...Suddenly the life-long chain of liturgy was broken into pieces. The priest--the priest who had just joined with us in the prayer of the Rosary was now red-faced shouting. I thought. Talking about me. I had cooperated with evil. I had? I had killed babies? My heart was black. I was giving scandal to the entire church. I had once been a leader but now I forfeited any semblance of respectability or leadership. The good father grasped tightly the edges of the ambo, the unusual name given to the lectern in the Catholic Church. No faithful Catholic would ever contemplate doing what I had done. I was dead to the Holy Mother Church.
My wife held my hand tightly. We looked at each other in disbelief. Here was someone in the vestments of the priesthood who had called us to have our prayers be heard, who recited the Kyrie with us, asking the Lord's mercy upon us, now seemingly merciless, telling me and the many there assembled that I was unworthy. I was to be publicly shunned and humiliated. My offense? Endorsing Senator Barak Obama for President of the United States....(whole shameful episode here)
Incredible. I don't know if I could ever deny anyone communion. Especially not for their political beliefs.
Four years ago a high-profile Roman Catholic Bishop said he'd deny John Kerry communion because of his views on abortion (but was strangely silent on pro-choice Republicans running for office), but didn't see the war in Iraq, the death penalty, divorce, or any other 'Catholic' issue as important enough to "punish" communicants by withholding the sacrament from those GOP members who contravened such issues.
You also may remember Chan Chandler, the Baptist preacher who ex-communicated a bunch of parishioners for voting for Kerry. But lost his job shortly thereafter.
I have my own political views, and occasionally hint at them in sermons (taking the odd light-hearted jab at the "other side." After all, my political viewpoint is a minority opinion here in Alberta). And my faith influences my politics. The Sermon on the Mount, for example is a highly political document, and informs what the priorities I think our governments should have.
I think we need a spirited discussion as to how faith and politics collide. We all can learn from folks who disagree with us. That's how we stretch and grow.
But, problems arise when ideology and dogmatism replace faith and debate. Withholding the sacrament is withholding God's grace. When folks reach out their hands to receive Christ's body and blood, they reach out, as we all do, as sinners in need of forgiveness.
No matter who they vote for.