Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Render to God through Caesar?

One of the superstars of the Catholic blogo-trapeziod is Amy Welborn. Along with a few others, she was a founding member of the Catholic new media in the United States. Sadly, as a professor friend expressed to me just last evening, this "sphere," or whatever it is, has become a bit decrepit. Perhaps it is due to the law of virtual entropy or some such thing. No doubt, in some regards this so-called sphere (aren't spheres obtuse?) has become a bit of a self-licking ice cream cone, quite impressed with its own, relatively shallow, pronouncements and "takes." As a member of this less-than-august group, I must admit that I agree with him. I have always been more than a little ambivalent about my own efforts. Nonetheless, through it all, even after taking a hiatus, Amy's Charlotte Was Both blog (it was her previous blog that rightly gained her renown) remains as fresh and insightful as ever. This is evidenced by her most recent post, "Kasper, German Bishops, and the Church Tax," which reflects, at least in my view, just the kind of analysis and commentary the new media set out to provide.

Amy hits the nail squarely on the head with her opening sentence: "In this age of 24-7, can’t escape information-mongering, it is amazing (or perhaps not) that actually reporting continues to suck." I am not going to summarize Amy's piece, I urge you to read it for yourself. Her post is enlightening and informative, helping anyone who is interested to understand why this singular issue has come to dominate the Church's discussion about the civilizational crisis fomented by the dissolution of marriage and to grasp what is behind things like this: "Cardinal Marx says German bishops back Kasper proposals on divorced and remarried Catholics."

The part of Amy's post that prompted me to write something was this: "This decree declared that if you’re Catholic, and you un-register with the German government and don’t pay the church tax…you’re basically excommunicated. From, you know, the Eucharistic Table of the Lord. You can’t be buried out of the Church unless you’ve repented. Heck, you can’t even chair the social committee."

Hohe Domkirche St. Petrus- The Cologne Cathedral

I have a friend who is native of Cologne, Germany. He lives there still, but spends several months a year in Salt Lake City. I first met him when he contacted me about 3 years ago. When he is in Salt Lake City he attends Mass every Sunday at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, where I am privileged to serve. He makes regular contributions when the offering is taken up. He does not attend Mass with such regularity at home. Why not? Because he un-registered so as not to pay the Church tax, which he feels is coercive and unjust.

The question he posed to me in our first meeting (we continue to get together whenever he comes back) was, "Given that I refuse to pay the Church tax in Germany, may I receive Holy Communion here?" Keep in mind, he is a lifelong Catholic, involved from his youngest days in the Church, attends Mass, serves his community through the Church, is married in the Church only once, to his wife of more than 30 years. What a question, am I right?

With Amy, and I am sure many others, I find it puzzling that this piece of the discussion about admitting divorced and civilly re-married people to Communion, even while denying it to those who do not want to be coerced in to render "the things that are God's" through Caesar, is ignored completely. This has to create some level cognitive dissonance for any honest person. Perhaps this might prompt us to reflect a bit more deeply on Pope Francis' call for a poorer Church.

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