Cardinal Roger Mahoney, formerly the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is now retired. He has been replaced by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, a Mexican-born man who is disliked by liberals. That’s my kinda guy. For those of us aware of Cardinal Mahoney’s obstinate liberal positions, his retirement couldn’t happen soon enough. Yet even in retirement, he has managed to lob another grenade onto the unsuspecting faith of many Catholics.
On March 9, the Los Angeles Times published an interview with Cardinal Mahoney in which, among other things, he argues in favour of giving communion to pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians because Jesus gave communion to Judas at the Last Supper.
This is a poignant example of sound-bite Christianity that I wrote about. For the sake of protecting the faithful from confusion and misdirection, Cardinal Mahoney’s argument must be refuted.
First of all, there’s no unanimity among theologians as to whether Judas actually received communion or not. But let’s suppose that he did, for the sake of argument. Can we equate Judas’ situation with that of pro-abortion politicians?
Let’s start with the basics. There are at least two reasons why communion shouldn’t be given to someone who is not disposed to receive:
- It creates scandal in the case of a manifest public sinner
- It causes sacrilege to the Body and Blood of Christ
The case of Judas at the Last Supper is different from the pro-abort politician in both of these respects.
With respect to scandal, Canon lawyer and Vatican legal consultant Edward Peters already has already given a strong explanation of the differences between Judas and the modern politician. Referring to the part of Canon Law dealing with admission to holy communion, Peters says this:
In fact, as important as the prevention of sacrilege is in the operation of Canon 915, it is not the only basis for the canon; rather, the prevention of scandal is also a key consideration, but scandal arises only from public behavior seriously at odds with Church teaching and order. Judas was an occult sinner, and Jesus did not expose his inexpressibly grievous, but to that point still private, sin to publicview by withholding Communion from him. (Source)
None of the Apostles present at the Last Supper knew that Judas had made a deal with the Jews to betray Jesus later than night. As a result, Judas’ sin was not a public and manifest sin at the time of the Last Supper. Consequently, there was no danger of scandalizing the other Apostles by giving communion to Judas. This contrasts sharply with pro-abortion politicians, where their obstinate defiance of Church teaching is on the public record for the whole world to see. They’re quoted in the newspapers, on TV, the radio, the web, in the transcripts of Parliamentary debates… everywhere. That’s the very definition of public and manifest sin. To give communion to such individuals would be very scandalous.
Sacrilege is an entirely different animal. Even when a sin is private and secret, it is still a sacrilege to receive communion unworthily. This is a grave offense to the Body and Blood of Christ. Remember St. Paul’s admonition:
Whoever, therefore, 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. (1 Cor 11:27)
How does Judas’ situation differ from the politician? In this case, the difference isn’t so much on the part of the recipient as in the giver.
To understand this, let’s take a small step back for a sec. The two greatest Commandments of Christianity pertain to the love of God and of neighbour. In keeping with these Commandments, it’s unacceptable to commit evil towards another person. But it’s not wrong for an individual to allow evil to be committed against himself, if he has a good reason to do so. In other words, you can’t dish out evil, but you may choose to be the victim of evil. For example, it’s obviously wrong to kill an innocent person, but I am free to lay down my life for another. Was this not the Modus Operandi of Christ’s Passion?
Returning to our discussion of sacrilege, I would argue that no priest or bishop has the right to inflict sacrilege on Christ by knowingly granting communion to a pro-abortion politician, but Christ was certainly free to allow sacrilege to be committed against Himself by giving communion to Judas. Why would Christ do this? For the same reason that he willingly submitted to every other trial and tribulation in His life: to effect redemption and to leave us an example of self-sacrificing love. Agape love.
In summary, the Cardinal’s comparison to Judas is bogus. The Church, throughout her history, has had a clear understanding of the duty of not offering communion to individuals who are not disposed to receive. Don’t be deceived by sound-bite Christianity, even if it comes from a Prince of the Church.