You Mean I Can't Receive Jesus?

This was the response of Judge Sara Smolenski upon being informed by her priest that she should not present herself for communion. He did it because she is "married" to her same sex partner. He did this privately, in a phone call. Because things like this are between priest and parishioner and he took every step necessary to keep it that way. But judge Smolenski made it public.


There are several issues here; some of them doctrinal and some of them canon law. All of them involve the responsibility of both priest and parishioner; the priest as the guardian and protector of the faith and the parishioner as they practice that faith in accordance with Catholic teaching. Judge Smolenski did not do this.


It is impossible to know what judge Smolenski did or did not know about the teachings of the Church regarding marriage but I think it would stretch the bounds of credulity to believe that she did not know the stance of the Church here. She claims to be a lifelong Catholic yet her "wedding" was a civil ceremony. That would seem to indicate that she was well aware of the objections of the Church, which are grounded in her teachings.


Given this, it would be safe to say that she knew what she was doing would bring scandal to the Church. That is a grave sin. It is even more grave given her position in the community and her outspokenness about her Catholic faith. It is compounded by the fact that she decided to take something the priest rightly wished to remain private and made it public, while criticizing this priest and comparing his actions with the actions of other priests in the diocese.


The catechism has this to say about scandal:


Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible. This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values. (2286)


Judge Smolenski is in a position to manipulate public opinion and she did so by taking this situation to the local "news outlet". As a well loved and respected member of the community she has the social and political capital to manipulate public opinion. And this is scandalous.

In her statement to the "press", she stated that this was the very Church that formed her faith and she had just given a substantial amount of money to their building program. She exuded a state of incredulity, again citing other priests in the diocese who willingly admit her to communion. And again she did this publicly, further bringing scandal to the Church. That one or several priests have failed in their duties to protect and defend the teachings of the Church does not convict this priest of wrongdoing; it does just the opposite.

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Judge Smolenski should know better. She is a judge. She spends her days rendering decisions based upon law. There will always be one party that is unhappy but the decision stands because it is based upon our laws. A failure to follow the law most often results in the temporary restriction of full participation in society. It is no different with the Church. The Church has laws which, if violated, restrict full participation in the life of the Church. One cannot expect to flout immorality as defined by the Church in the face of the Church and avoid any repercussions. And the fact that she made a large donation to the Church should have no bearing upon the decision. And it didn't.


I applaud this priest for his action. We cannot allow the world to change the Church. The Church must change the world and when the pew controls the pulpit, she becomes nothing more than an extension of the faith and morals of those who sit in them.

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