Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Catholic Dilemma

This week the media has been all over the situation out in San Francisco. I'm sure you heard about it. Two gay activists dressed as 'nuns' were given Communion by Archbishop Niederauer. In this article, the archbishop said, "At Communion time, toward the end of the line, two strangely dressed persons came to receive Communion. As I recall one of them wore a large flowered hat or garland. I did not recognize either of them as wearing mock religious garb."

I find it just a little hard to believe that the archbishop did not recognize these men as dressed in mock habit, or at the very least not very serious about being at Mass (has he become accustomed to seeing men in drag at Mass?). However, what he saw or didn't see is really not for me to decide. He knows what's in his heart.

My question is, what about the other Catholics at Mass? Now, this was a Sunday Mass at a San Francisco church where the archbishop was presiding. From the photographs it appears as though the church was crowded. Someone in that church, many "someones," I would guess, knew for certain that those men were not who they were pretending to be. I'm certain that many people also understood exactly what their motive was. Shouldn’t someone have done something?

What is a Catholic to do? Do you shout out, "Stop the Mass," and ask for an interrogation? Do you tackle phonies in the Communion line? Find an usher and ask him to act as bouncer?

A few weeks ago at Sunday Mass, I noticed a family several pews in front of mine who seemed sort of out of place. One member of the family seemed to "belong," but the others clearly did not know what they were doing. They did not respond with prayers, they did not know when to stand or sit, and they looked around during most of the Mass to see what others were doing. At Communion I thought they were going to leave, but noticed one member of the family motion for them to go up for Communion. I immediately became hot in the face. They wouldn’t dare. But, maybe they would just ask for a blessing. A dozen thoughts went through my head. Shouldn’t I say something? Surely Father noticed that they don’t belong. How would Father know? There were too many people. Then they were receiving Communion. They didn’t say “Amen.” Didn’t Father notice that they didn’t know what to do? Didn’t he hear the lack of “Amen?”

I was very upset. I could hardly concentrate as I went to Communion. All I could do after Communion was pray for them and for forgiveness for myself.

After Mass, Doug and I talked about it. He told me I can’t hold myself responsible for what happened. And, in my heart I know that, but yet are not all Catholics responsible for protecting the Blessed Sacrament? Yet, how could I know what was in their hearts? How could I know for certain that they did not belong in the Communion line?

A little over a year ago, a Catholic church in town was robbed during Mass. It was a Mass attended by just a handful of older parishioners, and even while they were being robbed at gunpoint, several elderly men ran to the altar to protect the Blessed Sacrament. God love them. Isn’t that that what we are supposed to do? Protect the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus with our own bodies? How are we supposed to know when our Precious Body and Blood are truly in danger of sacrilege?

This is an issue that really bothers me, personally. In this day, with our Christianity being threatened, encroached upon more every day, we need guidance by our Church. Sadly, I believe that we, as members of the Church Militant, including members of our clergy, need to be more on the ball in regard to threats to our Church and all that we keep holy. We must be vigilant while others in our society mock us.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.



  1. I would think (and I might be wrong) that there is a difference between someone unworthily and unknowingly receiving Our Lord and someone who was going to do Him harm or commit sacrilege.

    I remember reading a story about a man who was at Mass and he saw someone go up to receive Communion in his hand. This person did not place the Blessed Sacrament in his mouth, but rather held it and started to walk out of the church. The man who saw this ran to confront him in the narthex and demanded he give up Our Lord's precious body saying, "I am willing to die to protect that...are you?" He had no idea who this man was or what his purposes were, but the fact he was trying to "get away with it" indicated something more sinister than just "a mistake".

    I wonder what a good priest would have to say about it?

  2. M,
    I completely agree that "there is a difference between someone unworthily and unknowingly receiving Our Lord and someone who was going to do Him harm or commit sacrilege." However, one big difference between our faith and others is our belief that Jesus Christ is truly present in our Eucharist, and I firmly believe that, while not being as much a sacrilege as receiving in mockery, receiving in"disbelief" is still a sacrilege.

    I can only hope that while those is SF received in mockery that Our Lord Jesus will come into their hearts and eventually they will see God.

  3. Let me just clarify! I totally agree with you! I am wondering though what the Church would say about someone who receives in disbelief but also doesn't understand what the Church believes. Am I as clear as mud?

    For example: Let's say a Protestant person swings by a Catholic church (in the middle of Mass) because he heard about the beautiful renovations going on to restore the former 1970's decor to the original Gothic inspired masterpiece that it used to be. (We can dream right!) And this person gets swept along in the Communion line and ends up receiving Our Lord without any knowledge that the Church considers it a sacrilege.

    We are educated enough to understand that religious celebrations do mean something. I would never expect to participate in a service at a Jewish temple out of respect for what they believe. But in this situation, let's assume this Protestant man truly had no idea that what he did was considered a sacrilege. Does sacrilege fall under the same category as mortal sin (that you must know it in order to commit it)? And like you asked, what are we supposed to do and how would we know when to do it?

    I am truly wondering what the answer is, not trying to be contentious!

  4. M,
    I completely understood your point and did not think you were being contentious. :o)

    I do not know the answer -- it's one of many I will pose if I ever get a friendly priest in a room for about, oh, ten hours!

    I think this question you pose, about whether or not sacrilege occurs when ignorance, not malice, is the "sin," is one which would be answered in different ways by different people. I always say, if you ask ten priests, you get ten answers.

    My sil was told by a Catholic priest, before she married my brother (and she was/is Methodist), that if you truly believe that the Blessed Sacrament is the body and blood of Our Lord, then it is all right to receive, even if you are not Catholic. I know that most priests (and conservative Catholics) would be outraged with this advice. And sadly, my sil has never become a Catholic because she believes (because of this advice) that all of the Sacraments may be received if she has the right intent. Not so!

    I suppose this is where “what is in their heart” comes into play. And that is why I was so torn over what to do when I experienced it personally. There is much gray area between mockery and ignorance!


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!