On Holy Communion as a Political Weapon

12 09 2008

From Athanasius Contra Mundum:

Part of the reason people accuse us of using Communion as a political tool is that all of Mass and worship has been reduced to communion, rather than worship of almighty God. In other words, it focuses on what we get, and not what we ought to give, and consequently the bar has been lowered so that no one feels “left out”. In that context, politicians tend to be the only ones singled out, because their public acts are the easiest to see. In a world where everyone is worthy, why should a pro-choice politician stand out?

I have thought about this myself, and I for some reason think that this is a truly American phenomenon. Anti-Staretz once told me a story of when he used to live in Italy. He met a friend of a friend with whom he began a bout of idle banter. When the subject touched on religion, Anti-Staretz asked the man if he was Catholic. The man applied in the affirmative. Anti-Staretz then asked the man where he went to Mass.

“Mass?”, the man replied, “I said I was Catholic, not a fanatic!”

And of course, that is the interesting thing. In traditionally Catholic countries, if you don’t agree with the Church, you just don’t go to church. It would be an absurd waste of time to try to be accepted by an institution that doesn’t accept you. Most of these people regard the Church as the enemy anyway. So why bother even showing up to Mass on Sunday, let alone receiving Communion?

Perhaps it is an American phenomenon: church-going is regarded as badge of moral uprightness. And not just going to church, but being in good standing with the church. It is part and parcel of being a “good citizen”. Like being in the Boy Scouts, but holier. Could you imagine a godless person running for president?

That is not to say that people in other countries don’t go to Mass and receive Communion unworthily. But they are more likely not to go at all, as the demographic crisis of the Church in Europe clearly demonstrates. So if our pews are still well-inhabited when compared to our European counterparts, is it really for religious reasons?