In his letter to a confused Church in the city of Corinth, Saint Paul wrote this exhortation:
Whoever… eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason, many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged.
Saint Paul’s appeal to the corrupt people of Corinth was clear: if you do not repent and confess your sin, you will eat and drink judgment upon yourself. For Saint Paul, “the body” is the actual Body of Christ, but also, and by extension, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Thus, to receive the Eucharist in the state of disharmony with the teachings of the Church and her moral precepts is sacrilegious.
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By definition, “Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist” (CCC, 2120). Incidentally, Corinth was a renowned center for abortion, fornication, and sexual immorality. During Saint Paul’s time in Corinth, he would have been aware of such grave matter. Consequently, as all the sacraments are directed towards the Eucharist, Saint Paul made it the highest priority to guard the most precious gift of the Eucharist—not just for the sake of the individual, but the Church as a whole.
Fast-forward approximately two thousand years, and the Holy Spirit has inspired one of the Church’s great catechists to speak about the scandal of receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. On December 4, Archbishop Chaput published an essay in First Things to an equally confused Church. As usual, His Excellency’s thoughts—which focus on the scandal of giving the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who do not abide by Church teaching—are ironclad in both their reasoning and their clarity. The Archbishop writes:
Those bishops who publicly indicate in advance that they will undertake their own dialogue with President-elect Joseph Biden and allow him Communion effectively undermine the work of the task force established at the November bishops’ conference meeting to deal precisely with this and related issues. This gives scandal to their brother bishops and priests, and to the many Catholics who struggle to stay faithful to Church teaching.
There are a couple of details complicating this situation that are less principled than the issues Archbishop Chaput properly cites, but no less real in calculating the current situation. Washington, D.C., voted somewhere around ninety-four percent for Biden. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the ordinary of Washington, advocated for admitting Biden to Holy Communion. If Archbishop Gregory seeks to avoid mutiny, scrutiny, or unpopularity, he will not challenge Biden in the Communion line.
Furthermore, nationally, over half of all self-identified Catholics voted for Biden. That translates to many Catholics supporting state and local politicians who are brazen in their unbridled support of abortion, radical gender ideology, and many other morally objectionable issues.
Herein lies the importance of Archbishop Chaput’s invitation to his brother bishops to lead according to the norms established by the Church: “In the year ahead, a great many people will be watching our nation’s Catholic leadership. They will be led, for good or for ill, by the witness of America’s bishops.”
The Church currently lives on the razor’s edge of a profound divide between orthodoxy and ideology. Like a strong current, this divide runs through the lay faithful, the religious orders, and the hierarchy, from deacons to the College of Cardinals. Archbishop Chaput has aggressively but charitably spoken to this divide.
Why? Because our oneness with Christ in the Eucharist is the foundational norm for all Christian behavior. The whole sacramental economy is ordered to the Eucharist for this reason. If today’s leaders do not safeguard the Eucharist like Saint Paul, many Catholics will be scandalized and led astray; many others, who eat and drink unworthily, will be damned. That’s hard to hear, but the truth so often is.
Where there is a scandal, there should always be the action of intercessory prayer. That’s the advice Saint Paul gave to Timothy. “It is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,” he says, for “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So we lift up in prayer Archbishop Chaput and all his brother bishops, to be agents of salvific truth. Amen!
Dr. Hollcraft’s book Unleashing
the Power of Intercessory
Prayer is available now from
Sophia Institute Press.
[Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images News]