Rainbow children

Journalists and Catholic politicians alike have protested that some Catholic bishops are advocating Eucharistic discipline only on the issue of abortion. Now Francis Cardinal George of Chicago has expanded the scope of such discipline -- but not in a way that would please the bishops' critics. George has instructed his priests to deny communion to those Catholics who wear rainbow sashes on Pentecost Sunday to indicate their desire that the Catholic Church change its teachings on homosexuality.

The Rainbow Sash Network posted an undated memo from George, but the document is not available on the Archdiocese of Chicago's website. Excerpts from that memo:

° "The policy of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is to not give Communion to those wearing the Sash. If they come to Communion like every other member of the Church, without the Sash which is the sign of their opposition to Church Teaching, they may receive." [Courage Seattle offers this account of the policy.]

° "The moment of receiving the Lord in Holy Communion is never a moment for an individual to exploit, turning attention to himself or herself, attempting to force a change in the meaning of the sacrament, transforming its objective sign value into a subjective statement. Such an action is objectively sinful."

° "Catholics have a right to celebrate the Eucharist as the Church tells us to worship, without fear of being berated or disturbed by people with personal or political agendas. Those who hold the apostolic faith and strive to meet its moral demands should not be forced to change their faith in order to make some group happy."

° "Those who disagree with the Church's teaching, whether on homosexuality or any other subject, should be treated with great respect, listened to, instructed as possible, loved in all cases. But such pastoral conversation and care takes place outside of the celebration of Mass."

Among Chicago journalists, Art Golab of the Chicago Sun-Times described George's position the most clearly.

Gina Kim of the Chicago Tribune summarized George as saying that "the Eucharist should not become a political forum."

You can count the number of bishops who are willing to deny Communion on any grounds and you will not run out of fingers. George's points are more nuanced than simply denying Communion "to those who wear a so-called rainbow sash indicating they are gay or lesbian," as one sentence said in an early Chicago Tribune report based on a story by WGN-TV.

George's stand will lead to more speculation about how far Catholic bishops are willing to take Eucharistic discipline. Here's hoping it also will lead to articles that attempt to understand the underlying theology.

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