- If you are a sexually-active homosexual, you cannot take communion.
- If you are an unmarried sexually-active heterosexual (or someone who is remarried without annulment of your first marriage), you cannot take communion.
- If you are a married heterosexual who uses artificial contraception, you cannot take communion.
- If you are a generally faithful Catholic who disagrees with the Church in some areas of Catholic doctrine like the above-mentioned policies, or whether married men and/or women can be priests, you also should refrain from taking communion.
We know that the Bishops are just restating existing policy in these three documents (Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, Married Love and the Gift of Life, and "Happy Are those Who Are Called to His Supper") but if you do the math, the Bishops are really reminding us that in their opinion very few of the faithful are welcome at the Lord's Table.
It's sad and self-defeating. Sad, because we learn in catechism that the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist was the Lord's Supper where Jesus offered the Bread of Life (His Body) and the Cup (His Blood) to all who were present, including the man who would betray Him (Judas) and the one who would initially deny him (Peter). The Communion Table was open to all -- sinners and saints. How far our shepherds have strayed from the Master's example!
I worship in a Latino community and there the self-defeating aspect of the policy is most apparent. Latino and Anglo Catholics differ significantly in their approach to the Eucharist. Most Anglo Catholics take Communion automatically, whether they are really prepared to receive it worthily or not (I'm thinking here of the low percentage of Catholics who comply even with the annual Confession guidelines). Most Latino Catholics assume that they are not entitled to take Communion but do not or cannot take steps to restore their status. In both cases, the end result is cynical indifference and loss of the centrality of the Eucharist in our faith. Once the centrality of the Eucharist is lost, it becomes very easy for evangelical churches to lure Latino Catholics away from the fold. Music and preaching become the center of the liturgical experience and your typical Latino evangelical pastor can outpreach your typical priest just about any day of the week!
So, what is the faithful response? Do we keep on taking Communion in spite of the guidelines because these guidelines do not reflect the spirit in which Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist? Do we simply dismiss the Bishops as irrelevant and grasp the Eucharist as our birthright?
Or do we stop taking Communion as a gesture of protest and/or solidarity with the millions of Catholics who are excluded from the Lord's table? Do we have to reach a point where only a handful of faithful commune every Sunday for the Church to wake up and realize it has sacrificed its Center on the altar of self-righteousness and intolerance?
With that, let the debate begin!