Sunday, December 13, 2009

For Thought-Crimes In The Catholic Church: "Just Go To Hell!"

When I was a kid (yeah, that's me all right), I followed all the rules of the Catholic Church as assiduously as the nuns taught me. After all, dealing with the rules of the Church was dealing directly with God. I never messed with them. And the most important rules were the ones laid out for the sacraments - especially Holy Communion.

The nuns told us that in order to receive Holy Communion, we should be in the state of "grace" - in other words, free from sin. Now, in canon law terms, there is venial sin and mortal sin. Venial sin was not really a big deal (although to the nuns, well, EVERYTHING was a big deal) so you could take Communion, even if you knew that you purloined a Snickers bar from Felix Linder**. Mortal sin, however, ranked up there with grand theft auto, rape, and killing your mother-in-law (caveat: sometimes only a venial sin).
But, as with most thing sunlawful, there was an escape clause: if you said a "perfect act of contrition" (to God) and promised to go to confession, you could get away with - literally - murder and still take Communion.

And, as with some escape clauses, this one also had a piece that was binding on the opposite side: since a priest couldn't read your mind before Communion, he could not refuse you Communion.
At least, that's what Srs. Mary Florence, Mary Benedict and Sr. Boom-Boom Bernadine* told us. I used the escape clause only once (or so I thought) after the first time I masturbated.
Roman Catholic Canon Law #916:

Can. 916: A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
There is now a renewed push to punish pro-choice members of the Catholic Church by refusing them the rite of Holy Communion and then, of course, making that refusal public. The latest from Randall Terry's group, Insurrecta Nex:

Beginning Wednesday, December 9, Insurrecta Nex team members will travel to 13 Cathedrals in 9 states to hold vigils and press conferences. The tour will finish at the Boston Cathedral, the seat of Cardinal O'Malley, the site of decades of scandal with the Kennedy and the Kerry families.

They will ask Catholic Bishops: "Your Excellency, if any Catholic US Senator from your state, or member of the United States House of Representatives from your diocese votes to fund the murder of children by abortion in any 'health care reform' bill, will they be denied Communion?"

What a way to tell people to "go to hell!" - literally.

Now here's the Catholic voter conundrum: what if the pro-choice candidate's opponent goes against all of the other ideologies the voter espouses? What if that candidate is inexperienced, corrupt, racist, or just plain stupid? Should the voter be forced to vote for the pro-life candidate? Should the voter shirk civic duty and not vote at all? Let's face it, today's social issues and politics are hard enough to deal with without being told that if you even think of voting for a pro-choice candidate you're committing a grievous sin.

Oh to have separation of church and state!

* Boom-Boom Bernadine may have been a fictional character in the wonderfully fertile mind of John Powers (Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?), but to anyone growing up Catholic in Chicago during the 50s, she was as real as rosary beads. "She could throw an eraser with the speed and accuracy of a bullet."

** Also from John Powers, except his full name was Felix-the-Filth-Fiend Linder: "Felix had enough dirt in his mind to apply for statehood."