I want to offer my public support for Fr. Joseph Illo in San Francisco at Star of the Sea (beautiful title). He wrote about a tough call he had to make as pastor. HERE
The basics: A women took her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s to Mass. The old mother took the Host out of her mouth and dropped it on the paten. The priest at the parish suggested that it was no longer a good idea for her mother to receive Communion since she didn’t seem to understand what she was receiving. The daughter, a product of Catholic schools but poorly catechized (as usual) got mad at the pastor when he called her to explain.
Let’s pick up Fr. Illo’s post… my emphases:
I’m sorry that I must be blunt, but most Catholics don’t believe in the Eucharist for the simple reason that most clergy don’t believe in the Eucharist. At least, we don’t believe in the Sacrament enough to impart this faith to our parishioners. “Communicating the Eucharist” requires a lifelong commitment to hard work, sacrifice, misunderstandings, and marginalization. And so most of us priests don’t teach and administer the Holy Eucharist with consistency and conviction. If we did, more Catholics would believe in it. Jesus Christ taught the Holy Eucharist with conviction, fully knowing it would get Him crucified. In fact, most of his disciples left him when he insisted on it, as you can read in John 6:35-69. How many bishops today would insist on any Catholic teaching that would turn 90% of their friends into enemies? But that is what the great High Priest Jesus did. Thank God we have a High Priest!
I made another enemy today, and it ruined my day. The woman I talked with will no longer bring her mother to my church, and she will tell all her friends that the priests at Star of the Sea are doctrinaire, intolerant, perhaps even hateful. I knew it was a lose-lose before I returned the call, and perhaps I should not have even called her back. But on the other hand, she deserved a return call, and she deserved the truth. A priest’s job is to deliver the truth, even if he cannot do it very well. I tried the best I could, but my gifts of intellect and empathy are limited. May it not be held against me!
I support Fr. Illo. It is NOT fun to tell people hard truths which upset them. We don’t relish it. We don’t like having to do it. But tell the truth we must, because we are going to face the Just Judge one day. It’s our job to keep you out of Hell. If we don’t attend to that, we are going to be in serious trouble. As Augustine preached to his people so long ago, I will preach whether you believe or not because I want to save my soul. But, “Nolo esse salus sine vobis…. I don’t want to be saved without you.” We will hold your hand if you need that, but we won’t go to Hell for you by lying or telling half-truths or ignoring our doctrines and disciplines.
It is right to underscore that so many Catholics today have blurred or completely false notions about the Eucharist.
For many, Communion or Eucharist means “that’s the white thing they put in my hand before we sing a song”. It is, for them, a token of affirmation: you are nice, we are nice together. That’s about it. Then when they encounter The Truth about the Eucharist they become angry. That’s reasonable: they are being confronted with something they sense really is important and they get their back up because deep down they know they’ve been doing something wrong.
I don’t blame them. It’s not their fault.
I, like Fr. Illo, point my finger directly at bishops and priests, especially of the older stripe who have so screwed up our Church in these USA that I doubt our institutions can survive the tumble into the sink-hole how opening up beneath us.
Something positive is emerging from the stark divisions and polarization now taking place in The Present Crisis™.
Quite a few people are beginning to make real choices about their Faith. When they hear something strange, they are checking out the Church’s authentic teachings. They are opening long closed books. They are asking questions.
Also, younger priests are taking a stand and even denying Communion when warranted.
The situation above is NOT the same as denial of Communion to a manifestly scandalous and unrepentant pro-abortion politician. However, due care of the Sacrament is on the rise. That flows from witnessing the dire fruits of decades of neglect and misdirection. Some younger guys actually learned something about the Eucharist and they are taking their responsibilities seriously. Again and again these days I have heard of young priests taking a stand about Communion for someone, including that case in Michigan, but also some other cases that aren’t public. In the Grand Rapids case, the bishop backed the priest, thanks be to God. In some others, however, the priests are being crucified by their pastors and bishops.
They need support in prayers and probably material things due to the punishment they will experience at the hands of those who ought to back them.
Perhaps a prayer to a potential “patron saint of priest defenders”, the late Bp. Robert C. Morlino, the Extraordinary Ordinary, is in order. I don’t worry about the state of his soul, not one little bit. He was extraordinary also for letting priests know that he had their back. I recall one sermon he gave at an ordination when he riffed on Job and his persecutions, making an analogy with what happens when people in a parish attack priests for doing something like moving a chair or preaching on contraception. When the trials come, he said, we repeat with Job, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”, and he assured them that he was with them. He was with them when they took hell for preaching the truth in charity.
Truth is a necessary component for charity.
It is not charity to defy the truth of people who should not receive the Eucharist because a) they are too young to understand, b) they are cognitively impaired and do not understand, they believe but they are manifestly scandalous figures, d) they manifestly don’t believe what the Church teaches.
Can. 916 lays down that people who know they should not receive must not receive.
Can. 915 lays down that priests must not give the Eucharist to those who manifestly must not receive.
A priest is not being “mean” by denying the Eucharist. A priest, knowing the law and knowing the situation accurately actually violates the human dignity of those who approach and must not receive if he administers the Eucharist to them. In that moment, he instrumentalizes those people as if they are objects for his own self-satisfaction or justification or virtue signaling.
So, I support Fr. Illo. He did the right thing and he needs to know that we have his back.
You priests and bishops out there. Straighten your backs! You seminarians, start getting your heads into that place where you can suffer when you do the right thing. For now, keep your mouths shut and put on a smile and do your work and pray well. But start thinking about the days after seminary. Start playing out the scenarios in your heads now. Think of it as Propaedeutical Situational Awareness.
Lay people: Support your priests. Give them some kudos when they stand upright on the hard issues and take flak. Ask for their blessings and thank them in the confessional. Pray for them. Fast and storm the heavens for your priests.
And you ladies out there, please please please consider the Seven Sisters apostolate.