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The Price of Dissent

October 6, 2010

In its 2006 statement, Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that Catholics who “knowingly and obstinately repudiate” the Church’s “definitive teaching” on moral issues “seriously diminish [their] communion with the Church.” In recent weeks, the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has not hesitated to stand by those words.

On Sunday September 26th, Lucinda Naylor was suspended from her position as artist-in-residence with the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis due to protesting a DVD in which archbishop John Neinstedt calls for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (Naylor is collecting the DVDs in order to make a sculpture that will symbolize inclusion.) At a mass at St. John’s Abbey later that day, Neinstedt denied communion to about 25 college students and community members, who the Star Tribune says were “displaying rainbow buttons and sashes in protest of the church’s stand on gay marriage.”

Catholics need to realize that dissent from Church teaching is not a merely private matter. The Eucharist is as much a symbol of full communion with the Church as it is the body of Christ. The question therefore cannot be avoided: who is it we are going to commune with — Neinstedt or Naylor? As someone who overwhelmingly agrees with Church teaching and who, moreover, reveres the Church as a beacon of hope in a benighted world, I do not take this decision lightly. At the same time, the Church has made herself clear, and I will continue to make myself clear by refraining from communion at mass until some kind of reconciliation can be achieved.

Supporters of Naylor can find her on Facebook here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. catullus permalink
    October 7, 2010 8:31 am

    That’s admirably principled of you. I feel for religious liberals, but institutions like the Catholic Church are what they are and do what they do and at a certain point, there’s nothing for it except to say, ‘take it or leave it.’ It’s so American to want to have the cake and eat it.

    • innocentsmithjournal permalink*
      October 7, 2010 9:31 am

      Certainly the Vatican has given no indication of openmindedness on this issue. Still, I try to remember that the Church can and does evolve. To take one familiar example, the Church used to teach that all non-Catholics were going to hell (“no salvation outside of the Church”). Its position is now much more nuanced: Jews are not to be evangelized, since their covenant with God still stands; only those who willfully defy church teaching that they accept to be true risk damnation; and so on.

      I would also note that, as I state in the post, I am not in fact eating the cake.

  2. catullus permalink
    October 7, 2010 12:46 pm

    No, you’re not but I hope you’ll be able to soon.

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