This past year, many Americans who asked the question about whether or not to give Communion to political candidates favoring abortion ‘rights’ were unable to frame the question in anything other than a legal/disciplinary perspective. Very few seem to be asking the sacramental/theological question: “What does receiving the Eucharist express?” Once you’ve framed the question this way, you can hardly say that the Bible is silent on the matter. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 11. And I think the tradition is clear that receiving Communion expresses a communion with Christ and his Body — a union of heart and mind on essential matters.
When a Catholic serving in public office clearly opposes the Church’s teaching on essential matters, he makes himself incapable of receiving the Eucharist for what it is — a life-giving union with the Christ’s body, a giving and a receiving that one participates in without reserve. For such a Catholic, receiving the Eucharist is a form of spiritual contraception. He engages in the act without intending to express the very meaning of the act. In effect, he uses Christ’s Body rather than receiving that Body for all that it is.
It is common knowledge that those who reject the Church’s teaching authority often do so as a result of the Church’s teaching on contraception. It seems to me that this is no accident. Contraception is that act by which we give ourselves permission not to respect the other, but merely to serve our own interests. When we use contraception in our married life, it damages marital communion, because it interferes with our vocation to be a gift to our spouse and to receive our spouse as a gift. And when we engage in spiritual contraception by receiving Communion unworthily, it damages our communion with Christ’s body. We begin to relate to the Church simply in terms of how She might benefit us, and we cease to pay attention to how we might serve Her.
A public servant who is Catholic is just that — a servant. This is a noble calling and a beautiful witness when lived authentically. The more deeply one comes to appreciate one’s faith, the more one recognizes that the service of the common good is sustained and nourished by a vibrant Catholic faith. It is the Church who fosters in us an awareness that in every person we discover an image of Christ, that Christ gave his very life for every human being, and that we are called to revere every life even when it costs us dearly to do so. We must not cease to remind ourselves that our leader in the faith sacrificed His very life for the well-being and redemption of every human life.
Our true adherence to the Church does not make us partisan in our attitudes, as though we had joined some club which only respects its own members. Rather, our life in the heart of the Church opens our heart to every human person, regardless of creed, ethnicity or any other distinguishing characteristic. To be Catholic is to love and to defend all that is truly human. And the life of the unborn is truly human. Failing to recognize the humanity and dignity of the unborn diminishes our own humanity, because it robs us of the beauty both of being a gift to others and of receiving others as gift.