There are many requirements for being a priest, and upholding the Church’s teachings obviously is one of them. At St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina this past weekend, a Catholic priest had to deny holy communion to Joe Biden because his actions were not in keeping with the beliefs of his religion as a so-called practicing Catholic.
“Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Rev. Robert Morey said in a statement on Monday. “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching. As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers.”
Up until the age of about 30, I was Catholic. While abortion was never something I ever wanted to consider, it came up for several of my friends both before and after some of us were married. The funny thing was, back in those days, the big issue was really birth control. It was a given that unmarried girls or women could not even have sex, so there would be no reason for abortion to be an issue. (That’s the way it was back in those days.) But the even stranger thing was that for married couples who could not afford any more children — or perhaps the mother was simply not physically up to having more — birth control was still considered a grave (mortal) sin. That left only one “acceptable” way to avoid getting pregnant, and it was not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective—that was the Rhythm Method, which was a combination of taking your temperature to determine your most fertile days and refraining from sex during those days and a few more. The most accurate method, of course, was not having sex at all. That didn’t always go over very well for either one of them.
It’s a known fact that most Catholics do not obey all the rules and regulations regarding sex — as determined from the married couples themselves — and I often wondered how they still considered themselves Catholic under those circumstances. Yet they do, and many of them still receive communion anyway. I have never heard of a case where a
priest blatantly refused communion, except to a known outsider, maybe, who might be playing a prank of some kind. (Yes, priests sometimes have to make such judgments.) Yet that refusal, in front of the congregation, is just like telling all those who see that happen that he (the priest) had to pass you by because he knew you were in mortal sin (the kind of sin that could send you straight to hell if you don’t confess it and repent, according to the Church’s teaching) and he had no choice, as a priest.
I am not saying that Catholicism is too difficult to follow. Many religions are just as restrictive, if not more. I did not leave the church because of its restrictions; I simply did not believe in its dogma anymore. But back to the issue.
As a Catholic, I was taught that no one can judge another’s heart and/or their intentions. “Judge not, lest you be judged,” so I was told. There were times I was tempted to judge a person by their actions, but I’d always remind myself that you can’t always do that, not knowing the reason behind the actions. But judging, for any number of reasons, is what we generally all do. And what that priest, Father Morey, felt he had to do last Sunday.
Sex, when not engaged in between married-to-each-other couples, and predominantly for the sake of procreation, can in and of itself be sinful, according to the teaching I had as a member of the Catholic Church, along with everything associated with it, such as birth control—all kinds and any kind, even masturbation, and the afterthought of abortion when one realizes that one’s sexual act has resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. While I’m not an advocate of abortion, I know there are some circumstances under which they could be necessary or even advised, but I certainly do not believe in late-term abortions under any circumstances. And post-birth abortions (I can’t even believe that term has to exist) is nothing but murder and should be treated as such.
Abortion will likely always be an issue, probably a lot more than whether or not Joe Biden should have been denied communion. But people may be leaving the Church for reasons other than its stand on sex and/or abortion. We know that the Church’s reputation regarding sex has been anything but in keeping with its own teaching, yet we need to know that it is people who break the rules or the Commandments—people in any religion, and with any title, and we shouldn’t be surprised when the offenders are clergy, entertainers, sports heroes, movie stars, big business tycoons, or any other person with any job title or position. It matters not what their religion is.
So don’t throw the religion away (it’s the offenders, not the religion). God has no prejudices and I’m sure you can love him and practice the Golden Rule no matter what faith you choice.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.