Should Gay Protesters Be Able to Receive Communion?

Archbishop Nienstedt

The answer is no. And if people understood Catholic teaching and what receiving communion means anymore, then this would be oh so very obvious.

When you go up for communion, to receive the Eucharist, the priest says, “The Body of Christ.” And we reply, “Amen.” When we say “Amen,” we are not only saying, “Amen, I believe what I am receiving is the actual, truly present, Body of Jesus Christ.” We are also outwardly and publicly expressing our communion with the Catholic Church. That means we are saying, “Amen, I am in full communion with the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, and all of her teachings.” That’s why those blatantly, knowingly and unrepentantly living a life in contradiction with the Church (i.e. politicians who support abortion, etc.) are not supposed to receive Communion either.

So the idea that a person who is presently and immediately protesting a core teaching of the Catholic Church (that Marriage is between a Man and a Woman) should be allowed to receive communion (especially while doing so) is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a total contradiction.

The Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis was recently faced with such a situation:

Archbishop John Nienstedt refused to allow the Holy Mass turn into a political protest. A group of 25 activists who are opposed to the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage wore rainbow sashes at a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop.

Not only did these protesters attend Mass wearing these sashes, but they tried to receive Communion despite publicly denouncing Church teaching. The protest organizer told the media: “We were making a statement during the Eucharist.”

The Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis would not allow the protestors to “make a statement” while receiving the Holy Eucharist. Archbishop Nienstedt refused to offer Communion to these activists who had already publicly announced their dis-unity.

So the protesters here are wishing to profess their “dis-unity” with the Church by participating in the single, strongest expression of unity with the Church, Communion? It’s the definition of absurd. And the Archbishop did the right thing…out of concern for both the protester, the community and the Eucharist.

That anyone would take issue with this is just the epitome of the zany world we live in. But they are. CatholicVote started a petition to show Archbishop Nienstedt some support. You can sign the petition electronically here. It only takes a minute.

The protesters can protest all they want. But they should do so in a way that at least makes sense and that doesn’t play games with what we (and supposedly they, too) hold most sacred.

11 comments Add comment

Margo October 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

This is an excellent article. I think that the hostility in the world today is so evident, and this is just one more example. Why would they even WANT to receive Holy Communion when they’re turning around and behaving in a way that REJECTS the true Body and Blood of Christ??? I don’t get it. What is wrong with people? Sure, I will not only sign that petition but I will also pass it along to my family members. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share your thoughts. Excellent writing.

Simon October 7, 2010 at 11:50 am

If the answer to that question is no, then a fortiori, the answer to the question “should pro-choice politicians be allowed to receive communion” must be no. So far as I know, however, neither his excellency Archbp. Nienstedt nor any other member of the American episcopacy has turned away such people. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality or same sex marriage, there is no third party harm in violating those teachings; the soi-disant Catholic pro-choice politicians, by contrast, create a manifest scandal and help enable a practice with victims in the millions. I therefore cannot help but feel that our priorities are really out of whack here.

In the last analysis, it isn’t clear to me whether his excellency acted appropriately here (although I suspect so), but it is quite clear that there is a puzzling tension between his action in this case and the inaction of the episcopacy on pro-choice politicians.

Matthew Warner October 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Simon – the two issues are a bit different. Of course, neither abortion supporters (politicians or not) or those who actively promote a homosexual lifestyle should be receiving communion. The question is whether it is prudent or necessary for the Bishop or priest to deny somebody communion. This is a much more complex matter. The priest can’t really know the person’s heart at that very moment…even if they did support something against Church teaching yesterday.

In this case, the person trying to receive communion is in the very act (at that moment) of denying and publicly expressing dis-unity with the Church. So of course it is very inappropriate to allow them to participate in “communion.”

If the Church was denying people communion because they had once supported or marched in a pro-homosexual “marriage” parade…you may have a case. But it’s not. Although, as I mentioned before, anyone who supports such things, as well as abortion or anything else contrary to the Church, should not be receiving communion anyway. I’m not sure why they would even want to since they are not in “communion” with the Church…so why would they want to make a public statement that they ARE in communion with the Church? Doesn’t make sense. The bishop did the right thing here.

And, as dbond pointed out, all sin has an effect on the entire Body of Christ. No sins are entirely personal, in that sense, and are certainly not harmless.

dbond October 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Simon, you said~
“Regardless of what anyone thinks of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality or same sex marriage, there is no third party harm in violating those teachings”. . .
Of course there is third party harm in this particular violation of the Church’s teaching concerning homosexuality/same sex “marriage”. All of society is affected and harmed by this sin-all sin affects society, no man is an island. This sin is scandalous as it is offensive to propriety and morality~it is abhorrent behavior, it is deviant behavior, against nature and the natural law which God has provided for all of mankind as part of their created being. There are many behaviors which offend God. Some people have, for whatever reason, a propensity towards these behaviors, and it is a cross to bear and to overcome and seek spiritual and behavioral/mental assistance from those who are qualified to, and will offer help which is in agreement with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church.
The worst thing a person could do for those suffering from sin, any sin, is to say: “There, there. Whatever you do is fine. Don’t beat yourself up for it. I love you anyway.” Well, yes, we love them anyway, but we act in love by dissuading them in continuing this behavior, and reccomending them to seek good spiritual and behavioral/mental counsel.
For all of the discussion of whether or not sexual deviancy is biological, mental, emotional, or a learned or chosen behavior, that is beside the point. The same could be said about such deviant behaviors as alcoholism. In either instance, the outcome is detrimental to the body and soul of the person, it is not a possitive or life-giving activity-quite the opposite-and must not be given in to. Prayer for those suffering from struggling with deviant and self destructive behavior, and in charity pointing your brother/sister to the right direction, is the responsibility of the Church which Our Lord Jesus founded. Not a pat on the head and a nod, and for those who openly advocate this and other culture of death behaviors, they should know better than to approach the altar to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus with such a sullied soul. May Our Blessed Mother pray for us, May the Divine Mercy of Our Lord Jesus bring us to Him through the Sacrament of Confession.

dhnt October 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Excellent comment!

Wade St. Onge October 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Although I agree with you, Matthew, I am a big believer in bringing these issues to bear on ourselves before we look at how they apply to others (not that I always do so, sinner that I am).

So the question is, “should protesters receive Holy Communion?” Before we answer that question, we should first ask, “should WE receive Holy Communion?” And the answer to that is, “sometimes yes, BUT sometimes, no”.

And when we get into the “sometimes, no” part, we realize we too are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy, and that we can only receive Our Lord because He has given us the grace to see the truth and to respond to it, however imperfectly and insufficiently.

Once we have realized that “there but for the grace of God go I” and have been humbled by this realization and grateful for the Lord’s love and mercy, we can then go on to ask the second question. It will not change our final answer, but it will change our tone and some of the things we say (and do not say).

Matthew Warner October 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Wade, you make some good points. I totally agree, regardless of these events, that we should all be discerning “the Body” and our selves before receiving communion EVERY Sunday. And you’re right, we should all probably be denying ourselves communion at times. But this topic is an entirely different matter. Here we are talking about people in the very act of publicly protesting Church teaching while trying to receive communion at the same time. That is a very different thing.

dbond October 7, 2010 at 9:39 pm

So very well put, Matthew, when someone puplicly and openly advocates/promotes/participate in those actions which are part of the culture of death, it would be scandalous for a priest/bishop to, in the face of this blatant and public sin (whether it be participating in or promoting, for example: abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, pornography, etc.)to offer the Body of Our Lord and savior to such a person. It would not only be scandalous, but a willful sin on the part of the celebrant of the mass.

micaela October 7, 2010 at 11:10 pm

this is a GREAT post. Thank you!…this is a share must : )

Mary October 11, 2010 at 12:13 am

Matthew, thank you so much for posting a solidly well-formed and Catholic opinion on this whole thing. After reading the article over at USCatholic ( I was really disappointed. Not only do I feel like the article misrepresented the Church, but the conversation felt so disconnected from everything we believe in and the community I believe I am a part of. You have said everything I wanted to be said about it, and I agree.

The archbishop’s decision was a pastoral one. He was caring for his sheep even in their ignorance, protecting them from a sin so grave that they themselves cannot forsee the consequences. He could see, and he protected them. And when they, just as any of us, are ready to be reconciled to the Truth, they will see and understand what they don’t see now. Hopefully, they will also be grateful for the heartache that he spared them. I am grateful to know that there are shepherds out there like him to watch out for us and keep us from what we do to ourselves.

enness July 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I could not agree more. It’s easy to say there is no third-party harm if one does not perceive that he is on the receiving end!

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