Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's gotta be easier than this....

My friend Lisa posted a link to this article on CNN about a girl who was denied communion because she is is cannot eat wheat. The more I read the article, the more I wanted to cry - or clobber someone.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again: there is much to be valued in some of the contributions that the Roman Catholic tradition has made to the body of Christian faith. When it comes to a life of contemplative prayer, for instance, you just can't do it better than any of the Catholic monastic communities that have grown up over the years. When my Lutheran sisters and brothers seek a retreat, it's often to the Catholic convents and monasteries that they go. And there is much besides the contemplative life that has benefited from Catholicism.

But then the Catholic hierarchy goes and does something like denying the sacrament of communion to a faithful girl because a flaw of biology prevents her from consuming the ritually-formed wafers which (so they believe) become the Body of Christ. Their legalistic behavior brings up several Pharisaical questions.

First of all, whose fault is it that the little girl can't eat wheat without harm to herself? The Pharisees - both ancient and modern-day - among us would say that the girl, or her parents, had sinned, and it was their sin that was blocking her from receiving communion. Unfortunately, there's this Jesus person who seemed to think otherwise. And I'm still enough of a Christian that I think we ought to defer to the Son of God in some areas....

Is this little girl, as some yo-yo systematic theologians might say, ontologically incapable of sharing in the communion of the faithful, because of her illness? Never, never, never! If it was that easy to drop out of faith, I would have given up on it years ago. I have to believe that if the Son of God could have communion with Peter, who denied him hours later, and with all the rest of the backsliding disciples, I'd bet he'd have a rice-cake to share with little Haley.

I know that many Catholics hold the tradition as holy as the scripture in cases like this - but I have the sneaking suspicion that the God who could come to earth as a baby, in a stinking stall, and be miraculously born of a virgin teenager could probably appear in the "real presence" sense in a rice wafer as easily as a gluten-based one. (Of course, I should admit at this point (with apologies to Mark Bangert) that I believe that the high school youth group having communion with Wheat Thins and Dr. Pepper on a mountainside in Colorado have every bit as much of a consubstantiated "real presence of Christ" as those of us who are having alcoholic wine and glutinous wafers. I know...heresy!

There's more to say on this topic, but for now, sweet dreams....

1 comment:

Nick said...

I think the media takes delight in starting fires especially between denominations. The following excerpt does not speak from the heart, but it does make some points that I have not yet heard the media even mention.

The Eucharist is consecrated in two forms: the bread that becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine that becomes his Blood. Ordinarily, at Sunday Mass, lay people receive only the Body (the consecrated host) and not the Blood (from the chalice). But each is complete in itself; anyone who receives Communion under either form receives Jesus fully-- "body and blood, soul and divinity," as the catechism formula accurately puts it.
Neither the Trenton diocese nor the universal Church wants to deprive Haley Waldman of the Eucharist. And in fact many people who suffer from celiac disorder do receive Communion on a regular basis. If their condition is so acute that they cannot digest a wheat-based host, then they receive the Blood of Christ from the chalice. In doing so, they receive Communion as fully as someone who consumes the Body of Christ in the form of wheat-based bread.
It's true that in order to receive Communion from the chalice alone, the individual may have to make prior arrangements with the parish priest. But anyone who suffers from celiac disorder is quite accustomed to making such arrangements-- at restaurants, in friends' homes, at school-- in order to avoid wheat products.