Whose Eucharist Is It?

Sally Quinn, a Protestant, is getting lots of flack by Catholics and William Donohue’s Catholic League for taking Communion at Tim Russert’s Roman Catholic funeral. She writes a great explanation here. I really dislike it when Christians get all proprietary and exclusive about rituals. It reeks of us vs. them mentality when, from what I read of Jesus, he didn’t even exclude the Gentile “dogs” from eating the scraps from the Master’s table (Matthew 15:24-28). So, how can Christians do any less? Is the Eucharist the church’s property to include and exclude whom they will or is it the open invitation of God to partake in the Kingdom? What do you think?

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25 thoughts on “Whose Eucharist Is It?

  1. Hey, just thinking, maybe the protestants were abit upset because a large number of protestants were burned at the stake on the issue of the Eucharist (See Ryles book: Five English Reformers).

    Jesus accepted the ‘dog’ since she came in humily admitting her her desperate need of her, not like the dog, evil workers and mutilation that Paul calls the Judizars in Phillipians, only for adding one thing to the gospel.

    Just my thoughts

  2. Good point tyrellh!

    I’d think I’d get upset over that as well.

    I think in this case the Catholics were the ones who were more upset that Quinn had the gall to come to Eucharist without their permission.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. We have posted about this at The Black Cordelias… Most notably with
    Why Can’t Protestants Take Communion in a Catholic Church?

    More upseting than the fact that Quinn blatantly disregared our rules, is the fact that she used a funeral not only to occasion the practice of her ideology, but then to turn around and write about what she disrespected the faith of the departed as his funeral!

    It would have been one thing to have done it quietly. It was another thing altogether to write about it and call attention to it.

  4. asimplesinner,

    That’s just it. Whose rules are they? Are they man’s rules or God’s? I would posit that they are man-made rules in order to exclude undesirables. Not only that, why is she getting flack for it when Tony Blair (pre-Catholic), Bill Clinton, and a Swiss Reformed minister did not? Quinn says it never occurred to her NOT to take communion. Even by Catholic standards it’s not a “sin” even if the word “sin” can be used here.

    I believe in a God who invites all to the banquet. The harshest words of Jesus are for those who thought they were “in” and all others “out.”

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Honestly, if you think that the reception of communion on the part of a pre-Catholic Tony Blair, or Bill Communion or any other notable non-Catholic did NOT evince much negative reaction from those who take seriously the precepts of our church, you simply need to do some research. In fact all of those occasions caused as much or more controversy.

    As to the notion that these are man-made rules. We simply do not believe that, and if you are willing to take a look at the above-linked article we posted, you can get a better understanding for our position.

    Quinn didn’t just opt to quietly break the rules of the Catholic Church, she lifted up her transgressing of our laws as a point of ideology in the service of her profession – writing for a living – to write about it.

  6. asimplesinner,

    Don’t assume I don’t know the Catholic Church’s position, for one thing. For another, which is causing more controversy is beside the point and an off-hand remark on my part, requiring no further research. The rightness or wrongness of an action shouldn’t be decided by how hysterical religionists get when their rules are supposedly “violated.” It’s my perception of events in the news when I saw it and heard about it.

    However, you make it sound as if Quinn did it JUST so she could write about it. How blatantly judgmental of you. My view is that we should never assume to judge another’s soul. That’s between them and God, Quinn’s included.

  7. Don’t assume I don’t know the Catholic Church’s position, for one thing.

    I did not make any such assumption. Although starting out with a rhetorical flourish about a percieved offense (that I am approaching you as though you were ignorant, which I am not, I am adding to the conversation) does help one to gain currency if a debate or discussion is shifted to the emotive… Well that is not what I assumed or offered.

    For another, which is causing more controversy is beside the point and an off-hand remark on my part, requiring no further research. The rightness or wrongness of an action shouldn’t be decided by how hysterical religionists get when their rules are supposedly “violated.” It’s my perception of events in the news when I saw it and heard about it.

    The perception I challenge, is not that the rightness or wrongness is measured by the level of “hysterical religionist objection”. One doesn’t need an army of folks shaking their head or finger for something to be objectively wrong. What is objectively wrong? I would say placing one’s ideology above and beyond respect for the faith of the departed when attending (voluntarily) the celebrations of the departed’s faith…

    However, you make it sound as if Quinn did it JUST so she could write about it.

    No, I do not.

    I make it sound that what is downright crass and in poor taste is not only to do something that is offensive, but then to draw attention to it.

    How blatantly judgmental of you.

    The irony that your assessments of “hysterical religionists” are fair and balanced, but I am judgemental?

    My view is that we should never assume to judge another’s soul. That’s between them and God, Quinn’s included.

    Fair enough, but a bit of a straw man. Did I make any comment on Quinn’s soul? No.

  8. asimplesinner,

    By calling her decision to take Communion into question, yes you are judging another’s soul. Quinn herself said it never occurred to her NOT to take Communion. She had no qualms. She was invited. If Jesus invites to the table who are we to keep them away? That’s all I’m saying in this post.

  9. asimplesinner,

    Also, it wasn’t her idea to call attention to it, it was William Donohue’s idea. She’s simply responding to his reaction, as she has every right to do when someone calls you out in public.

    Look, I realize that Catholics and Protestants will NOT see eye to eye on this. So I suggest we agree to disagree now. What say you? (olive branch waving)

  10. Fair enough that we can agree to disagree…

    But I have to say I strenuously object to the notion that “By calling her decision to take Communion into question, yes you are judging another’s soul.”

    If you have an understanding of what constitutes a sin or transgression in Catholic theology you know that three things come into play: (1) its subject must be a grave (or serious) matter; (2) it must be committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense (though nobody is deemed to be ignorant of the moral law, embedded into the conciences of every human being); (3) it must be committed with deliberate and complete consent, enough for it to have been a personal decision to commit the sin.

    I am utterly and completely unaware – and offering no speculation – as to her personal situation. In our eyes, what would constitute sin staining someone’s soul, is NOT something we can know.

    We de don’t use the same lingo or theology. Identifying this really helps. But when I say I am not judging her soul, I mean it.

    Period.

  11. asimplesinner,

    All I believe is that no one knows whether God wanted Sally Quinn to take Communion or not at Tim Russert’s funeral. God may very well have told her to do so (despite whether you agree God did or not). I don’t believe anyone has the right to say that God wouldn’t have wanted her to. The institutional church may not have wanted her to, but the institutional church is not God. It’s a matter of freedom of conscience. I’d say that Sally was following her conscience, something I would think even the Catholic church allows now and then. She wrote:
    “Like most of us, I am searching for meaning in my life, looking for markers from all faith traditions which touch me in a spiritual way. In this moment of loss I felt invited to take part in this sacrament. I fully understand the reverence religions place upon things that are holy or sacred and I try to respect them. I certainly meant no disrespect when I participated in this Holy Communion.”
    I believe her.

  12. This rather conflates a sense of conflicting visions and ideas about “institutional church” and “man made rules” while putting a rudderless “freedom of conscience” in the place of primacy. Based on emotive sensibilities, it all makes sense. If we share the same emotions and sensibilities.

    One wonders where this right of “freedom of conscience” ends and religous communities begin to have their own collective right to protect their faith and sacraments in the way they see fit.

    Maybe the flip side of her asserting a right to primacy of conscience is that she needs to be prepared for others to do the same in expressing their objections.

  13. asimplesinner,

    Point noted, but still conscience does remain inviolate. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    (1800) A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

    Sure, we can all argue until the cows come home about who should form the individual’s conscience: the individuals themselves, the Roman Church, the Orthodox Church, or any number of Protestant churches, but the outcome still remains the same. The conscience is inviolable.

    In good faith this woman took Communion to honor her friend and because she was invited to do so. If she was in ignorance and no evil intention can be found in her action, she is innocent before God. The Catholic church is free to keep up the gates and keep those that God loves out just as any other church is, but chastising someone publicly for an act of good faith is wrong in my opinion. And that’s my opinion.

  14. Thank you both for chrystalising this debate so clearly.

    My discussions with Catholic priests have always come down to the primacy of faith over reason. My reason is mingled with some personal faith too, but it always seems to be the primacy of their faith over my reason. In this context, the promptings of my conscience are seen as arrogance if at variance with the institution’s teaching.

    If a Catholic’s conscience tells them that truth is embodied in the apostolic authority of the Church, and, subsequently, an issue emerges which would prompt that Catholic’s conscience to contradict the official line, the entire edifice can come crashing down around their ears, because this mode of belief would surely suggest that it’s either completely right or it’s not. What happens if you don’t buy the whole package?

    For myself, I’m extremely grateful to the “high” churches of Christendom for their contribution to our music and language. For the rest, any human being who claims divine authority is usually best avoided.

  15. Reg,

    You’re welcome. 🙂

    You wrote very succinctly that “My reason is mingled with some personal faith too, but it always seems to be the primacy of their faith over my reason.” And I would agree whole heartedly. Most religions give lip service to conscience, saying that it is absolutely a personal right and trumps all, but they don’t quite mean it do they?

  16. An interesting thing always hits me whenever things like this happen: where is the similar level of outrage over what’s happening in Darfur? Or the world-wide level of poverty? If something like this makes you made, then the amount of children who die because they don’t have enough to eat should make you ten times as mad.

  17. Fiddlin’ while Rome is burning?

    If the litmus test for ANYTHING ever being important is “Is it as important as X? What a waste of time otherwise!”

    Well we should all get off the internet and not worry about ANYTHING in life but the things we can agree are “Really important”.

    No one said this was comparable to Darfur. Rather a red herring.

  18. asimplesinner,

    Ahhh, I knew you were out there somewhere lurking about. 🙂 Well, see, that’s where you and I differ. Religious dogma and doctrine never trumps action for me. The former is not important in the grand scheme of things no matter how much weight humans invest in it. Dogma does not feed, clothe, or rescue people from abusive situations. Just the opposite. Dogma is a straight-jacket and the only red herring tossed is from those who ignore the problem and believe right thinking is more important.

  19. No one is lurking – this is in the “My comments” section of my wordpress dashboard… more gets written, I read it.

    I will disect the red herrings and false dichotomy of you arguing against something I did not say after work.

    Cheers.

  20. oh, lighten up. I didn’t mean lurking in that sense. I was trying to be humorous… but I guess it fell flat…

    I know what you’re saying….

    You are saying comparing what we were talking about to saving children in Darfur was like comparing apples to oranges. I get that.

    I was adding my own comment about the need to personalize what we are comparing by getting over quibbling about doctrines like Eucharist, etc. and focusing on the real things that OneSmallStep brought up. I was expounding. No need to enlighten us on logical fallacies. I get it…

    Have fun at work…

  21. **If the litmus test for ANYTHING ever being important is “Is it as important as X? What a waste of time otherwise!” **

    If this is directed towards my comment, I never said that expressing anger over the Communion was a waste of time.
    But, for me, as well as MOI, it does come down to dogma verses action. It’s like a similar quote I heard by … I think it was Tony Campolo. I’m pulling from memory, so it’ll be hazy.

    What he said to a Protestant Church “25,000 children starved to death last night, and most of you don’t give a shit.” There’s a gasp. “And most of you just gasped because I said “shit,” not because of the 25,000 deaths.”

    I feel I can apply the same scenario here. If we had this same level of anger applied towards the big things in life, we’d live in a much better world. Instead, and I speak in generalites here, not just limited to this discussion. There will be anger if religious symbols are attacked, but silence if people starve to death. There will be anger if Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfuntion, but again, not over people starving to death. One is a lot “easier” to get angry about, because it takes a lot less effort to solve. I just find it skewed.

  22. OSS,

    Oh, that’s priceless. You gotta’ love Campolo.

    And you are ABSOLUTELY right! And you know what? I think we CAN and SHOULD apply that litmus test. In the grand scheme of things which is more important to be outraged about? That Sally Quinn took Communion but she was the “wrong” religion or that the Pope and all Catholics are promoting AIDS by refusing condom distribution? I mean come ON!! (yes, it’s a bit of the “barn door after cows are out” conundrum, but there’s such a thing as not furthering the misery on moral grounds).

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