By Bishop Dave Chikosi
I am not even going to pretend that this is not controversial theologically because it is. But I figured since both Catholics and Protestants generally seem to be now singing from the same hymn book vis-à-vis government corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power, they may want to take things up a notch in letting government leaders know they are not happy with the way Wakanda is being governed.
I am arguing here that a case can be made theologically for excluding from Holy Communion unrepentant politicians and public officials who stubbornly persist in perpetrating, justifying and/or enabling acts of misgovernance that are deleterious to the welfare of the general populace.
I am making the argument that the church has no business offering fellowship and spiritual solace to political actors who continue to abuse or support the abuse of the very people God has mandated them to lead and shepherd. What these unrepentant sinners need is not the right hand of fellowship. Instead give them the left foot of fellowship!
Pastors and priests are called to comfort the afflicted as well as to afflict the comfortable. Therefore clerics should exercise great care in their role of administering the emblems of the Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord. These should neither be administered carelessly nor consumed unworthily. The Apostle Paul in a letter to the Church at Corinth addressed the issue of unworthiness before the Lord’s Table thus:
“This is why you should examine yourself before eating the Bread and drinking the Cup. For if you eat the Bread or drink the Cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. (1 Cor 11:28-31)
St Paul is very clear: the communicant cannot and should not partake of the Eucharist while at the same time living a lifestyle that is dishonoring to the Body of Christ ie the Church of the Living God. Instead the communicant or recipient of the emblems must reverence the Presence of Christ that the Bread and Wine represent and/or symbolizes. Failure to do so can result in unexplained illnesses or even early or sudden death. Don’t mess with the Mass!
Clearly, the state of one’s soul before the Lord’s Table is critical. And that state is decided by BOTH one’s vertical relationship with God as well as one’s horizontal relationship to fellow human beings. The horizontal relationship is just as important as the vertical.
One cannot claim to be in communion with God while they are busy excommunicating fellow human beings. “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, how can they love God, whom they have not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
The Holy Eucharist, then, is but a celebration of a pre-existing communion that one has with God and man. This the communicant must have, long before they make the walk to the Blessed Table. This view is not only Pauline, but finds historical support in a homily on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah by an early church father named John Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407), Archbishop of Constantinople:
“I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called “communion,” not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but “condemnation,” “torment” and “increase of punishment”
In more recent times, various politicians in America have been barred from Holy Communion. Senator John F. Kerry, a Catholic is one. During Kerry’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Archbishop of St. Louis, Missourri,Its not altogether forbade him from taking Communion while campaigning in the area on account of his support for abortion
It’s not altogether clear whether New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) can receive Communion in his Archdiocese of New York because of his support for the state’s 2019 law allowing late-term abortions. There has also been discussions whether he should be excommunicated from the church altogether.
2020 Democratic Party presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden was reportedly denied Communion in 2019 at a church in Florence, South Carolina, where he was making a campaign stop. The Rev. Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church says that when Biden attended his church’s 9 a.m. Mass, the Reverend denied him Communion because of the candidate’s political stance on abortion.
Granted, the denial of Holy Communion is a bigger deal for Catholic politicians than it is for their Protestant counterparts (Catholics and Protestants disagree over its meaning and import), but still the mere expression of the intent to bar unrepentant politicians from this particular Sacrament would still go a long way in sending a message to a seemingly tone deaf government.