The controversy over Health Care Reform’s impact on women’s access to abortion heated up a notch today when Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin acknowledged Representative Patrick J. Kennedy’s claim that the bishop had forbidden him from receiving communion “because of his advocacy of abortion rights.” (CORRECTION: Tobin claims he asked but did not forbid Kennedy from receiving communion.) For all us non-Catholics, Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit scholar at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, explained to the Providence Journal:
that withholding Communion is not as grave a penalty as excommunication, which separates a Catholic from all the sacraments. If a bishop denies Communion to a Catholic, he or she ‘is still a Catholic,’ Father Reese said. Indeed, he said ‘it would take a canon lawyer’ to say whether a Catholic denied Communion in his own diocese would be free to receive Communion elsewhere.
But I gather it’s pretty grave.
I now turn to a story in the St. Petersburg Times from 2004 at the First Baptist Church of College Hill, near Tampa, Florida. At the last minute, a political forum was moved from an historically black church to a public library. According to reporter David Karp, “That afternoon, the pastor had received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service asking about political activity at the church, a stop for many Democrats running for office.”
Now back to the story of Bishop Tobin and Representative Kennedy, where “in 2004, a large majority of bishops ‘tried to persuade the minority not to . . . us[e] Communion as a weapon,’ Father Reese said, but the conference could not come to a consensus view on the issue.”
So the Roman Catholic Church seeks to influence the political process and . . . the IRS does nothing. A black church hosts a “visit by then-gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno” and, two years later, gets a letter from the IRS. This in the midst of a presidential campaign:
The Bush campaign has courted evangelical Christians, including asking for church mailing lists in some states. Democrat John Kerry has campaigned at black churches and invoked his faith in speeches. In July, Kerry’s running mate stumped at a black church in Orlando.
IRS Publication 1828, page 7, states in no uncertain terms:
I suppose it is possible to quibble over the meaning of “substantial” in the part about “not devot[ing] a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation.” But Representative Kennedy is a Congressman. And “[bishops’ conference] spokeswoman [Deirdre] McQuade said the bishops conference could not give a count of how many times bishops have actually denied Communion to government officials.” It apparently doesn’t happen very often, but
For Catholics, the debate could scarcely be more visceral. The church holds that abortion is a taking of human life that is intrinsically evil. Exclusion from the Holy Eucharist — bread that the faithful believe to have been transformed into the body of Christ — is a rare and serious penalty to impose on any Catholic.
(UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, “Only a few U.S. bishops have said they would deny Communion to a Catholic lawmaker who supports policies that violate church teaching. A larger number of prelates have publicly asked a Catholic politician to voluntarily abstain from the sacrament.”)
The Church has been rather active politically, not just advocating California’s proposition 8 banning same sex marriage but doing so in San Francisco’s Castro District where the message would not be well received.
So apparently a black church better be careful about which politicians it hosts. But the Catholic Church can blatantly campaign against abortion and same sex marriage with impunity. So too, apparently, can the Mormon Church.
The Catholic and Mormon churches are both extremely hierarchical, repressive churches. For them, women are inferior, sex is bad, homosexual sex is even worse, and abortion is murder. They would like legislation passed to this effect. And that’s all okay with the IRS, which not only uses your tax dollars to collect more of your tax dollars, but apparently uses them to not collect from certain religious organizations that rely on infrastructure, law enforcement, and other government services like anyone else but which infringe on separation between church and state.