Monday, December 28, 2009

Fighting about Unity

I see from the comments to my last post that I've struck a nerve or two, so let me try to be more clear about this.

What is communion? Forget religion for a moment, and ask what the word means in the secular sense. It means an intimate union, a complete coming together, something like marriage or close friendship. As an actor I've felt a communion among the audience when a show goes really well and the audience is united in their experience of it. It's "being on the same page", it's "intimacy", it's being united fully.

Now the Lutherans believe in salvation by Faith alone, in the necessity of scripture alone, and believe they are not subject to the authority of the magisterium or the chair of Peter. I reject these teachings of theirs, and so therefore I am de facto not in communion with the Lutherans. If I accept communion at a Lutheran service, I am lying in commiting that act; by receiving, I am saying I am in total union with these people, but I am really not. This is like fornication. If I sleep with a woman I'm not married to, I am, by the action of my body, claiming to be in total union with her; which, if we are unmarried, I am not. It may be more than a one night stand, but if it ain't life-long marriage, it ain't a total commitment.

This is the issue on its most basic natural level. On the supernatural level, Christ is offering Himself to us. If we accept Him fully by our assent to His teachings and by our actions (i.e., in matters of faith and morals), we are in full communion with the Catholic Church, which is the body of Jesus Christ. If we accept Him only partially, we are heretics (if we deliberately reject part of His teaching) or grave sinners (if we deliberately don't live up to his teaching).

Excommunication (being excluded by fact or by proclamation) from receiving the Eucharist is, metaphorically, being in hell. It is, as Gina said in her comment to the previous post, something we choose ourselves. But people don't like hearing about excommunication any more than they like hearing about hell. And they hate it when people point out to them that they're not, by their own choice, worthy to receive.

Having said all this, I am not saying Lutherans are not Christians or are going to hell or are beyond salvation. On the contrary, there are many who follow Christ more ardently in their separated denominations than fully communicating Catholics do. And indeed the Lutherans almost always have better hymns than the suburban parishes do, and frequently have better homilies. All of this is a given.

But Christ is a fact, and being outside of full communion with Him and the Church He established is a fact. If the Lutherans think their church is that Church, then they would agree with me.

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