Sunday, December 10, 2006

Give me Your Scandal, and I'll Give you Directions to the United Church

A church in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is a little less 'diverse' today. From the press reports, I gather that two gay men have left the Catholic Church after their Bishop told them that they could not receive the Eucharist as they are in a state of mortal sin. The men are outraged. The gay community is angst ridden. The CBC is absolutely livid. 'Fantabulous' has not been uttered in the church narthex for weeks.

Now if this were a liberal democracy, this wouldn't be an issue. Churches, to the state, are supposed to be private institutions out of their realm of authority. But Canada ceased to be a liberal democracy some time ago, and thus it's probably only a matter of days before the Gay, whoops, Human Rights machine takes the bigot Bishop to task for exercising one of his less affirming canonical competencies.

To the chagrin of those with a bone to pick with the Catholic Church, the Human Rights Act does not apply to this situation, even though it does include 'sexual orientation' as one of its protected groups. Why not? Well for starters, the Act applies to 'goods, services, facilities or accommodation customarily available to the general public'. The sacrament of the Eucharist has never been customarily available to the general public, it is only available to baptized Catholics who have received the sacrament of Confession/Penance, and even then only to those who are in a state of grace (without the stain of mortal sin). Also, the practice of denying the Eucharist to unrepentant Catholics who are publicly resisting repentance, ergo putting themselves into occassions of sin and giving scandal to the Church, is a regular practice, even though it has fallen by the wayside over the past 40 years. Therefore one cannot argue that the Bishop's act violates the HRA's prohibition on administering discrimination selectively to individuals, since this is not 'selective discrimination': You cannot receive the Eucharist if you have violated any of the Ten Commandments. Mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if the Church is sued by the government, this is Canada after all.

So where have the two men gone? Where else! The United Church! Beggars can't be choosers, you know. But even there the men realise something is missing. They attend Sundary worship at their new church, yet still refer to themselves as Catholics. Pray for them.

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