Communion as a Political Weapon

There’s a story in the Washington Post today about how a prominent law professor at Pepperdine University, Douglas Kmiec, a conservative Republican who’s pro-life, was denied Holy Communion last April at a mass for Catholic business people that he later spoke to at a dinner.

Kmiec’s “sin.”  He endorsed pro-choice Barack Obama for President.

Kmiec is a private citizen.  He doesn’t hold office.  His personal beliefs are in-line with the Catholic Church, yet he was denied Communion for what is obviously a secular political payback.

The Bishops and Priests certainly have a right to deny an individual Communion on the basis on sin. But many churches so rely on the not-for-profit status.  If these church leaders intend to use Communion to punish someone for their secular political beliefs, then kiss that not-for-profit tax status goodbye. 

  6 comments for “Communion as a Political Weapon

  1. June 4, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Dan, you just knew I’d have to comment on this one.

    So if a priest rightly denies Holy Communion to say, Ted Kennedy, because he is publicly and unrepentantly pro-choice, the Church should lose it’s tax-exempt status?

    The alternative would be to give Communion to Kennedy, which signals the faithful that you can blow off Catholic dogma and be a good Catholic.

    Granted, Kmiec’s case is less clear-cut. But one could make a plausible argument that as a public figure within Catholic circles, Kmiec is “giving scandal” by his example, and to give him Communion similarly misleads the faithful.

  2. June 4, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Let me refine my last point: in the context of the particular Mass mentioned in Dionne’s column, I think a plausible argument could be made for denying Kmiec the Eucharist. But in ordinary circumstances, not so — nor do I think a priest would do so.

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    June 5, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Kmiec is not an elected official; his only sin was to endorse a political candidate with a secular agenda different from the church. That crosses the line of separation of church and state. If the church is going to start denying Communion for something like that, they I wonder how Cardinal Mahoney or Cardinal Law could still receive the Eucharist for their sins in shielding pedophiles in the clergy.

    I recognize the church is not a democracy, but there are some secular tax benefits they receive. If they breach the wall of separation, then they should be treated as any organization active in politics.

    Catholic lawmakers have a obligation to all of their constituents, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Agnostic. Please check out the book “American Theoracy.” It gets into this subject in depth.

  4. Sean H. Mill
    June 5, 2008 at 8:36 am

    “I wonder how Cardinal Mahoney or Cardinal Law could still receive the Eucharist for their sins in shielding pedophiles in the clergy.”

    Watch it Dan you’re gonna make Matt angry. He doesn’t like it when he is confronted with the truth that folks like Mahoney, Law and his pal John Urell are pedophile enablers. Heck Matt still shills for the enabler Urell.

  5. Bladerunner
    June 5, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Dan–While I think the priest was wrong in what he did this hardly qualifies as putting the Church’s tax exempt status at risk. First, I suspect you don’t even know where this happened and it was not in a church as I understand it. No evidence of ratification by the Diocese. But even if it were in the church or was ratified, the Church is not endorsing McCain but having a clear standard that local Bishops can apply as they see fit. For example, St. Louis Archbishop Burke made it clear in October that Republican front runner(at the time) Rudy Giuliani would be denied communion in his archdiocese. It doesn’t have anything to do with the persons political party affiliation but the person’s position. I personally disagree with the application here and support the American Bishop’s position on people like Doug.

    Before you bring the IRS into this you may want to consider the potential risk for some African-American churches with a rich political tradition stepping over the legal edge with Obama as the Democratic nominee.

    As for the red meat on Mahoney et al that Sean snapped up, its irrelevant to the point of your post and not worthy of a response.

    Jubal—This college chaplin made a big mistake. This was a decision for the local bishop to make. While priests have the authority to withhold communion it should be under very limited circumstances, like if you showed up drunk uttering racial profanities. By applying this to not the politician but the layperson(and a pro-life one at that) the chaplin screwed up. he owes Doug an apology.

  6. Dan Chmielewski
    June 5, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Bladerunner — I certainly feel mixing politics with the pulpit is inappropriate even for the African-American churches you reference. A church in Pasadena was investigated by the IRS after the 2004 election because of a sermon in which the pastor held a debate between George W. Bush, John Kerry and Jesus. No endorsement of course for the Republican or the Democrat, but a perceived slight of the president seemed to bring on the investigation (no problem with all the megachurches and evangeicals praising the president though). The reference to Mahoney ties in with the post in respect to denying the Eucharist for willful sin; the huge settlements paid to victims seem to justify the notion of willful sin on the part of the Cardinal.

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