Catholics Playing With Fire
There are a lot of Catholics in the world. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 75 million Catholics. By numbers, Catholicism is, by far, the largest Christian faith on the planet. However, simply being a member, means nothing. It is not like an AAA membership which sits unused until you have a flat tire or a dead battery. Most people who consider themselves “members” of the Catholic Church treat their membership like an AAA membership though, only with no annual fee. In other words, it is easier and cheaper to be a member of the Catholic Church than it is to be an AAA member. Such a Catholic “checks the box” on surveys, and questionnaires, but they do not go to Mass, go to confession, support their parish, and often, they do not pray, read spiritual writings, or study and read Scripture. As I have written before, such people are Catholic, but they are more specifically lapsed Catholics. Other ways to describe them are non practicing, unfaithful, or lukewarm.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16
These might seem like harsh words, but it is better to call it what it is, than to smear lipstick on a pig.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8
Being lukewarm is bad, and it will end poorly for those of us who are not faithful. However, worse than the lukewarm, are those of us who are engaged in direct and unrepentant defiance of God. It is one things to be spewed out of God’s mouth, but it is even worse to spend eternity burning in a lake of fire and sulfur. This is bad news, because even the most faithful of us fall into this category on a regular basis. Thank God for confession and the Eucharist. Well, thank God for confession and the Eucharist if you are not engaged in the direct and unrepentant defiance of God. If you are the type of Catholic who thumbs your nose at the Church’s teachings, receiving the Eucharist or going to confession does not help you, it actually does you a lot of harm. It is kind of like taking a medication without any care or oversight by your doctor. But it is only kind of like that, because sometimes you can get away with taking some medications without your doctor’s care. With the sacraments, you are guaranteed to make your condition worse if you receive the sacraments without the care of the Divine Physician.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30
As Scripture shows, it is very dangerous to be lukewarm, it is worse to be in defiance of God, and above all, to receive the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) while you are unfaithful and/or in defiance of God, is to eat and drink judgment against yourself. It is like pleading guilty in the final judgment. The next stop is certain to be the lake of fire and sulfur for all eternity.
This is why any decent person would want to discourage a lapsed, lukewarm, or defiant Catholic from receiving the Eucharist, and from treating the sacrament of confession like it is a self-checkout stand at the local supermarket, where you mindlessly scan your items (your sins), swipe your card (say you are sorry and recite your prayers of penance), then head home.
How do I know if a Catholic is faithful or not? How do I know if a person should or should not receive the Eucharist? In most cases, I have no idea. Some people have personally confided in me. On occasion a friend or an acquaintance will tell me that they are not faithful, but they are receiving the Eucharist anyway. In those cases (which are rare), I try to persuade them to repent, go to confession, and then receive, but if they can’t bring themselves to do that, I tell them to not receive. However, I do this with charity and mercy. I don’t wag my finger at them and make them feel like a fool. At some point in the future, they may eventually come around, but that is less likely if I insult them today.
Other than a few occasions over the years in which a person has personally confided in me, there are some occasions when I also know whether a Catholic should abstain from receiving the Eucharist. These are occasions when a public figure has consistently and publicly explained their unfaithfulness. Usually this is a politician such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, or Joe Biden. Sometimes it is a celebrity such as Bruce Springsteen or Jim Carrey. Basically, when someone says, “I am Catholic, but I disagree with the Church” or “I was raised Catholic, but…”, you can be assured that the person should not be receiving the Eucharist. Whether it is an obviously serious teaching such as abortion, or something which is a little less obvious such as a “good people go to Heaven”, the person should not receive the Eucharist. This is not a penalty or a disciplinary action against the person as much as it is an act of mercy. They are promoting sin and error, and by receiving the Eucharist, they are adding another extremely serious (deadly) sin on top of it.
Yet for 99.999% of the population of the planet, I have no idea whether they should or should not receive the Eucharist. Therefore, for the vast majority of the population of the world, I have no opinion, but as a Christian, I still care about them and their salvation. While I can name a number of public figures who are only digging their hole deeper (and closer to the lake of fire and sulfur), I can only pray for more of us to become more faithful, to repent, to go to confession, and to abstain from the Eucharist until we are truly in a state of grace (free from mortal sin), before we approach to receive.
All the while, I have to constantly reassess my relationship with Christ and His Church. How am I doing? What have I done or failed to do? How would Christ describe our relationship? These are all things which change from day to day, minute to minute, and sometimes in seconds. I cannot get too caught up in whether or not Joe Biden is receiving the Eucharist or not. For his sake, and for the sake of the bishops and priests involved in that situation, I pray he does not receive until he repents, and I pray the the priests and bishops involved stand by the Church’s teaching on this and refuse to administer it to him if he does approach the communion rail. This is because he would certainly be eating and drinking condemnation upon himself, but the priest or bishop who foolishly helps him do so, would have his blood on their hands in that case. Surely, there is a hotter and more sulfurous part of the lake for priests and bishops who assisted others in being cast into the lake of fire.
Right now there are some bishops, including cardinals, who think it is best to just let Joe Biden drink and eat judgment up on himself. Archbishop Cupich, Gregory, and O’Malley, obviously do not believe that their yes should be yes, and their no be no. (Matthew 5:37). However Christ Himself said that anything less than this comes from the Satan. Unfortunately, ambiguity and polysemy are in vogue among the hierarchy of the Church these days. Some bishops seem to specialize in vague and blurry statements. Shame on them, but worse than that, woe to them.
Any professing Catholic (faithful or not) who publicly advocates for sin, or promotes or votes for legislation which promotes sin, can certainly receive the Eucharist as long as they can find a willing acolyte, deacon, priest, or bishop, who will cooperate in their judgment. What I’m saying is that they should not do it, and no one should assist them in doing it if they cannot control themselves. Why play with fire?