Always a surprise

Hey everyone,

I wanted to pose a question to you regarding a statement one of my patients made the other day.  We were talking about receiving communion and he said that he would not receive communion from a priest who was actively living a homosexual life.  I was stunned, having never heard anything like that before, and appalled, really. I wanted to clarify a few things with him to see if I understood what he was saying.  My first question to him was-did he think that the Eucharist was somehow tainted or not even consecrated because of the priest’s ‘sinfulness’? St. Anthony Messenger just did a little blurb about this last month saying that it is God’s grace and the belief of the people gathered that makes the Eucharist holy, not the priest’s sin or righteousness.  My patient said no, but I had my doubts. I asked him if it was only homosexuality or if there were other things that would make him steer clear.  Afterall, I had just given him communion earlier that day. He said it boiled down to mortal sin for him.

Well, I didnt really know what to do with this!  I wondered how he would know if someone was in a state of grace or a state of sin. He said he would know if it were out in the open, known in the community.  So, my question was, how do you know he didnt seek forgiveness that exact morning before mass?  (I wanted him to see how he was judging; I don’t think I was successful).  I wondered what he thought the person giving communion to him had to do with the communion. Or did it even have anything to do with it? What statement was he trying to make, and is reception of the Eucharist the right time to make a statement other than the statement of faith?

I don’t know if I will ever understand the depth of meaning behind this for him-is he exercising self hatred because he is secretly gay himself? Is he simply self righteous? Why does it bug me so much?  You know, all of those questions!  Anyone have thoughts?? Do you think about the person you are receiving communion from when you receive communion?

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About Lauren Ivory

Lauren Ivory is a hospital chaplain working on Chicago's diverse north side. After receiving her Master of Divinity degree at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO she went on for further hospital ministry training at the Cleveland Clinic of Ohio. On the side, she enjoys helping couples plan wedding/commitment ceremonies and works with couples as a certified premarital guidance counselor.

11 thoughts on “Always a surprise

  1. I have a very hard time understanding the attitude. How is it that some people are convinced that they can see mortal sin on someone? I just don’t get it.

  2. It would be illict for a Priest to be an active homosexual, but for the sacrament itself to be valid, matter, form and intent, are what is needed. If these things are in order then a Catholic in a state of grace may receive. This is probably a good starting point to take with him.

    It seems to me you may be judging this man too harshly. Perhaps he’s a victim of advances from a homosexual Priest. The question you asked regarding what the person giving, (and I assume consecrating) the host has to do with validity, is a good one, and may lead to an interesting conversation.

  3. Perhaps this would man would understand the issue better if framed in Augustinian terms-the moral worth of the priest play does not influence the Eucharist. I mean, this fellow has managed to stumble in Pelagianism, which is a dangerous road to stumble down.

  4. I’m reminded, by contrast, of something I read once about St. Francis of Assisi. He would make a special point of recieving Eucharist from the notoriously sinful priests because he felt it was a strong and clear reminder that God’s grace is ultimately greater than any human sinfulness.

  5. Josh, that is fascinating! Especially because, little twist here, this man is a secular Franciscan! and proud of it.

    Ambrose, the frustrating part for me is that this man has said that he does NOT think it changes the Eucharist, that the Eucarist is still valid and graced, but that he just doesnt want to receive it from that sinful person. It sounds like a political type statement/action to me therefore.

    Aside from that, he’s probably just trying to get me riled up for some reason. Lovely! Thanks for the input folks!

  6. Well, Augustine has addressed this too-the moral worth of the priest doesn’t invalidate the Eucharist, but he is also quick to warn priests that their actions may serve as a scandal to other parishioners. I’m reminded of Paul’s advice that if one should abstain from meat, if it will cause a another to stumble. If the priest is a notorious sinner (in some way), it should be expected that a lay person may feel uncomfortable receiving from that priest.

    But I agree, there is something going on with this guy. I wouldn’t label it political quite yet, until you know what’s going on.

  7. Lauren: How funny! I’ve long been interested in the Secular Franciscans but have so far not been able to get involved in any official way.

    I’ve been trying to remember where I read that little tidbit, but I’m not yet sure where it was.

  8. Mandy, you’ve hit on a difficult problem-its really hard not to judge someone for judging others, hard to be inclusive of people who, themselves, exclude others. As his chaplain, I’m just trying to figure out the situation (since this person does not have much ability/interest in doing self reflection, I am left to speculate.)

    I doubt that there are many homosexual priests “victimizing” people by making unwanted advances. If you think about yourself, how often do you make advances on someone unless you know pretty well that they would be receptive to it? We normally wait for a lot of cues before taking that risk. Its not like being homosexual makes one indiscriminately forward with just anyone and everyone.

  9. Lauren – its difficult for everyone though, leaders have to be different. I’m sure this man thinks he has just as good a reason for judging homosexual priests as you think you do for judging him. I hope you get to talk to him more about this, I think it could be an interesting conversation for both of you.

  10. Hi Lauren, one of my CPE mentors said that for the most part, people in the hospital have enough grief to deal with and it’s not time to talk with them about “Mother God,” so to speak. Of course this doesn’t mean that patients can get away with being a raving racist or anything.

  11. Hi Theodora, absolutely, there is no need or place for catechesis type discussion when someone in in crisis. Now being at the nursing home I am navagating through new challenges, such as actually speaking up more! Yikes, not the easiest thing for me to do. But, for thowse who live at our nursing home, they arent in major grief and crisis usually. Its a very interesting change for me! Definitely stretching me!

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