Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Double-Dealing: Supporting Marriage Equality and Claiming to be a Roman Catholic versus Opposing Marriage Equality and Claiming to be an Episcopalian

A quote in a story at USA Today caught the eye of one of our esteemed readers yesterday,
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron, said Sunday that Catholics who receive Communion while advocating gay marriage would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury."
I tend to think of this kind of "double dealing" as trying to foist two mutually exclusive views to two separate persons or groups in the way that a politician caters to his/her diverse constituency. Some of us call that "lying". In the context of gay marriage and the Church, the individual who supports gay marriage and receives communion in the Roman Catholic Church is double dealing in a way. The support of gay marriage is contrary to the Church's position on marriage, a traditional position which is in keeping with Scripture and with the Apostolic faith. Therefore, support of gay marriage weakens the Faith by testifying against not just the Church but against the body and blood of the Gospel itself. To claim to be a member of the Church while not being in communion with the Church is double dealing. Several well known politicians have been engaging in this behavior recently with respect to the "marriage equality" issue. To the Archbishop, this is not unlike perjury. It is being a false witness for the Church.

I wonder if Roman Catholic supporters of gay marriage might lessen the shame of perjury by confessing of the sin of such support prior to accepting the host.

In our  Episcopal church we usually say a general confession prior to receiving communion. During the fifty days of Easter the confession is omitted, but I still find myself silently confessing prior to receiving because I know that I need to, and that with God's gift comes tremendous responsibility.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Deitrich Bonhoeffer who was the subject of my Lenten study this year. What he wrote about cheap grace might apply to the question of going to the altar rail without a repentant heart.
"This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (h/t American Anglican Council)
For those who don't think confession is necessary to avoid double-dealing, I guess you can stop here and go back to what you were doing. For the rest of you, I have some questions.

1) Would it be okay to receive communion if I am not confident that Jesus is Lord? (Doubt)

2) What if I hold a view that is contrary to God's Word? (Sin?)

3) What if I oppose the Church's teachings? (Arrogance?)

In response to #1, I would think it would be okay, but why would I bother?

With regard to #2, I would consider it to be un-wise to receive communion in that circumstance. That would be disobedience, a case of putting my word above God's.

As far as #3 goes, and this is critical for the Roman Catholic gay marriage supporter (although they really ought to consider #2 as well), at what point do I draw the line? When do I decide that I am truly "sharing" the Body and Blood with the Church Universal rather than imbibing in a private act of devotion, a private act that the Church has no right to mess up with a teaching that disagrees with my own personal opinion? Also, have I truly studied the Church's position?

Next, perform the same exercise from the viewpoint of someone who,
1) Is confident that Jesus is Lord, but parts of the church are not as confident,

2) Puts God's Word above his/her own, but is in a church where personal opinion and feelings trump the Word, and

3) Opposes gay marriage, but is in a church that supports gay marriage.
Is receiving communion in those circumstances a form of double-dealing not unlike perjury, or is it part of the duty of the faithful witness? 


  1. Pewster,
    "When do I decide that I am truly 'sharing' the Body and Blood with the Church Universal rather than imbibing in a private act of devotion, a private act that the Church has no right to mess up with a teaching that disagrees with my own personal opinion?"
    I believe you are communing with all believers past present and future. I also believe that Satan will do all in his power to keep us from taking communion. Have I always been in the right frame of mind when communing? No. All the more reason to partake. The Kingdom of God has always had both wheat and tares. Communion is first an act of obedience and second an act of faith.

  2. The archbishop's argument is not nearly as logical as you make it out to be. Remarriage after divorce is anathema to the RCC, too, but laymen are not bound to enact laws that enshrine that teaching in civil law. The question is not so much about theology ( since not everyone who thinks that civil marriage ought to include same-sex couples necessarily thinks that the Church's teaching on marriage ought to change) but about the Church's role in the State's political life.