The pilgrims fled Europe and came to Plymouth to escape the intolerance and hatred of religious persecution. Almost four centuries later, a very disturbing trend is taking place in America that is the very antitheses of what this country is suppose to stand for and be about. Religious persecution has once again reared its ugly head.
In recent days we have seen the President of the United States ask the head of a worldwide religious organization and technically the head of a foreign state, to help him win his first election as President. This not being enough, this same white house occupant has now asked the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. to help him win his first election. These actions have affectively blended church and politics to an unprecedented level in American life.
The battle cry of this appointed president is, “protect the sanctity of marriage!” George W. Bush has based his election campaign on fear; fear of gay marriage. What else does he have to run on?? This fundamentalist politician is using the tactics of national division to retain the white house. He is not alone. In Virginia, we have a Roman Catholic republican Delegate to the Virginia House who sponsored and authored a bill that not only prevents gay marriage, but prevents two people of the same sex from entering into any contract! This same law could be used to interfere with wills left by members of long term relationships, power of Attorney, and any other contractual relationship. It is the most oppressive legislation in this country and is plainly unconstitutional. That the members of the Virginia House of Delegates passed this law that takes effect on July 1, 2004, is most apprehensible! It cannot be allowed to stand.
As for church complicity in this conspiracy to drive a wedge through the heart of this country, we have a new all time low: Communion as a political weapon. Even before the Bush plea at the Vatican, we found the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal George issuing an edict that banned Holy Communion to anyone wearing a sash that identified them as gay. The Body of Christ was being withheld over whether or not the Church includes all of God’s children, or only those who the current Scribes and Pharisees deem worthy. This abomination has been copied in other dioceses throughout the United States as well as according to Cardinal George, being the stated policy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
No where in Holy Scriptures does Jesus say, “Take this all of you and eat it; this is my body which will be given up for you” — unless you are gay. Jesus Christ gave the gifts of his body and blood to the people of God, not the Roman Catholic Church. It is not the role of the Church to withhold the Sacrament of the Eucharist over a disagreement of whether or not a person is born gay.
The Eucharist is the very real and present way to nourish one’s soul, to bring Christ within along with the saving grace that goes with it. Through the Eucharist we share in the sacrifice that Jesus made for all men and women on the cross. It reminds us of the love that Jesus had for us all as well as the love of the Father who gave us His only begotten Son. It is the center of our worship; it defines us as Catholic Christians. The Church teaches that in the Eucharist is found the Body of Christ in its real presence. If the Church believes this, than at communion time they are holding the actual substance of Christ. How can they refuse to share this presence with all who love and claim Jesus Christ as they savior?? Do politics, prejudice and the weakness of man usurp the power of the Eucharist? Has the Church reduced this most holy of holies to a pathetic, silent, vapid symbol of antiquated, authoritative church rule? If it has, than surly it is time for the church to be dissolved.
Not being happy with abusing the Eucharist, we now have the Pope putting pressure on American Bishops to carry out the command to get Bush elected. In Massachusetts the faithful have been told not to vote for anyone who supports gay marriage. This is now spreading to other diocese where conservative Bishops sit who are happy to serve the Pope and maybe secure the red hat. Where will this end?
In 44 years, we have gone from fear of a Catholic President who might takes orders from the Pope, to a protestant president who goes to the Pope and asks for him to order his Bishops to help him get elected. What has become of us and what will we do about this to correct it?
Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson, OSJB, is the author of “The Gay Face of God” and “If He’s Queer He Musta Done It”. A Vietnam Era Veteran, former Police Officer of the Year, a Federal Agent, a Federal Magistrate, an armed bodyguard to Saudi Royalty, a senior Federal Government executive, and recipient of awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Treasury.
While studying at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary and Theological College at the Catholic University of America, he decided that his own conflict of conscience would not allow him to go on to ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained a deacon in the Old Catholic Church in 1995, a Priest six months later, and was called to the Episcopacy in early 1999. On January 30th, he was consecrated a Bishop of the Catholic Church. In 2002, he was consecrated sub-conditione by a Roman Catholic Archbishop, three times removed from Pope Paul the Sixth.