Retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man to become a U.S. bishop in the Episcopal Church, has written an nasty piece of opinion attacking a Catholic Archbishop as well as the Catholic Church in its entirety for defending marriage.
Robinson, writing for The On Faith blog at The Washington Post, attacked Abp. Allen Vigneron for having said Catholics who support gay unions or marriage should not receive communion. And not only does he say that the Church is wrong on gay marriage, he says the Church has “lost its way” and has no right to even discuss the issue. I’ll give you one guess why. For those playing along at home, the answer is easy. It’s page 1 of the anti-Catholic playbook: “Anytime the Church says something you don’t like you should always YELL and SCREAM about….THE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL!!!”
I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.
While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.
It seems that the church hierarchy is sending the following message: two gay men or lesbians (not to mention their supporters) who want to vow a lifetime of commitment, monogamy and love should be denied Communion, but those who exploit vulnerable children (and those who facilitate their abuse) for their own sexual gratification are still welcome. Those who make the excruciating and gut-wrenching decision to have an abortion (not to mention those who understand why this might be a moral choice) are barred from receiving Communion, but those prelates who live a lavish lifestyle far from the real-life, harsh circumstances some women face that might make such an abortion morally permissible are accepted at the Communion rail.
American Catholics have a long and honorable history of discerning their own consciences in matters of human life and dignity. For instance, 98 percent of Catholic women have gone against church law and used birth control. Indeed, individual conscience is a core value in Catholic teaching. It seems that Catholic laity are refusing to be treated like morally ignorant children who cannot think for themselves. At a very minimum, Catholic laity (and many of their local clergy) know that these issues should be discussed in an open and faithful way. They also know that people of faith will disagree on some of the ramifications of trying to live out the Gospel.
Robinson is not understanding or he’s pretending to misunderstand the facts here. The fact is that we are all sinners is true. That doesn’t make sin acceptable. And it certainly doesn’t make sin non-existent.
It’s one thing to commit a sin, acknowledge it as a sin, and repent. Murderers, rapists, and yes sexually abusive adults all have an opportunity to seek forgiveness and redemption but they first must acknowledge their sinfulness.
It’s quite another thing to publicly advocate something like abortion and gay marriage as perfectly in line with Catholic teaching. One can’t seek forgiveness if one doesn’t believe in sin.