May 22, 2004

Who controls Communion?

All the buzz about Catholic bishops refusing the Eucharist to pols who support abortion rights raises some interesting questions for the Christian movement at large. Among the most telling is this: Who is in control of Communion? Who has the right or authority to say whether a person can take the bread and wine?

I think your answer to that question says a lot about your ecclesiology. For example, it's pretty obvious what 18 year old Julie McAvoy thinks about her Catholic church's historic doctrine of authority from this statement she made in a recent interview with the Rocky Mountain News:
When I take Communion, that's between me and Jesus. It's my time when I feel closer to God. I don't think it's the church's place to say I can't.
Perhaps she'd feel more comfortable in a nice Episcopal church somewhere. =)

Regardless of the theology or morality behind the position of bishops who would refuse Communion to those who vote pro-abortion, from an outsider's perspective it seems to be a logical and internally consistent position, well in line with Catholic dogma, tradition, and history. Those who would argue otherwise might do well to revisit their notes from catechism class.

As for NeoTheolog's answer to the question of who controls Communion, well, I suppose I'm pretty firmly in the historic Baptist camp. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:28, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks of the cup." I certainly can't look into his heart to determine if he recognizes the gravity of what he's about to do or if he's appropriately prepared himself for it. I can teach him, I can warn him of the grave consequences of receiving Communion "in an unworthy manner" (27), but I can't evaluate his soul or analyze his conscience. In the end, I have to offer it to him and let him make his own choice.

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