The National Catholic Reporter has again got its readers up in arms. This time it is over a statement that was made by a priest during a Mass in which a number of Catholic children received their first Holy Communion.
The priest, Fr. Patrick Busskamp, apparently made it clear to all present that one needed to be in a state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion and that those who were not in a state of grace should not come forward to receive. Fr Busskamp allegedly also gave some examples, saying that if one was divorced and remarried or had not attended Mass every Sunday, that one should not receive Holy Communion.
What allegedly then resulted is that only those children who were receiving their first Holy Communion came forward. The rest of the congregation allegedly all remained in their seats and did not receive.
My reaction: Fr Busskamp spoke the truth and his doing so was particularly commendable because it was done at such an extremely important event. Those young Catholics, who were about to receive first Holy Communion, were reminded again that what they were about to receive is not just some symbolic gesture. It is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. One must always approach the Sacrament in a state of grace, going to Confession to confess any mortal sins and also, if need be, actually making amends to ones life, before receiving.
I assume that all those who were receiving their first Holy Communion had been prepared for this great day and that this would have included, if necessary, going to Confession. These children therefore approached and received Holy Communion in a state of grace. Those Catholics in the congregation who chose not to come forward to receive Holy Communion may have felt that they were not in a state of grace and so they set an excellent example for these young children who were receiving the Sacrament for the first time. They highlighted to the young children just how special it was to receive Holy Communion.
Sadly, but true to form, the National Catholic Reporter and Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, the writer of the article, which is titled “Austrian parish listens to priest, none receive the host”, put a sinister spin on the matter. The article portrays the priest as being pastorally insensitive for saying what he did. It goes on to imply that the bulk of the congregation did not receive Holy Communion because they had decided to revolt against the comments made by the priest before Holy Communion. All of which is entirely baseless and simply anecdotal. The writer does not provide any names or direct quotes from anyone who actually attended the Mass to support her contention that the congregation had revolted against the priest’s statement. She also chooses to ignore a statement by Fr Busskamp who, when interviewed later, stated clearly: “I wouldn't have refused anyone Communion had they come forward.”
Once again this allegedly Catholic newspaper, as is the case with most of its content, has chosen to show just how anti-Catholic it really is. It takes an event and, despite the lack evidence to support its contention, publishes an article specifically designed to get its readers worked up and angry towards the Church and the priest.
This was such a wonderful opportunity for the newspaper to use this news to teach its readers why the priest is correct in making the statement that he did and to highlight again the Church’s teaching in this regard. Goodness knows, judging by the comments made by many of its readers, most of its Catholic readers clearly are in desperate need of some Catechism lessons again.
We need to keep the Catholic media in our prayers daily. Catholic newspapers need to realise that they must use their means of communication to catechise and to do apostolate. The second Vatican Council certainly thought that Catholic media should “instil a fully Christian spirit into readers… Such a press-whether immediately fostered and directed by ecclesiastical authorities or by Catholic laymen-should be edited with the clear purpose of forming, supporting and advancing public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching and precepts.”[i] Note: Not in accordance with the editors own opinions and beliefs but in accordance with Catholic teaching and precepts.
Maybe it is time for the editors of Catholic newspapers to read the entire Decree On The Media Of Social Communications - Inter Mirifica again.