Jimmy Mac sent this link of The Tablet editor James Roberts responding to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head guy of the new New Evangelization set-up at the Vatican. No worries, according to the archbishop, if you can’t receive Communion. Just feed the poor. The gist of the position:
You are also called to reach out your hand, to recognise the presence of Christ in the poor. You cannot receive the Eucharist, but put your life in service of charity. Give a witness of charity. Do you think that this is a lesser sense of belonging to the Church? I don’t think so!
Like Mr Roberts, I think the suggestion is good, but not quite on target. He asks three questions:
- If you need this greatest gift to sustain you in Christ’s work, how can you do this work effectively if you are denied it?
- How can you be “equally part of the Church” if you are refused its greatest gift?
- Given that the Mass, the real presence of Christ, is the most precious and valuable means of evangelisation, and the primary gift the Catholic Church has to offer the convert, how can we evangelise and at the same time close the gate of the fold on so many?
To do his job properly, Archbishop Fisichella will have to address these questions in some way. We already give thousands of potential newcomers a stark choice: leave your Christian spouse or forget about being received into the Church.
The Eucharist is central to the Church. It is not a reward for finishing one’s schooling, nor is it a carrot to nudge people into good behavior. That isn’t to say the Eucharist shouldn’t be celebrated and received worthily. Not at all. But there’s a sound middle ground between the extremes of The Virtuous Only and Come On All Comers.
The problem is, I don’t think the Vatican is prepared for a serious examination of Eucharistic theology. Nor am I sure, the moment is right for it in Catholicism as a whole. Too much suspicion is in the air for a hope that such an examination will be as searching as it needs to be. Good thing it still leaves us with the unbaptized. And people who have no immorinstitutional impediment. But it will remain a stumbling block for first impressions: unfair and unclear.