The Tyranny of Tenderness: Allowing Interfaith Communion

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing on My Head:

Edward Pentin writes here about the possibility that “in special cases” Protestants might be admitted to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at a Catholic Eucharist.

The debate specifically over intercommunion with Christian denominations follows recent remarks by Cardinal Walter Kasper who, in a Dec. 10 interview with Avvenire, said he hopes Pope Francis’ next declaration will open the way for intercommunion with other denominations “in special cases.”

There are several things which are troubling about this news. The first is the way the modernists attempt change. What they really want is open communion with Protestants, but they know they will never achieve that so they insert the thin edge of the wedge with “special cases.”

The tool they use to do this is sentimentalism and “tough cases.” So we are presented, for example, with a good Lutheran woman who is married to a Catholic, and with long faces they tell everyone how saddened they are not to be able to receive communion together. They tell how they attended the deathbed of the man’s mother and everyone else received communion with her, but the Lutheran woman was excluded.”

This is the tyranny of tenderness. If you object you are perceived as a rigid hardliner, a tough, legalistic, Pharisaical hypocrite. Everyone says, “Awww. That’s so sad. Those Catholic conservatives are so harsh!”

No one stops and uses common sense and asks why, if receiving Catholic communion is so important for this dear Lutheran lady, that she hadn’t taken RCIA and become a Catholic years ago.

If she honestly does not believe the Catholic faith, we accept and respect her beliefs. What no one asks the lady is, “If you believe the Catholic faith why do you not come into the church? If you do not believe the Catholic faith why do you want to receive communion?  No one likes hypocrisy. Why do you not only want to be a hypocrite, but do so publicly, using the Body and Blood of Christ, and why do you expect us to applaud this?”

However, if the murky world of Kasper Church such common sense and plain talking is not appreciated, and this is the second objection. Those who are pushing for change are deliberately keeping the conversation vague. The issue is not vague, however. The church’s teaching is clear and you should always be suspicious of those theologians who say, “Well, of course it’s more nuanced than that…”

Everyone accepts that real life is messier than the rules, but the rules are established to help make sense of the mess and move forward. If we made the rules according to the mess rather than the other way around everything would be chaos.

As a convert from the Church of England, I need to remind Catholics of a few home truths. This ambiguous, sentimentalists version of Christianity doesn’t have much mileage. The deliberately ambiguous language in order to bring about long term change is the tactic of the wolf not the shepherd.

The Church of England started to compromise on the little stuff with the “special cases” and ambiguous language and now the floodgates have opened.

Believe me. It begins with the fuzzy language and “special cases” and then everything else follows. Consider artificial contraception. It began with the Anglicans saying that married couples, “in special circumstances” with advice from their pastor might in some situations use artificial contraception. Now it is a sexual free for all and the whole concept of marriage is in free fall.

The Catholic Church must avoid yielding to the temptation of giving in on what seems a small matter in “special circumstances.”

It might seem harsh to exclude Protestants from communion, but every religious group has boundaries. Protestants claim open communion, but they have boundaries too. Most of them would not welcome Mormons or Moonies or Unitarians or Christian Science devotees. These people claim to follow Jesus Christ, but their theology is not acceptable so they would either be excluded or expected to forsake their false religion and join the Protestants’ church.

Furthermore, when you examine the facts you will also learn that in almost every situation the church already allows for pastoral decisions in special cases.

So, in the issue of communion for non-Catholics, we already allow for special cases. With the bishop’s permission at a family event like a wedding or funeral a non-Catholic may, in some instances receive communion. Also, on their deathbed, if a non Catholic requests the Catholic sacraments the priest is permitted to administer them.

I’ll finish with a very personal story. My own sister got cancer. She was an Anglican. When I went to visit her I took my holy oils and my first class relic of St Therese and learned that she had travelled to Oxford when Therese’s relics were on tour. She went to confession to a Catholic priest and he made an exception and heard her confession. She asked if I would anoint her and since she asked and was in a final illness, I was able to give her the sacrament of the sick. She planned to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes with my other sister–a Catholic, but she died the day she was to depart for Lourdes.

So the church already allows for “special cases” and we don’t need Cardinal Kasper pushing the envelope using ambiguous language and sentimentality to  make disastrous changes.

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2 comments to The Tyranny of Tenderness: Allowing Interfaith Communion

  • Rosemary McCloskey

    Thanks for the clarity of your presentation I already believed all this but your words have given me straight answers for those who wish to push interfaith communion.
    There are conditions for the reception of the Sacramnet and people are often unaware of them. We were taught years ago that there are three conditions Freedom from Mortal sin. fasting for the time specified by the church and the right intention. To me that is the most important one because what is the use of taking Holy Communion if you do not truly believe that you are receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ The rest should follow from this teaching. We have to have the faith to believe this and if we have the faith we should have no problem with the fasting giving due respect to the Lord and then we would not want to insult Him by receiving Him if we are in the state of mortal sin. However many people have not understood this teaching. I see so many aproaching Holy Communion while living in unmarried unions and never coming to church or confession except for a funeral or wedding.These people are in great need of teaching and evangeisation

  • Jacqueline

    @ Mathilda Miller

    It all boils down to the Word of God that says, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

    In the Catholic Church, those who find themselves in a bad marriage should apply for an Annulment which, if granted, would then allow them to partake of the Sacraments. People just don’t want to follow the rules….they just want everything their way, the easy way! We should all bow down and let the Cafeteria Catholics run the show! Sorry, but I love the Catholic faith and I will follow the rules of the Magisterium of the Church, the Catechism, which helps to make it the most beautiful faith of all.

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