Philly Mayor Attacks Eucharistic Doctrine as “Not Christian”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (photo: Photo credit: “Lasalleexplorer”, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Archbishop Charles Chaput is "not Christian"? That's the claim made by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who disagrees with the archbishop's recent directive to priests in his archdiocese to deny communion to gay, divorced and unwed couples. Kenney, who was raised in an Irish Catholic family and who attended St. Joseph's Preparatory School, tweeted his dissatisfaction with the archbishop's statement:

Actually, though, Mayor Kenney disagrees not only with the archbishop, but with the longstanding teaching of the Catholic Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1415) states:

Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.

A person who is habitually engaging in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage (between one man and one woman) is in mortal sin and is not "in a state of grace." St. Paul emphasizes the grave consequences of failure to consider one's spiritual state when going forward to receive Christ in the Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 11:27, Paul writes:

If one eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, he will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

In a Semitic culture such as the one in which Paul lived, to be “guilty of another’s body and blood” is to be guilty of murder. And Paul is dead serious—in fact, he warns that receiving the Eucharist unworthily is such a serious sin that some are dying because of it.

For St. John Chrysostom, the Eucharist was so sacred that no one should approach to receive the body and blood of Christ unworthily. In his Homily 20, he wrote:

As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sacred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the holy Communion…

I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear!

Let no one who has an enemy draw near the sacred Table or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Do not draw near! Do you wish to draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Gifts!

So Archbishop Chaput, in limiting the reception of communion to those who are living in accordance with the law of the Church and the law of God, is exercising charity—helping people to avoid the grave penalties which befall those who receive unworthily.

This is not the first time that Mayor Kenney has taken to Twitter to express his disagreement with Archbishop Chaput's faithful leadership. Philly Magazine reported that last September, before Pope Francis' visit to his city, the Mayor tweeted:

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, jumped on this week's story—issuing a statement in defense of the Philadelphia archbishop. The feisty Donohue wrote:

James Kenney was elected mayor of Philadelphia. He seems to think that gives him the authority, or qualifications, to run the Catholic Church in his city. It does not.

Yesterday, Kenney ripped Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput as “not Christian.” The archbishop’s offense? He issued pastoral guidelines reiterating Catholic teaching on marriage, family, and reception of the Eucharist. There is nothing new in Chaput’s document. It merely calls—as the Church always has—for clergy to provide pastoral care for those living in relationships outside its teachings, while upholding the integrity of the sacraments. “Anything less,” Chaput correctly observed, “misleads people about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church.”

I agree.