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Gay Marriage, Communion, Catholicism: When Mercy and Dogma Meet

Gay Marriage and Communion

A few days ago, Fr. Scott Nolan, pastor of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church,  picked up his phone knowing he had to make a difficult phone call.  Any priest would recognize the dilemma.  Fr. Nolan had to tell a prominent, Mass-going, practicing Catholic Judge, Sara Smolenski, that she could no longer receive Communion at Mass.  Why?  Because she was “married” to another woman.  Apparently, the week before, Judge Smolenski and some of her friends had appeared at Mass wearing Pride Pins–pins that supported Gay themes, particularly Gay Marriage. Her situation became public in a way it had not happened before.

The Priest and the Judge

Fr. Nolan made the difficult phone call.  He acted in his pastoral duty as parish priest and pastor, and he did so in a private one on one phone call.  The judge decided to make the priest’s decision public.  And all hell broke loose.  The priest was vilified, chastised, and pilloried as a retrograde, hopelessly conservative, unmerciful priest out of step with the times.  The judge was lauded as a member of a very prominent family who had and continued to be stalwart supporters of the parish church.  It seemed like a slam dunk for the media particularly when issues like Gay Marriage are litmus tests for a gentle, sensitive and tolerant Christianity.

The Bishop Steps In

Then the Bishop of the Grand Rapids Diocese stepped in.  Bishop David Walkowiak sent a letter this afternoon to all the people of his diocese expressing support for Fr. Nolan and his actions.  It is remarkable to get a Bishop to act so swiftly on such a matter and in such a direct and easily understandable way.  He commended Judge Smolenski for her community service and quoted Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia:  “The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church…(Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ) may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members.” (186).  The Bishop went on to pen this clear and unambiguous statement of Catholic theology and pastoral practice:

Inclusion and acceptance have been a hallmark of Catholic Churches…They remain so.  They presume, however, a respect on the part of individuals for the teaching and practice of the wider Catholic community.  No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members.  This is especially so on matters as central to Catholic life as marriage, which the Church has always held, and continues to hold, as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman…Noting that Fr. Nolan acted in a fair and just manner in dealing with the matter privately, the bishop called his actions appropriate” which the diocese supports completely.”

Read more at Patheos 

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