February 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – We should not see the actions of Springfield, Illinois’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki as extreme for publicly stating that Sen. Dick Durbin is not properly prepared for receiving Communion. Durbin, who lives in the Springfield Diocese, has unapologetically and persistently promoted abortion.
The Democrat senator was one of 14 “Catholics” (and all the Democrats but three) in the Senate who voted in January against protecting babies at 20 weeks of development and beyond from late-term abortion. The bishop has not been extreme at all. In fact, it is encouraging to see bishops boldly doing their job in upholding Catholic teaching.
The Code of Canon Law offers bishops various options for dealing with those who publicly depart from Church teaching. The first, and most basic, is to clearly enunciate the teachings of the Church, and our bishops have certainly done that.
Beyond that, bishops must make pastoral judgments as to what actions in a particular circumstance will best accomplish what they need to do.
“As bishops, we have the responsibility to call Americans to conversion, including political leaders, and especially those publicly identified as Catholic… As chief teachers in the Church, we must therefore explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their actions and policies. Catholic public officials who disregard Church teaching on the inviolability of the human person indirectly collude in the taking of innocent life.'” (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, n.29)
Perhaps some Catholic-in-name-only politicians fail to see how irreconcilable it is to defend abortion as a right and then to receive Christ in the Eucharist. It is the ultimate contradiction. “It is precisely in the ‘flesh’ of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ” (The Gospel of Life, 104). We literally cannot receive and reject someone at the same time. To reject the children in the womb is to reject Jesus Christ.
Imagine a person who receives Communion; accepts the Host when the priest says, “The Body of Christ,” says “Amen”; and then breaks off a piece, hands it back, and says, “Except this piece, Father!” This is what the person who rejects other people – including the unborn – may as well do. In receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members, and all whom he created, our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or unwanted.
St. Paul comments on this: “We, many though we are, are one body, since we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other “brothers and sisters,” we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity among children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for our own bodies, and to be concerned for all creation.
The Eucharist is the sacrament of supreme worship. It reminds us of two simple truths in life: 1) There is a God; 2) It isn’t me. To worship him means to subject all our thoughts, desires, and choices to his will, and this is precisely what we do when we join in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Abortion, on the contrary, proclaims that a mother’s choice is supreme. “Freedom of choice” is considered enough to justify even the dismemberment of a baby. Choice divorced from truth is idolatry. It is the opposite of true worship. It pretends the creature is God. Real freedom is found only in submission to the truth and will of God. Real freedom is not the ability to do whatever one pleases, but the power to do what is right.
And our bishops have a duty to defend what is right. More should do what Bishop Paprocki has done. Nobody is forcing Senator Durbin and others like him to be Catholic. However, because he does profess Catholicism, and because that profession and his contradictory stance on abortion are both public, he scandalizes other believers. The state of his soul is indeed between him and God; the state of his public contradiction is among him, God, and all the people. Because he contradicts in public, the Church can correct in public.
Sin scatters. Christ unites. The word “diabolical” means “splitting asunder.” Christ came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ, who says, “Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body.” Abortion, in a reverse dynamic, says, “Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no responsibility for you. Get out of our way!” Abortion attacks the unity of the human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses the dynamic of abortion.
I know I speak for countless believers, who sacrifice so much each day to live their faith consistently, when I say, Thank you, Bishop Paprocki, for strengthening the clarity and unity of our faith!
Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life, the world's largest Catholic organization focused exclusively on ending abortion.