting to the actual truth of the matter.

Yes, there are references to wheat, and blah blah blah.

I'd ask that you not be so flippant with a serious response.

Brass tax is this: Jesus wants people to love one another. done.

True, but frankly comes off as, "Jesus loves us, therefore I am right about this!" No one can be expected to take this seriously.

Sorry, Red, I am one of those loathesome "Catholics, but..." people whom you describe on your intro.

I think this is a very unfair characeterization of Red's post when she went out of her way to say, "Now, I want to approach this with the utmost sympathy...etc."

This argument about the ingredients in the bread of the eucharist to me, is SO beside the point of what communion is all about.

If it is such a small matter, then it shouldn't be that difficult to do it as Sacred Tradition tells us.

The Lord is in the spirit. the spirit is telling me that Jesus is happy when people are gathered in his name. I really believe that he wouldn't really mind if we did, as Red suggests, have pizza and cola at Mass.

Our Lord very much minds if we are disobedient to His Church which is unambigously clear on this matter.

I am not a cradle catholic. I have been Catholic for almost 20 years. I know how I feel at Mass on a personal level, and that is why I go. So I may be a "catholic, but"...but I daresay, there are a lot of us who would like to see some things grow and change within the church. Allowing some options for the host is one of those things that I am signing for right now. This seems like a pretty small change to me.

The Church DOES give options for receiving communion. Low-gluten and communion under one species. And that is just off the top of my head. I'll give the petition author credit. He gets one thing right: "Now, the Church doctrine holds that full communion is the receiving of either the Body (host) or the Precious Blood (wine). So that is the solution that has been offered to us and is what we are doing now." So, there seems to be a spirit of obedience. But then it goes off the rails with, "However, only receiving one is not what the disciples did at the last supper." There are alot of things in the celebration of the Eucharist that don't mirror The Last Supper exactly and suggesting that this part do so is arbitrary and the part that suggests that communion under one species is "being separated out from the Church" is pure rot and frankly makes pretty good evidence in making one species the standard.

Erin said...

I am envious that you are so assured in your faith. I am not. But I do know, without a doubt, that had Jesus been too steeped in tradition you wouldn't be blogging about an issue like what ingredients his body can and cannot impart. Jesus was a revolutionary and bucked the traditions of his day.

romishgraffiti said...

Jesus been too steeped in tradition you wouldn't be blogging about an issue like what ingredients his body can and cannot impart. Jesus was a revolutionary and bucked the traditions of his day.

But that is begging the question. Who gets to decide when something is "too steeped in tradition?" His beef was with man-made traditions. (And frankly, a case can be made that the "whatever floats your boat" approach to liturgy is one of the worst man-made traditions of the 20th century) The matter of the Sacraments is HIS decision which we have no authority to abrogate.

Susan said...

wow, romishgraffiti, way to pick apart every word of my post. You obviously take this very seriously. I stand by what I said. I was only being flippant with the blah blah in reference to the article regarding wheat references. Metaphor, people. M E T A P H O R.... I think it's interesting how some things in the Church are taken SO very literally, and other things are taken as a story, allegory, metaphor... The traditions of the Church are strong, and that is a bonus in my book, however, to think that there have never been decisions made by the Church due to political pressures or cultural mores of the time is short sited. If you have the argument that the Spirit is always working through the Church, and it's always right, then your argument comes to a screeching halt when you look at the scandals and corruption in the Church, some of which are going on today.

The "catholic, but..." comes from the blogger's "About Me" section, not from a post.

Two more things: your comment about the sacrement not being exactly like the last supper--BINGO!

I'm curious, from an academic standpoint, how many of you who oppose the option of a non-wheat host are cradle Catholics vs. Convert Catholics.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Consider a faith filled little boy, who might be called to something BIG!"...then a wafer - or not - won't hinder him"

Also, for the record, if he is ABSOLUTELY NOT ABLE to recieve even a tiny portion of the host, he CANNOT BE A PRIEST. Because the priest must be able to receive under both forms.

What it really comes down to is that NOTHING is preventing him from recieving the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. He can receive from the Chalice. Also, as other commenters have pointed out, even the tiniest portion of the host, a crumb almost too small to be seen, is COMPLETELY CHRIST. (I have friends who are wheat allergic and who've gone this route when the chalice was unavailable to them.)

--

I think this whole confusion comes from our casual atttitude towards communion. People received in the hand, bobbling the host as they toss it into their mouths. People gulp from the Chalice. We've stopped acting like every precious crumb and droplet of the Eucharist is our Lord and Savior.

And so, young people do not understand that EVERY LITTLE CRUMB AND DROPLET IS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR!

The sloppiness is leading to bad theology.

--

Also, the young man in question is being crippled by the adults supporting him in this. They're letting personal preference rule over doctrine.

I have kids with food allergies. They understand that they don't always get exactly what everyone else does -- and that it's a sin against the fifth commandment to knowingly eat something that will harm them.

If I ever have a Coeliac kid (and given our heritage, there's a decent chance of it--) We will go the 'chalice only' route or (depending on severity) the 'tiniest almost microscopic crumb' route.

God isn't turning his back on the kid. Neither is the Church. There are perfectly legitimate ways for this boy to recieve communion.

Demanding that the Church instead bow to HIS way is equivelant to demanding that the Church ordain his sister, or allow his brother to marry his boyfriend.

We do not get to remake sacraments for our own pleasure.

BTW--for the survey--Cradle Catholic.

Erin said...

I would ask that people commenting on the issue at hand -- communion -- please only speak to it. To state that the "young man" is being "crippled" by the adults supporting him is a really personal inappropriate comment. The "young man" is only a boy and just because you do not agree with what is parents are doing and would not do the same does not give you authority to condemn the parents, whom you know nothing about. It is one thing to engage in intellectual theological discussion about what is or is not supported in the bible. It's quite another to take out personal attacks. To do so speaks volumes.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Erin who is not Red Cardigan--

If the parents are teaching their child bad doctrine, and teaching that his personal preference is more important than Church teaching, yet claim to be raising him Catholic, then they ARE crippling him.

Because they're not letting him understand the faith, and they're encouraging him to implicitly or explicitly believe teachings that are NOT TRUE.

Later, he's either going to have to UNLEARN all this stuff, or be in dissent, or just be poorly informed.

To take it into a less emotional realm than Theology and Salvation and Eternity:

I homeschool my daughter. She likes math. She's really excited about it. She has this weird desire to be a robotics engineer, and we try to encourage it, because, hey, it's a good dream and Math is nice.

Imagine she'd somehow gotten the idea, through a well-meaning but clueless adult who didn't want to tell her she was WRONG, that 1+1=7. Suppose, instead of correcting her, I allowed her to continue thinking this, and to go through life thinking that 1+1=7, and that (as would follow from that premise) 1+1+1=14, etc. etc. etc.

She'd be living in a parallel math-world. Algebra, Geometry, Calculus.... none of it would make sense... Her chances of being an engineer, her relationship to Math, would be crippled. Because I, and other well-meaning adults, chose to respect 'feelings' over truth.

I like Math. I like Engineering. But in the long run, they are so much LESS IMPORTANT than the Eucharist.

When we tell our children lies, when we teach bad theology, we cripple them. Their job here on Earth is to Know, Love, and Serve God. You cannot really serve what you do not love, you cannot love what you do not know.

If you interfere with someone's ability to rightly know God, you cripple them.

WV: Esseser. "To Be: in Latin and Spanish. Weird.

c matt said...

Allowing some options for the host is one of those things that I am signing for right now. This seems like a pretty small change to me.

Well, perhaps you do not then completely understand what you are changing. Not only is wheat constantly referred to in the Scriptures for Christ's body, it also becomes a matter of the Church's understanding of her authority as mentioned above. If the Church can change that, what else can the Church change? Where does the Church draw the line? Which of Christ's actions do we take literally, and which do we not?

p.s. cradle

Erin said...

This is a genuine question. Why are you (Red Cardigan, Deirdre, Romishgraffiti) so emotionally invested in what one family is seeking for themselves? This family isn't asking for the church to change to Pepsi and pizza (or even rice hosts for everyone!), they are asking for a slight expansion of theological doctrine so that their son who is turned away from so many of life's basic activities, doesn't also feel turned away from Jesus. (BTW The child knows nothing of this campaign.)
I understand that you genuinely believe that a rice host can never be a true sacrament. Great... don't sign the petition. But why do you feel so personally affronted by somebody else's faith journey? I would like to understand -- so please don't attack me.

Susan said...

c matt, your question about what we take literally and what we take figuratively is one for the ages. We do a little of both, don't we. If everything was to remain the same, we would be in the same clothes, with the same morality of Jesus' time. We no longer have slaves, women can cut their hair and speak their minds. Yes, the Bible uses Wheat as a metaphor, but many metaphors are used that we don't take so literally.
Erin, I'm with you, girl!

Red Cardigan said...

Erin (this is getting confusing, as my real name is also Erin!), this isn't a matter of emotional investment in some family's private doings. In fact, if the family had kept the situation truly private, none of us would know about it or be talking about it at all.

This is a matter of standing up for the truth, and the Church has taught for unbroken centuries that the matter of the Eucharist is to be wheat bread and wine. On Mark Shea's blog, a commenter points out that the question of using rice was raised hundreds of years ago by missionaries to Asia, and the answer that was given was: no. Sorry. So it's not as if the Church has simply never ever thought of this before.

And, as another commenter at Mark's says, the Church has determined the matter and form of *all* the sacraments. When priests follow the Church's rules they indicate that they intend to do what the Church does. A baptism in which beer is poured on the person's head and the names of Thor, Gaia, and Elvis are invoked is clearly not a baptism as the Church intends it; a little boy being given a piece of rice bread at Communion is a little boy being deprived of the valid, real Blessed Sacrament, and cheated out of the experience of receiving Jesus.

The fact that you use the word "feelings" so much illustrates some of the problem, here. It doesn't matter whether I "feel" that the boy is receiving Jesus or not; what matters is whether he is, in fact, receiving Jesus or not. Church teaching is clear: when he receives a little piece of rice bread, he does NOT receive Jesus. This leads me to question why some of you are so emotionally invested in the perpetuating of a spiritual fraud against a child?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Erin-

1. Because a priest is being attacked for UPHOLDING doctrine. And we WANT our priests to uphold Church teaching.

2. Because the entire campaign is rooted in bad theology and poor catechesis. "Not wanting to be left out" is not a reason to change a sacrament. (Hence the comparison to women's ordination and gay marriage.) Also, the child is NOT being denied communion. He can recieve Christ under the species of wine, from his own chalice untouched by the accidents of bread. He is not being denied Christ.

3. Truth is important. The parents have been poorly catechized, as have the other signers of the petition. The answer is not to give them what they want, the answer is to instruct them (spiritual work of mercy!) so that they understand WHY the petition doesn't make sense.

The answer to someone who errs from a poorly formed conscience is to HELP THEM FORM IT.

Truth matters. Eternity Matters. Theology Matters. It's not like some local ordinance where you can write in an exception for the guy who's grandfathered in. The church doesn't WORK that way.

However, the mistaken petition is a teachable moment-- by explaining the errors in the petition, we can teach others about why the matter matters! (Every sacrament has form, matter and minister. If any ONE of those is wrong, the sacrament is a no-go)

Red Cardigan said...

Susan, Catholics believe that the Church is the authority as to which of Jesus' metaphors, parables, actions, etc. are to be taken literally. If Catholics decide on their own, say, that baptism doesn't need to involve water at all but just needs to involve a special party at which all the participants really truly *feel* like the baby is now a Christian--well, too bad, the baby was never baptized, not as the Church defines this sacrament.

And the Church has the authority to define and regulate the sacraments. Anyone who disagrees is free to join whichever Protestant church most closely matches their present state of emotions.

romishgraffiti said...

Red answered better than I could to the "emotional investment" thing. If it helps, read my responses with a Mr. Spock voice.

mandamum said...

It would seem that this is arguing for the child to be given a placebo in place of the real thing, since rice wafer will stay rice wafer.

If a parent had a child who could not receive a certain medicine in pill form, let us say, and needed to take it as a liquid--would it make sense to demand a placebo pill so it could be "like" the medicine the other children were receiving, even demanding that the placebo be mislabeled as "the medicine" (because that way you can get the placebo effect, I guess), or would it be more sensible to take the liquid form so that, even though the experience was different, the medicine was truly there?

Asking the Church to say that rice can be consecrated is like asking the doctors to say the sugar pill is the medicine--saying doesn't make it so, it merely misleads and keeps people from what they truly need. I think this may spring from a deep-down feeling that the Church is based on solely man-made tradition, and that therefore man can change those traditions. But if it is based in a God-revealed truth....

Susan said...

Yes, the church decides, and the church can change things---vatican II anyone? I applaud this couple for speaking out, and going through proper channels. They are willing to accept whatever happens, so why aren't you? Why not explore this? What is so earthshattering about this?

Red Cardigan said...

Susan, if the Church were truly interested in exploring different matter for the Eucharist, we'd all be intently following the story and eager to see how things turned out.

But the Church has, as the person commenting at Mark's pointed out, already considered the rice question and ruled in the negative. She isn't likely to revisit the issue.

And I can't help but sigh in frustration at the "Vatican II changed things--so why not now!" meme cropping up. During Vatican II the Church didn't change anything substantial. Any illusion that she did remains a fantasy.

romishgraffiti said...

As we often point out, Vatican II did not promulgate any new binding doctrines and did not change any old ones. We don't explore this because it already has been explored. A hundred years ago the Jesuits and Dominicans of Asian missionaries brought up the rice issue and the Church said no, rice is not valid matter. So the whole appeal to different strokes for different cultures went down the tubes long ago. As far as what is so earthshattering about it, well that cuts both ways--what is so earthshattering about a Church that gives us binding teachings and actually isn't just talking through its hat?

Tobins said...

How is posting a petition online "going through proper channels?"

I also wonder how Susan can suggest that the petition's authors "are willing to accept whatever happens" when they continue to rail against what has already happened. I imagine that they created their petition without knowing that the Church had already decided this question, but now that they have learned the truth they must decide whether they are going to be in communion with the Catholic Church or to join the many others who have refused to submit their wills to her teachings.

L. said...

"And the Church has the authority to define and regulate the sacraments. Anyone who disagrees is free to join whichever Protestant church most closely matches their present state of emotions." --->

Or stay and be a dissenting Catholic. It's a BIG cafeteria.

[For the record, cradle Catholic, and a vote for rice, seaweed wafer or pizza. This conversation is helping me better understand the whole "pants" debate, that brought me to this blog in the first place.]

Susan said...

L, what pants debate? Sounds mildly interesting.
And to whomever, this family is trying to make a change. There is nothing that says they can't give it a try.
I beg your indulgence for my ignorance, but I thought that before vatican II, you had to receive host into your mouth, not in your hand, all but the homily was in Latin, and until very recently, women weren't allowed on the alter at all, let alone girls as servers. I have even read it was a tradition that women could not hold babies as they were baptized. These are major and necessary shifts to me. The heightened role of deacons seems to be another big change. This is just my perception, but I'm sure there are some who will judge and pick it apart.

Tobins said...

"Or stay and be a dissenting Catholic."

Yes, that is an option, I suppose. But if one does not believe what the Church teaches, why stay? Why not be honest enough to call a spade a spade... or a dissenter a Protestant?

John Thayer Jensen said...

To answer Susan's question - not sure why she is asking - I am a convert. First 27 years, a 'nothingist' - next 24, a Calvinist - last 17, a Catholic.

jj

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Manning,

"when it has been possible all along for him to receive Christ--Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity--by receiving the Precious Blood."


I want you to realize that this young boy celebrated his First Eucharist last year with only the rice host because they did not offer the Precious Blood. The rice host was his only option. This particular parish just started offering the Precious Blood a few weeks ago after they took the rice host away from him. For First Communion, the family didn't make a big deal about it. They found an option that worked for him. They are used to that. Every birthday party, every class trip, every school function that includes any type of food, the mother is there to offer an alternative so her son can participate. Imagine being a 3- year-old in preschool unable to eat the goldfish crackers at snack time or an young attendee at a birthday party unable to even taste the birthday cake after the candles are blown out. This is what this family does. They substitute. The mother spent 4 years researching alternative hosts and called me the day she finally found one that would work. Again, because the Precious Blood was not an option at the time.

The parish could have handled the situation better. I was 2 feet from the mother when the new Priest told her the rice host would not be accepted for use any longer - while we were at her son's first football game. This was a few days after the school's first Mass of the year, where the Priest took the rice host and put it in his pocket in front of the young boy and refused to place in on the altar, with no previous conversation with the family ahead of time. You can imagine how shocking that would be.

I would like to challenge each of you to walk in this boy's shoes and not take the host at communion for one month. In fact, the next time you attend a party, don't eat the cake. Don't eat the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

Your blog has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn't want to know about Catholicism. It's a shame he can't be a Priest. From the day he was born I pictured that being his very vocation. I guess now we can take that away from him too. Thanks for pointing that out to us before we let him get to used to the idea. We will start right away pushing him away from that vocation and finding a substitute. Maybe another lawyer is what we need....he is very smart and loves to help others. He can sift through all the words that folks put in place to limit others. When the Arch Diocese come preach to him in Middle School about the need for Priests - he can raise his hand and say the Red Cardigan made it clear he couldn't be a Priest because he can't have wheat. Another sacrifice---but this time those searching for a substitute will be a parish that he could have loved and served. Jesus didn't judge the people - he loved them and healed them. I pray that each of us can find peace with this issue. The family isn't pursuing this just for their son, but for everyone like him. Let the Arch Bishop respond to them and let him guide them. That is his role. They have pursued this issue with the petition as directed by the Arch Diocese office. You condemn them for bringing this up....I condemn you for trying to shame them for it and I ask God to forgive me for judging you and your actions. And yes, I am Catholic. Mary

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Anonymous (Mary?) at 7:30PM:

It is, indeed, sad for the little boy, and particularly sad that they first gave it to him and then took it away.

But you see, the problem is that it doesn't matter whether the priest gives him a rice wafer or not. If he does, he may make him feel better - but he is only giving him a rice wafer, not Jesus's Body and Blood.

And he is arguably giving him something worse: the idea that the Eucharist can be just whatever we want it to be. This is not a very good gift.

jj

Anonymous said...

Should a person who is allergic to alcohol demand that the Church consecrate grape-flavored soda for him, so that he can receive under both species?

Actually, Some parishes offer a non-alcoholic wine to Priests who are Alcoholics.

Mary

The Cottage Child said...

I had a childhood friend who was a talented equestrienne, who developed a debilitating and potentially damaging allergy to horse dander. Never once did it occur to her parents, as far as I know, to demand that she be allowed to ride a goat in competition. Rather, they taught her to accept the reality, seek other fulfillment, and grow her athleticism in another way. She became a professional athlete whose name you would probably recognize, and now is a teacher of several sports to children who would not otherwise have an opportunity to play.

"I would like to challenge each of you to walk in this boy's shoes and not take the host at communion for one month. In fact, the next time you attend a party, don't eat the cake. Don't eat the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving."

All of those things would be a big bummer for me, I suspect they would for anyone. And then I would move on. And would encourage those I loved to do the same. That is the right and compassionate thing, after all. Praise God, it is no longer an item for our deliberation - it's been handled, and multiple options abound!

Celebrate with the Precious blood at Communion, a gluten free chocolate cake at a party, pumpkin flan at Thanksgiving...there's a solution, often a highly creative and beneficial one - or not, if one so chooses - to every problem.

This whole thing is starting to smell a little fishy - is it just me, or do people really indulge themselves in such a way as to abide in regret over pie? Is this an episode of Punk'd:Catholic Blog Edition?

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, good heavens, Mary. Where do I even start?

(Well, to begin with, I'm not a "Miss." I'm married with three lovely children. But don't worry about addressing me as "Mrs. Manning;" everyone here's welcome to call me Red. Or Erin. I go by both.)

Do you not realize that this young boy didn't actually celebrate his First Communion at all? The rice host was not, and could not ever be, Jesus. Until this young man took his first sip of the Precious Blood he had never received his First Communion. I find that truly sad! I also find it to be the fault of the priest who allowed the rice host to be used in the first place: there's simply no excuse for an ordained priest not to know that he could not consecrate rice and that the child was being duped into thinking he was receiving a sacrament when he was only receiving a piece of bread. That kind of sacramental fraud is hugely harmful to the faithful, and I sincerely hope that the archbishop will offer some private correction to the priest in question.

No one here has minimized the sufferings of those who carry the cross of severe food allergies. I can personally relate to the "cake" question, as I can't have chocolate (it is a near-instant trigger of my worst migraine headaches). I have known plenty of children with serious allergies to various foods, and I know what their parents go through to give them a semi-normal life.

But this isn't an issue of a good hostess trying to offer some foods that a child with a wheat allergy can eat, while still baking a cake for the birthday child. This is an issue of the Church's authority to regulate the sacraments, to determine the matter and form of each, and to answer questions about invalid matter or invalid forms which, if used, mean that the sacrament was not properly conferred. Baptism requires water; Confirmation can't be conferred with cooking oil instead of holy chrism. And bread made of rice can't become the Body of Christ.

No one condemns the family for seeking clarification from the archbishop--especially when they were so gravely misled by the priest who pretended to consecrate invalid matter. But choosing to do so via a public petition is not the same thing as seeking guidance and direction from the competent spiritual authority. It is, instead, a tactic designed to grab public attention and bring negative publicity upon the parish and the archdiocese (and upon the Church as a whole, since the laws about valid and invalid matter do not come from the archbishop and are not in his power to change).

The Catholic response, when one's personal situation seems to be at odds with some Church law or structure, is to seek to educate oneself, prayerfully and humbly, about these laws and their reasons, and to seek the wise guidance and direction of one's spiritual director, pastor, and bishop. It is not to demand that the Church change her rules to suit or accommodate individuals. The Church has already considered, hundreds of years ago whether rice could be valid matter--and she decided against it, because rice does not properly reflect what Christ used at the Last Supper, among many other things.

I pray for the family, that they will come to accept their son's closeness to our Eucharistic Lord in the Precious Blood, since this is the only way he can receive Him.

ricegrrrrl said...

Here's my two cents: In all my life as a Catholic, I have never been taught a catechism that even comes close to what you guys are preaching here. My children are following in a Catholic School, and I know that they have only very minimally discussed the Pope. I was never told I had to bow down to the Church's will no matter what, and I was never taught, nor are my children, that there is one way, or the highway (to Hell) as some of you suggest. I have been told by a priest that reconcilliation was not a necessary sacrament. I have also heard a priest say to not worry ourselves too much with the goings on in Rome. I have to say as well, that I cannot recall a homily ever discussing taking everything literally. I know the Catholic community in which I participate, and I don't know anyone who takes everything as seriously and as literally as some people on this blog. There are a couple who are more "strict", but I don't know how many Catholics would be left if you subtracted everyone who is not declining some items in the cafeteria for their "tray". If that makes us all Protestants, well...maybe that should be the subject of some homilies to the flock that wasn't.

L. said...

Cottage Child, did you really just compare receving the Eucharist to being a talented equestrienne? I think I understand the point you're making, but are they really comparable activities?

(Oh, and Tobins, I am plenty "honest enough to call a spade a spade." This why I call myself a dissenting Catholic.)

Red Cardigan, I wholeheartedly agree that "It is not to demand that the Church change her rules to suit or accommodate individuals." On the other hand, I understand why individuals still try, because the Church DOES change rules sometimes.

Red Cardigan said...

Ricegrrrl, I'm sorry, but you weren't taught Catholicism at all, from what you describe. The priest who told you reconciliation wasn't a necessary sacrament is essentially a heretic.

I have to wonder why some of you even bother to stay Catholic, if you don't think the Pope matters or that Church teachings are binding. If I didn't think those things, I'd get a lot more sleep on Sunday mornings.

John Thayer Jensen said...

You see, folks, there is only one reason to be a Catholic: because you know the teachings of the Church are true, and that you must be a Catholic in order to be saved.

No, I didn't say no non-Catholic will be saved. But if you know the above to be true, then you must be a Catholic.

And if you do not know these things to be true - why would you be a Catholic? Because precisely this is what the Church teaches. I could never join a Church that said that the truth is that the Catholic Church, and only the Catholic Church, is given to the world by God so that the men and women can be saved - unless I believed it to be true.

When I became a Catholic, the statement of faith I made was:

"I believe and hold what the Church believes and teaches."

Note the assymetry there. The Church does the teaching; I do the holding.

To talk about the Church changing matters of discipline is one thing. The Church could - in some cases, does - allow priests to be married. It cannot make a woman a priest, any more than it can abolish gravity.

And the Church can allow the laity to receive the Cup. What it cannot do, any more than it can abolish gravity, is to say that a rice wafer has become the Body of Christ - when it hasn't.

jj

The Cottage Child said...

"Cottage Child, did you really just compare receving the Eucharist to being a talented equestrienne? I think I understand the point you're making, but are they really comparable activities?"

Ha - goodness no - I am quite certain the activities aren't comparable, sorry if I wasn't clear. I was comparing - ahem - allergies to allergies.

It was merely an example, in order to make a point regarding the spiritual futility of perceived entitlement, and the waste of potential if a person chooses to let his circumstances define him. Most especially when other options, Perfect options in the instance of Communion, are available.

Tobins said...

The petition itself as well as the remarks by several commenters (such as Susan, L, Erin not Red, Mary, ricegrrrrl) make it clear that there has been a lot of lousy catechesis in the Church in the past 20-40 years. Even the priest who pretended that a rice host was Jesus may have been a victim of the poor formation so many of us received.

By the grace of God, some of us have come to realize that we did not receive the truth from those who were charged with teaching us the faith and we have done (and continue to do) what Erin/Red suggests... educate ourselves about the Church's teachings with the help of authentically Catholic materials and people.

Sadly, others refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that perhaps something was not communicated properly at some point or that they misunderstood something. God gives us the free will to decide to ignore all the warning signs put in front of us, but since the stakes are so high for our eternal souls, it doesn't seem prudent to continue to say "I wasn't taught that" or "a priest told me this" as if that settles the matter.

(Oh, and L, one can't claim to be Catholic unless one believes what the Church teaches. Not some of it, but all of it. Not only when we understand it, but all the time. So calling yourself a dissenting Catholic really isn't honest at all.)

eulogos said...

Just as the "Erin" posting here is not Erin Manning, aka Red Cardigan, the "Susan" posting here is not
Susan Peterson aka eulogos, except for the one comment which I signed with my full name.
I just wanted to make that clear.

I have certainly wondered sometimes WHY the Church has been so insistent on wheat rather than allowing rice in cultures where rice is the main starch/protein food instead of wheat bread.
I have speculated that it is because it echoes the particularity of the Incarnation; God became a particular man in a particular time and place, and wheat bread is what He used. All attempts to abstract from that particularity lead us towards a kind of generic idea of a spiritualized human being and away from the one God made man who "suffered under Pontius Pilate."

Regardless of my speculations, I could not believe at all if I did not believe in a divinely established Church, and that Church tells me the host must be wheat. QED.

When I became a Catholic I said "I Susan Peterson, enlightened by divine grace, and touching with my hand these Holy Gospels, profess the faith which the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church teaches. I believe that Church to be the one true Church which Jesus Christ established on earth, to which I adhere with all my heart.
I went on to profess belief in the infallibility of the Pope, seven sacraments, the Apostles Creed.
and ended with "And anything else which She (The Catholic Church) defines and declares I do believe, and I renounce every heresy and schism which She condemns."

That made things pretty clear.

All along the little boy could have felt special by receiving the chalice. The old priest was misguided in what he did. The new one might have handled the issue better by saying to the mother that he wasn't comfortable with the rice host and that he would be glad to meet her later and talk about it, but at this mass he would offer her son the chalice...and then done that in a kind and graceful way.

I am sorry the little boy cannot become a priest unless he outgrows his inability to handle even a small amount of wheat. I presume that knowing this, God would not call him to the priesthood. He might call him to be a deacon, or a monk, or to serve Him and other people in a secular vocation. For each person the vocation to which he is called is the best. So this is nothing to fret about.

Susan Peterson

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Susan Peterson:

'I have speculated that it is because it echoes the particularity of the Incarnation; God became a particular man in a particular time and place, and wheat bread is what He used. All attempts to abstract from that particularity lead us towards a kind of generic idea of a spiritualized human being and away from the one God made man who "suffered under Pontius Pilate."'

Thank you, Susan, for this. I have been groping after this in my head since this discussion started and I think you have, indeed, put your finger on the reason for so much in the Church. The incarnation means particularity - and that means that some things are different from other things.

jj

L. said...

"... one can't claim to be Catholic unless one believes what the Church teaches."

One can't be a good Catholic, a devout Catholic, a Catholic in full communion with the Church unless one what believes what the Church teaches. This is true. One can only be a dissenting Catholic, a "cafeteria" Catholic, a "Catholic, but."

If one is baptized a Catholic, one is a Catholic. Even an excommunicated Catholic is still technically required to attend mass.

susan said...

Well, shoot. I have to say that I, like ricegirl, have apparently had some pretty lousy catechists, too. The priest who confirmed me was pretty loosey goosey about confession. Of course, a few years after my confirmation, he was arrested for exposing himself to a policeman at a rest stop...but he was a great priest, and I've never known another priest who was such an eloquent speaker. The priest who baptised my daughter, and the priest who married my husband and myself have both left the priesthood, one because of sexual relationship with a 16 year old girl. And my children, who also go to Catholic school, only know the Pope's name because it's said at Mass during the prayer of the faithful. As far as I've seen, they rarely, if ever, get heavy on the "rules" about what makes a "true" catholic or not. I think that ricegirl's point... is that many "catholics" are just that...catholics with air quotes. I like being that kind of Catholic, because frankly, if I had been told at RCIA that it was all or nothing. I would've looked somewhere else. I don't recall any homily regarding following Rome. I know that some parishes do things more seriously than others. I would say my parish is middle of the road. So there is a LOT of inconsistency in the Church. How is this "allowed" to happen in the one and only church? You can't deny that if we took a poll of Catholics, VERY FEW would say, "Yes, I take EVERY last bit of the catechism to heart, and if I deviate from it, I am in sin and not truly Catholic". You'd lose lots of the women (and men) right off the bat for using artificial birth control.

One last thing... HERETIC? sheesh. The 15th century called, and it wants it's word back... there's a protestant burning it would like to attend.

romishgraffiti said...

From our current Catechism:

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."

-------

Poor catechesis is entirely curable. Just pick up a copy of the CCC (Or the smaller Compendium) and start reading. It may not change minds, but at least those minds will actually know what they are rejecting.

L. said...

There's no excuse for blaming "poor catechists" in the age of the Internet -- so much can be found online. Yes, it is great to understand exactly what one is rejecting -- better to be a "contracepting Catholic" who has actually read Humanae Vitae.

I like Erin's description of "Catholic, but..." Except my kids would probably think I'm saying, "Catholic butt," and giggle.

Donna J. said...

Off-topic here, but anecdotally speaking I have never met a single contracepting Catholic who has actually read Humanae Vitae. Not one.

L. said...

Donna J., you have met at least on the Internet.

Tony said...

This reminds me of a story I heard about a little girl suffering from celiac disease who was about to make her First Communion.

She was instructed, rightly so, that the precious blood contained the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. This means that the tiniest sip gives you 100% of the USDA recommended daily allowance of Jesus.

She was going to be the only child in the class who would not receive unders the species of bread, until one of her little friends volunteered to do it with her.

That is true friendship. Jesus was smiling on those little girls that day.

I have yet to understand why adults have to make a big deal of something that's easily accomodated validly and licitly in a number of different ways. It seems to be an issue of pride and wanting things to be done your way.

Satan was the first to commit that particular sin when he said: "Non serviam!".

c matt said...

Why should we be interested? Seriously?

they are asking for a slight expansion of theological doctrine

Expansion of theological doctrine affects everyone. It's like saying why should you be interested in what the Supreme Court rules in some case to which you are not a prty that makes a slight expansion in the law? Because the expansion affects everyone.

And yes, those are eternal questions in a sense. Our difference seems to be with who is the prpoer authority to answer those questions - each individual, or the Church?

John Thayer Jensen said...

they are asking for a slight expansion of theological doctrine so that their son who is turned away from so many of life's basic activities, doesn't also feel turned away from Jesus

The question really is whether the Church teaches the truth or not. If it does, then you can no more expand theological doctrine than you can expand the law of gravity. If it really is true, as the Church says, that only wheat bread can become the Body and Blood of Christ, then it is true - and the Church can no more make it true that rice bread can do this than it can make it true that jumping off a tall building is harmless if your heart is in the right place.

On the other hand, if what the Church teaches is not true, then, all the nice things about being a Catholic - community, friendship, etc - notwithstanding, a Catholic is the last thing one should be - because one should not trust a Church that claims always to teach the truth but that, in fact, lies.

jj

L. said...

"The question really is whether the Church teaches the truth or not. If it does, then you can no more expand theological doctrine than you can expand the law of gravity." --->

The Church, like her followers, is always in the process of discerning the truth, and sometimes teachings DO change.

http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=23842

Red Cardigan said...

L., you do realize that limbo was never a defined doctrine, but just a theological concept, right?

The Church doesn't change her defined teachings.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@L.:

The Church, like her followers, is always in the process of discerning the truth, and sometimes teachings DO change.

Hmm... I would rather say the Church is always in process of plumbing the depths of the truth entrusted to it - and that whilst the understanding of some truths changes (as Red commented about limbo), and certainly discipline changes (e.g. priestly celibacy could change) - teaching - meaning statements that such and such is the truth and you must believe it as a matter of faith - teaching in that sense cannot change - unless, of course, the Church is not what it says it is.

I confess that, whilst I do not think it likely, the matter for the Eucharist looks to me like one of those things that, conceivably, could change.

You see, there are Church teachings that are so universal, so universally accepted, so unquestioned, that they are part of the ordinary Magisterium - and, therefore, to be received as true - but which have never been made matters of pronouncements.

The existence of angels is an example of something that has never been defined, because no one has ever asked questions about it.

The possibility of ordaining women is something that was universally understood for most of the life of the Church, but which, when questioned, was defined without question.

I am not aware that there has ever been any serious suggestion - please excuse the word 'serious' as applied to the petition in question, but I am referring to suggestions that have some large number of people asking, not suggesting these people aren't serious! - there has never been any serious suggestion that the Church should change its practice on the matter of the Eucharist.

If there ever is - if there is enough of a groundswell on the matter, for instance, or if a lot of theologians or philosophers begin to raise the issue - then I imagine the Church will speak. I expect the statement will be that the host must be wheat, but conceivably I am wrong.

Until the Church definitely speaks, however, obedience seems to me the only option of the Catholic who believes the Church is what it claims to be. Hence my wife has found a source of low-gluten hosts. Before that, she either received the Cup, or else did not receive at all.

jj

Susan said...

@JJ...this couple's son is ALLERGIC to wheat...not GLUTEN. there is a huge difference. he cannot use anything else that is available besides wine. valid? apparently, but not optimal in their view.

defined doctrine, theological concept, sheesh, it's more confusing than the tax code. hasn't that made any of you wonder, why does this have to be so complicated?

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Susan:

this couple's son is ALLERGIC to wheat...not GLUTEN

I suspect that is what is going on. At least I have never heard of anyone being allergic to wheat, but only to the gluten that is contained in wheat.

However that may be, I don't know that there is anything very complicated about it. The Church says it can only use wheat. The first thing about being a Catholic is obedience - that is, after all, why becoming a Catholic is called submission to the Church.

Conceivably - though I doubt it - the Church could change the matter of the host. But until it does, that's the situation.

There seems to be another underlying assumption here - that someone - anyone - has an actual right to receive Communion. It is part of the grace of God.

And this little boy can, as I said, receive the Cup. And I expect he could receive a low-gluten host. I think the 'allergic to wheat' business is just a way of saying he is gluten-intolerant, perhaps has coeliac disease (in which gluten intolerance coupled with the consumption of gluten leads to damaging the small bowel - my wife's situation).

jj

ScarlettH said...

The couple's child has a severe wheat allergy. NOT celiac disease. This child has allergies that are VERY severe. He has broken into hives from a kiss on the cheek from his father hours after he (the father) had eaten. They think it was because he had cheese on his lunch! They cannot go to any restaurants, he eats at a sequestered lunch table at school because this family doesn't want to inconvenience the entire school by banning peanut butter, etc. His allergies are severe. They have him tested often, and always with the hope that he will outgrow the severity. they have to practice CONSTANT vigilance. they are only asking that at church, a haven against what they face every day, they can work around an obsticle and let their son fully participate in the Mass. This couple is lovely and gracious, and what they endure for the sake of their boy is not only admirable, but I cannot even begin to appreciate how difficult it is. They are doing their best, have prayed long and hard over this matter, and they truly feel that they must ask the church to make this ammendment. You, fellow followers of Christ, are condemning and judging them, calling them Heretics and Satan himself! For shame.

L. said...

The limbo is an example of the Church's evolving answer to the question, "To whom is salvation open?"

The question, "What are the physical requirements for transubstantiation?" would appear to me, at least, to be subject to the same careful consideration over the centuries, with different answers unlikely -- but possible. I therefore would never blame anyone for trying.

"Until the Church definitely speaks, however, obedience seems to me the only option of the Catholic who believes the Church is what it claims to be." --> I would agree with this. I lack the faith to state whether (or not) the Church is what it claims to be, but I accept that the Church is what it is.

Red Cardigan said...

Calm down, Scarlett. Nobody called anybody Satan, and commenters were pointing out heresy from other commenters.

Regardless of the child's allergy, the point is that he cannot receive the Body of Christ in the consecrated Host. The Host retains the accidents of wheat even after consecration.

The child can and should receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord in the Precious Blood. It is not necessary for him to partake of Holy Communion under both species.

The piece of rice bread remains rice bread, no matter what the priest does. As I asked before: why would anyone want to perpetrate spiritual fraud on this child, by giving him a "fake communion" which is only a piece of rice bread, when he can have Jesus in His entirety by a single sip of the Precious Blood?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

"I would say that that situation is known only to God--we can't possibly know what He did or did not do."

Hear, hear. As a Protestant, I believe this answers the entire argument. The Church doesn't know. It just tries to do what might hopefully bring people closer to God.

It particularly answers John Thayer Jensen's pronouncement that "The fact is that if the ingredients are not wheat bread and grape wine, they will not be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ." I know it's church doctrine, but when did God say it?

Seriously though John, being something of an Arminian, I would much rather see you a Roman Catholic than a Calvinist.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Siarlys:

I know it's church doctrine, but when did God say it?

Well, of course the Catholic Church thinks it has the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit - so if the Church says it (definitively - I am a tiny, tiny bit uncertain about the definitiveness here), then God says it.

Seriously though John, being something of an Arminian, I would much rather see you a Roman Catholic than a Calvinist.

I'm an ex-Calvinist; does that count?

jj

Siarlys Jenkins said...

That's why I said it John, I am admiring the improvement.

But you also described rather neatly, and forthrightly, the reason I am not and can never be a Roman Catholic:

On the other hand, if what the Church teaches is not true, then, all the nice things about being a Catholic - community, friendship, etc - notwithstanding, a Catholic is the last thing one should be - because one should not trust a Church that claims always to teach the truth but that, in fact, lies.

I don't think your church lies. I don't accept that it is "the Whore of Babylon." I admire many strands of humanism which it expresses and teaches, and the good that many of its sons and daughters are inspired by their faith to do. I have found a good deal of fellowship with Roman Catholic in many situations. But I have found no basis to accept that it always teaches the truth. Since it claims to do so, I cannot join it.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Siarlys:

I don't think your church lies. I don't accept that it is "the Whore of Babylon." I admire many strands of humanism which it expresses and teaches, and the good that many of its sons and daughters are inspired by their faith to do. I have found a good deal of fellowship with Roman Catholic in many situations. But I have found no basis to accept that it always teaches the truth. Since it claims to do so, I cannot join it.

I think this is almost right - but where it is wrong, I would say it is seriously wrong.

The Catholic Church may not lie in this or that particular. It may have much good in this or that action.

But if it tells the one great lie - that it, and it only, has both the obligation and the right to guide men on their way to God; that all men who find their way to God do so, if they do so, only through the grace of God that comes through the Church (even if they do not realise this); that, in the words of the Catechism:

extra ecclesiam nulla salus

even although it is nuanced as it is in the Catechism - if these claims are not true, then, it seems to me, no matter what good there may be in the Catholic Church, however wonderful some of her teachers may be, however great her history, I have more respect for the view that she is anti-Christ, that she is the Whore of the Apocalypse - than that the Catholic Church is just wrong on one point but right on others. If this one point is wrong, then, it seems to me, we have a situation analogous to that of Jesus's own self-identification as - it is apparent - God in the flesh. If that claim is not true, then, however much good He did, surely they were quite right who rejected Him as a blasphemer.

So with the Church's claims to be the unique Presence of God on earth. If that claim is false, what matters it that others may be true?

But if, on the other hand, that claim be true ...

I remember, in 1993, finishing reading Newman's "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" and realising that, after all, the Catholic Church might be, purely and simply, true. You may imagine my emotion as I read the closing paragraph of that book:

Such were the thoughts concerning the "Blessed Vision of Peace," of one whose long-continued petition had been that the Most Merciful would not despise the work of His own Hands, nor leave him to himself;—while yet his eyes were dim, and his breast laden, and he could but employ Reason in the things of Faith. And now, dear Reader, time is short, eternity is long. Put not from you what you have here found; regard it not as mere matter of present controversy; set not out resolved to refute it, and looking about for the best way of doing so; seduce not yourself with the imagination that it comes of disappointment, or disgust, or restlessness, or wounded feeling, or undue sensibility, or other weakness. Wrap not yourself round in the associations of years past, nor determine that to be truth which you wish to be so, nor make an idol of cherished anticipations. Time is short, eternity is long.



Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine,

Secundum verbum tuum in pace

Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

John, you and Martin Luther could have gotten along fairly well - sort of like Saladdin and Richard the Lionhearted, sharing banquets between battles.

I am a frequent visitor at a Lutheran church I cannot join, where I am not welcome at communion, and have never tried to receive it, which also insists that it is THE one true church with the true doctrine.

I can refrain from condemning the Roman Catholic church, in the manner you urge me to do (if I do not accept its authority on its own terms), precisely because I do not believe ANY church is THE church established by God or Jesus Christ.

I see in both the Old and New Testament a record of fallible mortal man always, always, always, taking what God gives to us and getting it wrong, for all kinds of reasons, some sincere but misguided, some corrupt. I see value in people who practice almost any set of doctrine consistently, because the practice of that doctrine is a small fraction of what God truly has for humanity.

But there is value likewise to the way I think. I do get some insight into my relation to God accompanying an elderly Hispanic friend to mass, and being invited by an African American friend to a Lutheran church, and being called to join a Methodist church, although I was raised Presbyterian.

There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has erred, and often has forthrightly repented of its own sins. Picture Erin, on behalf of the Coalition on Clarity, sitting down with Torquemada to discuss the proper treatment of heretics. Consider John Paul II's public statement on the church's treatment of Galileo. (I know, that was a more complex episode than atheists and those infatuated with science as the answer to all questions have acknowledged). Recall that Joan of Arc was condemned as a heretic and a witch by an ecclesiastical court, not by papal order, but without papal intercession until many years later.

Consider one of the least disputed legacies of Vatican II, formal renunciation of anti-Semitism, spiritually as well as politically.

As to Henry Newman, whatever he found in the church he embraced, he is welcome to it. But as a modern praise song says "What God has for me, is for me."

susan said...

Thank you for that post, JTT.
I personally had a wry smile on my face while singing the opening hymn at Mass Saturday evening: "All Are Welcome"....

It didn't say "only those who do it right", Only those who are without doubt", not even, "only those who are Catholic"... "ALL"!!!!

c matt said...

hasn't that made any of you wonder, why does this have to be so complicated

Physics and chemistry are complicated, and yet are only a tiny fraction of knowledge of the physical world (and we only know a tiny fraction of those subjects). Why should we expect matters dealing with the metaphysical and spiritual to be less complicated?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

True that, c matt. And since the matter is so complex, so unresponsive to experimental testing of hypothesis, so utterly transcendent of our humble plane of existence... why do we humans attempt to concoct doctrines which render it "simple"?