Editor’s Note: In the January-February issue of Catalyst, the journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, League President Bill Donohue offered a quick synopsis of the facts about priestly sexual abuse that we think would be helpful to our readers.
Myth: Children have been the main victims of priestly sexual abuse.
Fact: Since more than 95 percent of all the victims of priestly sexual abuse, as reported by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, are not prepubescent, that means that adolescents have been the primary victims.
Myth: Pedophile priests have been the problem.
Fact: Homosexual priests have been the problem. Proof: 81 percent of the victims have been male, and more than 95 percent have been postpubescent. When males have sex with postpubescent males, it is called homosexuality.
Myth: The problem is ongoing.
Fact: The homosexual scandal took place mostly between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. In the last ten years, the average number of credible accusations made against 40,000 priests is in single digits.
Myth: The Church’s repressive teachings on sexuality are the problem.
Fact: It was liberals outside the Church who pushed for the sexual revolution, and it was liberals in the Church who abetted the revolution in the seminaries. Moreover, it was the liberals who promoted therapy as the way to deal with molesters, instead of using punitive measures.
Myth: The Church has done nothing about the problem.
Fact: Pope Benedict XVI made it more difficult for active homosexual priests to enter the priesthood, thus getting directly to the source of the problem. Also, steps have been taken in every diocese to ensure that anyone who works for the Church must participate in a training program aimed at curtailing the abuse of minors.
Q. I was recently distributing Communion at a funeral and someone I know who used to be a Catholic, and now goes to a non-Catholic church, came forward and said, “Can I receive? I receive communion in my church.”
The priest had just said, “We invite practicing Catholics to come forward to receive the Eucharist. If you are not of our faith or you will not be receiving and would like to come forward for a blessing, please cross your hands over your chest.”
I took the person’s hand and shook my head. That was hard. It makes me wonder what they are saying to the assembly when they distribute Communion. — J.W., Massachusetts.
A. Short answer: You did the right thing. If you were not sure of a person’s connection with the Catholic Church, and she did not say anything, and you did not ask if she was a Catholic, you would be obliged to give her Communion. But since this person said, “Can I receive? I receive communion in my church,” you were correct in denying her Communion. You were not refusing her something to which she was entitled; you were protecting the integrity of the Eucharist from someone not entitled to receive it because she was not a member of the Catholic Church.
If this seems harsh or unfair to some people, that’s because they think everything is relative, that it doesn’t matter what you believe, that all opinions are equally valid. But Jesus didn’t go around preaching relativism, but rather the truth. His declaration that we will not attain eternal life unless we eat His Body and drink His Blood (cf. John 6:53-54) caused many of His followers to leave Him because this teaching was too hard to accept. Did He call these people back and say He really didn’t mean that literally? No, He let them walk away because He had spoken the truth. We must do the same if we are to be faithful to the Lord.
Most of the non-Catholic churches that we know of consider their communion to be a symbol of what Christ did, whereas Catholics believe Communion to be the true Body and Blood of Christ. We believe that because Jesus said that His body was real food and His blood was real drink (cf. John 6:55). And at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This is my body” (Luke 22:19), not a symbol of my body. He said, “This is my blood” (Matt. 26:28), not a symbol of my blood.
Because Catholics believe that they are really receiving the Body and Blood of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, they answer “Amen” when the minister of the Eucharist presents the Host and says, “The Body of Christ,” or the chalice and says, “The Blood of Christ.” Our “Amen” means that, yes, we believe we are about to receive Jesus Himself. Since that is so, Catholics are expected to meet certain conditions that are spelled out on the inside cover of the missalettes that are found in most churches. Those conditions include not being “conscious of grave sin” and fasting for one hour from food and drink.
Addressing the question of giving Communion to “fellow Christians,” the missalette says that “because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion.”
Because the person who approached you was not united with the Catholic Church in faith, life, and worship, as indicated by her comment, you were correct in not giving her Communion.
On a related matter, what should a Catholic do at communion time in a Protestant church? He or she should not go up to receive because that would be saying that the bread and grape juice being offered there is the same as the Body and Blood of Christ, which is not true. There is a profound difference between Communion in a Catholic Church and communion in a Protestant church, and Catholics should be careful not to blur that difference.
Q. In a recent reply, you said that it was not proper for a priest to change “you” to “us” in giving the final blessing at Mass. One of our deacons does the same thing when he conducts a Communion service on Saturdays in our parish. Is this acceptable? — J.O., New Jersey.
A. No, it is not acceptable for the deacon, anymore than it was for the priest, to change the words of the final blessing. Another question occurs to us, though. Why was the deacon conducting a Communion service on Saturday? If it was because no priest was available on Saturday, he still should not have been celebrating a Communion service if a priest would be available for Mass the next day. Here is what the 2004 liturgical document Redemptionis Sacramentum says about Communion services:
“Likewise, especially if Holy Communion is distributed during such celebrations, the diocesan bishop, to whose exclusive competence this matter pertains, must not easily grant permission for such celebrations to be held on weekdays, especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of Mass on the preceding or following Sunday” (n. 166).
If parishes resort too easily to Communion services in the absence of a priest, the faithful will come to see these services as the norm and will be less likely to pray and work for more vocations to the priesthood.
Q. In a previous reply, you said that the Jewish leaders stoned St. Stephen to death outside the city, but brought Jesus before the Sanhedrin for a formal trial. 1) Why couldn’t they have just taken Jesus outside the city and stoned Him to death? 2) Also, why did Jesus ask His Father to forgive His persecutors “for they know not what they do”? If they didn’t know what they were doing, why did they need forgiveness? — M.W., via e-mail.
A. 1) Probably because Jesus was so popular with the people, and they would not have allowed His death by stoning. His enemies several times failed to arrest Jesus out of fear of the crowds that followed Him. That’s why He was eventually arrested secretly late at night.
2) Christ’s persecutors may not have known they were killing the Messiah but, according to St. Paul, they would have known through the natural law written on their hearts that what they were doing was wrong (cf. Romans 2:14-16). Thus, they were in need of forgiveness.