Fr. Reese, Pope Francis, and denial of Holy Communion

Over at National Schismatic Reporter (aka Fishwrap), the Jesuit Fr. Tom Reese is trying to explain away Pope Francis’s take on denial of Holy Communion to Catholics who are publicly out of step with the Church’s teachings.

Reese’s argument is, I think, that if someone says that Communion should be denied to public pro-abortion Catholics, then that same someone had better be just as concerned about Catholic figures who are not sufficiently promoting “social justice” (and a liberal version at that).  Put another way, if someone isn’t pushing “social justice” (the liberal version) just as hard as his abortion concerns, then perhaps that same someone should shut up about denial of Communion to openly pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Be consistent.

We will see a problem with that, below.

If I am right about his argument, then Reese is shooting at prelates such as Cardinal Burke (for example HERE).

What do you think?   Here is the substantive part of his Fishwrap offering:


In On Heaven and Earth, the book [Francis] co-authored with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Cardinal Bergoglio wrote, “One could deny communion to a public sinner who has not repented, but it is very difficult to check such things.”  [Reese and other liberal Catholics are in a bind.  They like Francis because he is “for the poor” and he is humble (unlike mean old Benedict).  But now, alas, they must to deal with Francis supporting denial of Communion (even while admitting that that is not without difficulties).  How do liberals diffuse what Francis thinks?  They apply misdirection.  Read on.]

One should note that he said, “could” not “must.” [Reese is being a little cutesy here.] And as an experienced pastor, he stressed the difficulty of checking whether a person is “a public sinner who has not repented.” Many American bishops, like Cardinals Francis George and Donald Wuerl, have taken similar positions.

At the same time, Bergoglio said it would be wrong for someone to receive Communion who “rather than uniting the people to God, warps the lives of many people.” Such a person “cannot receive communion; it would be a complete contradiction.” [It sounds like Pope Francis and Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit (and the pesky canonist Ed Peters) are all on the same page.  HERE and HERE and HERE.]

[Watch…] In the book, the Communion issue came up not in the context of abortion, but of injustice. [Let the misdirection begin!] He referred to those “who have not only killed intellectually or physically, but also have killed indirectly through the poor use of resources by paying unjust wages.” [He did say “but also”.] He called them hypocrites because “in public they may form welfare societies, but they do not pay their employees a wage corresponding to their work or they hire them ‘under the table.’ ” [Again, sounds like Vigneron’s argument, but Vigneron spoke of Catholics doing something like perjury, because their public act of reception of Communion gives the lie to their public attestation of their Catholic identity.]

So if you are paying your employees off the books with no payroll taxes, Pope Francis would consider you a “pretend” Catholic suffering from spiritual hypocrisy and schizophrenia. He acknowledged that there are many such people “who hide within the Church and do not live according to the justice that God proclaims.” If you are such a person, he would want you to ask yourself whether you are ready for Communion.  [I refer you back to Vigneron.]

Archbishop Bergoglio was especially suspicious of “pretend” Catholics who were public figures looking for a photo op at the Communion rail. [VP Biden… Rep. Pelosi…] In such circumstances, “I do not give communion myself; I stay back and I let the ministers give it because I do not want those people to come to me for the photo op.”

Okay, this explains why Pope Francis is not distributing these days.  I would like him to take a stronger stand, but… hey.

Let’s now assume that Pope Francis really believes what he wrote about Catholics who violate “social justice”, who do not pay their workers properly or who cheat, etc.  It is easy for me to believe that Francis thinks that defrauding a worker of his wages is a sin that “cries to heaven”.  That’s what all Catholics should believe.

Do you think that Pope Francis would not have a similarly dim view of Catholics who publicly support abortion but who still go publicly to Communion?

Would Francis not think that politicians who publicly support and promote through legislation the killing of the unborn are hypocrites and schizo when they go forward for Communion (which is a public act)?

If you can point at “pretend” Catholics in one sphere, you point at them in another sphere as well, including the sphere of public support of abortion.

I think Reese is using misdirection by his juxtaposition of abortion with “social justice”.

The problem is that the right to be born is THE social justice issue.

I’ll bet Pope Francis would agree.

That is a problem for Catholics who want to downplay the abortion issue (that is, to maintain it as only a women’s issue or simply to ignore it altogether) for the sake of promoting a (liberal) “social justice” agenda.

That is what many Catholics who support Pres. Obama and Obamacare do, isn’t it?

Remember the arguments offered by Doug Kmiec and the other Catholics for Obama types? They pushed seamless-garment arguments and waved around shiny-distracting phrases like “common ground”.  They inevitably strive to deemphasize the right to life as the primordial social justice issue.

Finally, isn’t it true that most of the Catholic politicians who openly support abortion are Democrats?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. mamajen says:

    It seems to me that Reese is either misunderstanding or simply dismissing the public component of sin that would deserve denial of communion. Sure, there are all kinds of people who ought not present themselves for communion. Denial of communion is an entirely different story–the sin has to be manifest and obstinate. The particular examples he mentions (unjust wages, paying under the table) are unlikely to be public knowledge–if they were, the perpetrator would likely be in jail, not trotting up to receive communion at church.

  2. mamajen says:

    Actually, having read through it again, I’m not even sure I know what point he’s trying to make. Is he saying that people should decide not to receive communion if they don’t promote social justice, or is he suggesting that priests should deny them? Or is he purposely trying to make the whole idea of denial of communion seem so impossible and confusing that we can’t justly refuse anybody? What a weird piece.

  3. anilwang says:

    Even if violating social justice demanded communion be denied, it would still require that communion be denied to abortion supporting politicians. According to Catholic Social Teaching, social justice includes the following:
    1. Human dignity
    …Abortion violates this to the extreme. The Gosnell case is extremely common (see )
    2. Solidarity and the Common Good (of each individual, not “the collective”)
    …Abortion violates this to the extreme. Murder of infants never benefits each infant
    3. Charity
    …Abortion violates this to the extreme. Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me. No-one is more helpless than a child in the womb being slated for slaughter
    4. Subsidiarity
    …Abortion violates this to the extreme. Abortion is *not* a personal choice, it is a commandment at the moral level. Creating laws that usurp and destroy the family is not the domain of the government. Also, some forms of libertarianism is very much in the spirit of subsidiarity.
    5. Distributism
    …Abortion violates this to the extreme. Eliminating poverty by encouraging the poor to kill themselves is inconsistent with distributism. Note that Planned Parenthood preferentially targets poor neighborhoods, and Margret Sanger originally created Planned Parenthood to deal with “too many undesirables breeding”

  4. It’s arguments like these that made the word, “Jesuitical,” pejorative. Heck, I’m surprised he sent this to Fishwrap instead of just putting in Amer – Oh, that’s right! He can’t, can he?

  5. The Drifter says:

    After reading the article, I had thr distinct impression that – to paraphrase Machiavelli – some people’s backside is starting to throb in fear, at the thought they could soon be held accountable for their words and deeds. But, father, you’ve got my sumber by now: I’m such a bigot in denying cafeteria catholics the right to have their cake and eat it.

  6. Facta Non Verba says:

    Abortion is, of course, an intrinsic evil. Contrast this intrinsic evil with someone else’s opinion that you, as employer, are not paying a “just wage.” The free market will help to set the appropriate wage. If you pay too much above the market, you will employ fewer people or go completely out of business, employing no one. In theory, when the wage is set to the appropriate market level, profits are maximized, leaving you with more you can give to charity, which is good. Paying what someone else says is an “unjust wage” cannot be compared to the intrinsic evil of abortion.

  7. Eugene says:

    I have always had a hard time understanding Fr. Reese’s position on most things…on a positive note we cannot paint all Jesuits with the same brush..there are some very good orthodox ones…I live in Canada (your socialist neighbor to the north, AKA an inmoral wasteland) this past Sunday we were treated to a homily by a 5th year Jesuit seminarian ( now Father I don’t know if that is allowed?) but he was was very good, even quoted from the favoured Theologian of Pope Benedict, Hans Urs Von Balthasar and was dressed in black cassock and surplice. Our parish used to be pastored by a an invent your liturgy Jesuit but for the past 2 years has been led by a more tradition minded Jesuit. The other interesting fact is that our parish is now leading our city’s pilgrimage to the annual pro-life march in our Nation’s capital in Ottawa next week, they are starting the day off with a 4:30 AM mass before the buses are boarded for the 6 hour trip to Ottawa and it was later announced that this was being organized by the same Jesiut seminarian. SO THERE IS SOME LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS!
    St. Ignatius of Loyola pray for your spiritual sons and for us!

  8. Cathy says:

    I, for one, am tired of being forced to pay unjust wages. I am forced to pay unjust wages by way of taxation. I am forced to pay for abortion, contraception, sex education, drug education, sterilization, sex change operations and education system that makes people blind, deaf and dumb. My property taxes go to an education system that tells children that property ownership is evil capitalism and the world would be so much better if the government owned everything and then decided who was worthy of a home. My federal taxes go to a government that, hey, why hide from this, hates me and my family and my faith.

  9. Bob B. says:

    “… decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions…” I do find it interesting that most bishops prohibit unions in their own dioceses though they included these words in their 1998 document on social teaching, though they pay their teachers 20% less than their public school counterparts.
    Just like Canon 915, I guess….

  10. anilwang says:

    Cathy said: “I, for one, am tired of being forced to pay unjust wages. I am forced to pay unjust wages by way of taxation. I am forced to pay for abortion, contraception, sex education, …. ”

    Very true. If taxes are so high that both spouses *must* work to support a family, and a large number of them “can’t afford” having more than one child or take care of their parents when they are elderly, or do serious tithing, something is seriously out of wack. And if a large part of that taxation goes to violate Catholic Social teaching as outlined above, no Catholic in good conscious that knows the facts can support it. Granted, a part of the reason people “can’t afford” children is idolatry (worship of Mammon, aka consumerism), but a large chunk of this has to do with the state trying to usurp services that used to belong to families or Churches/denominations/religions, for example education, health care, adoptions, daycare, moral education of the young, etc. The side effects of this is that religions and the family are less valued and more individualism and crime (due to lack of purpose and the destruction of the family), that adds yet more to the burden imposed by the state. Unfortunately, this trend is increasing world wide. Unless things change, there will be a day of reckoning.

  11. DisturbedMary says:

    Every liberal argument is now going to be framed this way: we are all sinners. If you are obese you are a glutton. Sinners of gluttony should not approach the communion rail. If you smoke., you harm others. Therefore you must not approach for communion while you have that selfish hurtful habit. Of course this does not apply to medical maijuana. : ).
    If you are a cheapskate or if you are wealthy, stay away. The church does not approve of your sin.

    Didn’t Card Wuerl say he would not use the reception of communion as a hammer? Well that is just a proe tion of what they are going to do now for all sins.

  12. letchitsa1 says:

    I found the comments that followed the article to be the most entertaining in a sad, sort of pathetic way, most especially the liberals who were ranting at others about passing judgment and then proceeding to pass judgment themselves. Some people just don’t get it.

  13. Sieber says:

    Let’s see….Pope Benedict has retired & Fr. Reese has reappeared. When the cat’s away…….

  14. AdMajoremDeiGloriam says:

    “not in the context of abortion, but of injustice”

    Seems to read: “abortion is not injustice”

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Following up on Cathy’s comment, I wonder what scope of ‘surreptitous resistance’ is licit under which circumstances?

    This 1 May 2013 is the eightieth anniversary of the ghastly reception bishop Dr. Alois Hudel hosted in De Anima, as its rector, cheerily to welcome the Nazi regime, as so vividly depicted in chapter nine of Constantine Prince of Bavaria’s The Pope: A Portrait from Life (1954). Prince Constantine goes on to relate, in chapter 17, how Dr. Hudel, repenting of his earlier folly, later helped hide twelve men who had escaped from a concentration camp in De Anima, even having prepared a special hiding place with secret entrance behind the high altar…

  16. Nancy D. says:

    On page 117 of the same book, Pope Francis states in regards to same-sex sexual unions:
    “If there is a union of a private nature, their is neither a third party nor is society affected. Now, if the union is given the category of marriage and they are given adoption rights, there could be children affected.”

    We are called to respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the Human Person in public as well as in private.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thanks to Nancy D. – but how could Cardinal Archbishop Bergoglio (so seem to) fail to attend to “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Rrcognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” some seven years after its publication?

  18. cl00bie says:

    I would have to ask Fr. Reese:

    What of those Catholics who don’t give a full days hard work for their “living wage”? How about those Catholic who could work, but choose not to because the only work available is “beneath them”? What of those Catholics whose unemployment ran out, but are lying about a made up disability to allow them to fleece their fellow citizens?

    The examples are legion. Why pick solely on employers?

  19. robtbrown says:

    The problem with Fr Reese’s proposal is that it is general, and he likely has little idea of specifics.

    1. Sometimes workers prefer to be paid “off the books” for obvious reasons.
    2. Paying a living wage sounds good, but it also can conflict with equal pay for equal work.
    3. There are some situations of injustice that could be in a category similar to abortion. For example, someone who brings in immigrants to work in a sweat shop; drug dealers; cheating workers out of overtime pay, etc.
    4. What about the US Congress that used about $3 trillion in SS surplus to finance the US budget, leaving IOU’s (bonds)?
    5. Then there is the matter of estate taxes (esp. state not federal). To a certain extent there have been much needed changes in most states that increased the untaxed amount to c. $1 million. On the other hand, the estate is taxed rather than the inheritance: Given a $1 million limit, an estate of $1.5 million divided among 5 heirs is taxed, but an estate of $900,000 going to one heir will not be taxed.

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