Monday, April 1, 2013

Uncharitable Politician Denied Communion

The Daily Currant reports today that Republican congressman and former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan was refused communion at Easter Sunday Mass. A spokesperson from the church explained that as the budget Ryan recently proposed defunds much of the existing social safety net for the poor, the plan stands in opposition to Roman Catholic teachings on social justice and compassion for the less fortunate. Therefore, allowing the congressman to take communion would be inappropriate.

The church's commitment to the poor strengthened with the ascension of Pope Francis I to the papacy, who while a bishop in his native Argentina was known for his deep devotion to fighting poverty. Despite his Catholic faith, Paul Ryan is the author of a budget plan that directly contradicts these core values, tearing up the existing social safety net America has built for the poor. Last year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Ryan's budget "unjustified" and "wrong."

In an exclusive interview, Ryan says he rejects the bishop's criticisms and argues his viewpoint should be allowed within the Church. "I'm a big fan of the Old Testament," Ryan says. "I like the parts where God is punishing people with plagues and locusts, and killing people's first born children. The verses where he sanctions rape and genocide are just brilliant.

"But I'm not really big on this hippie New Testament thing. Too much peace and love, not enough hatred and violence. But hey, it's all God's word. So I don't see why I am excluded from Catholic services just because I like some parts better than others."

If the Roman Catholic Church is going to refuse communion to politicians over their support for particular measures, as it has done for a number of pro-choice bills and amendments, it seems completely logical and consistent to apply this same concept to other initiatives that contradict Church teachings on poverty issues. Of course, it's April 1st and this article is a parody, so in reality they're not about to do it any time soon.

All joking aside, I've always found the concept of denying communion to politicians over their voting records completely bizarre, especially considering that abortion is the only issue that seems to merit such consideration. There's an awfully big difference between thinking that keeping abortion legal and making contraception widely available make for a better society and thinking that they are moral and wonderful things. A solid case can be made, in fact, that the latter approach reduces the abortion rate - which should be a good thing as far as genuine pro-lifers are concerned.

By denying communion to politicians that support these measures what the the church seems to be saying is that God doesn't care about results so long as the law reads the right way. And isn't that one of the exact things Jesus spoke out against during his life? Really, the approach that's most congruent with the US Constitution is for the Roman Catholic Church to just stay out of politics and quit employing spiritual manipulation to get its way in the public sphere.

Happy April Fools Day, everybody!

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