PHOENIX, AZ, September 1, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Since being installed in the Phoenix diocese, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has become something of a celebrity for pro-life and pro-family forces. In a time when definitive action and spiritual courage are rarities, Olmsted has proven a beacon of light in the darkness, joining a thorough doctrinal soundness with a deep spiritual compassion and personal courage, making him an ideal pastor and teacher.
In an interview with IgnatiusInsight.com, bishop Olmsted addressed some of the more contentious issues that have been the focus of his ministry, and for which he has often received criticism from mainstream forces.
Recently the Arizona Republic took the bishop to task with front page coverage for his declaration that those who disagree with fundamental Catholic teachings are not to be permitted to receive a public platform in the Church.
“First of all, I was very surprised by the front page headline in the Arizona Republic,” said Olmsted, “because I had done this eight months earlier and had actually just put into my own words what the American bishops had decided in June 2004, when we were gathered in Denver for our biannual meeting, And that was to say we pledged we would not allow those who disagreed with the most central teachings of our faith to receive awards, honors, or to have a platform in our Catholic institutions.”
When asked to clarify his opinion on the validity of refusing Communion to politicians or other political figures who are not in communion with the Church, an issue of recent international furor, Olmstead gave one of the clearest and most well-rounded responses yet given by a member of the Catholic hierarchy.
“When a priest, or a deacon, or a bishop is giving out Communion, they almost don’t even notice who is coming up for Communion,” he explained. “So the responsibility, 99.99 percent of the time, has to be with the people coming forward. Which means that we have a very serious obligation to instruct our people well about the great gift of the Eucharist and about the way that we must be prepared objectively to receive Communion worthily.”
“Usually, if there is someone we know would be in a category of not receiving Communion and they do seem to be persisting in coming forward to receive Communion, we should try to seek a way to talk to them. One on one, if possible, so that there’s a chance for conversion of heart and, at least, to provide an explanation of the Church’s teaching why this is the case and then to ask them directly to refrain from Communion because the present situation they’re in is totally contrary to the Church and her teachings.”
“So anyone who has had an abortion, or has participated in one, or euthanasia, or who would be promoting those things, or have failed to protect human life while in a position where they could protect it – such as a politician or a judge – they should not be receiving Communion. If they persisted in it after [Church teaching] was presented to them, then I think the priest or deacon should not give them Communion in that case. But we should try to make the efforts beforehand to be in conversation with them.”
Olmstead went on to further explain the Church’s reasoning in the matter. “Anytime we commit sin that is publicly known,” he continued, “there’s scandal involved. In other words, it makes it easier for others to rationalize doing the same…On the other hand, as a Church we must always do everything we can to be in conversation with and to deal with people’s conscience so that we don’t just issue edicts, but we also try to explain those and to persuade, in so far as we can, and not cut off the lines of communication, as far as we can.”