From what Church dogma or theology do clergy receive the power to refuse Communion to baptized Catholics? How can anyone determine the state of someone's soul when that person comes to Communion? Who among us is truly worthy to receive the body and blood of Christ? True, those refused may be public figures who could cause scandal. But we all have our "public" (family, friends, parish, etc.) that we could scandalize.
Jesus repeatedly revealed by word and action how much he loved sinners. He died on the cross for sinners; he dined with sinners and welcomed them to his table. When was it revealed to Church leaders that Jesus no longer welcomes "certain" sinners to his table?
This is not a challenge nor a condemnation of these teachings. But I am troubled and need more information to understand. I ask you to help me understand why Catholic clergy are refusing Communion to certain persons.
I cannot do justice to your question in this column but I will reflect on some aspects.
Yes, in the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly showed how much he loved sinners. He came for sinners and not for the perfect. Our Church has always been known as the Church for sinners. I'll never forget a U.S. Protestant minister telling a class how struck he was by the difference between his Church and ours. Ours was full of all sorts of people - rich and poor, well groomed and sloppy, sinners and saints - while in his were people who seemed to be rich, well-dressed and self-satisfied.
And yes, at Mass, we keep asking God for forgiveness. We ask so often that sometimes I wonder if we really believe that God forgives us. And when we are truly sincere in asking for forgiveness, God is right there to forgive us: "If you open the door, I will come in and have supper with you" (Revelation 3:20).
And yes, the Eucharist is the saving power of Christ and sinners (we all) need the empowerment from the Eucharist. Only then can we recognize our sinfulness but also our total reliance on God who continues to take the initiative in bringing us to a fuller life of love and service. Without God's help, it would be difficult in our hectic world to be truly Christian, that is, be Christ to those around us.
The question of scandal arose for Paul regarding Christians eating food sacrificed to idols. Paul tells them that for them, idols are nothing more than inanimate objects and so as ordinary food, they can go ahead and eat.
However, if your eating it would scandalize another weaker Christian, who believed it to be wrong, then don't eat it (1 Corinthians 8). And Jesus taught that it would be better to drown with an attached millstone than to scandalize (Matthew 18:6ff). However, prudence is required in discerning when, to whom and how much scandal is being given.
The Gospels tell us "Judge not and you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37). To those who wanted to stone the adulterous woman, Jesus demonstrated that no one is in a position to judge (John 8).
And yet, the Gospels inform us to have nothing to do with offenders who refuse to listen to the Church (Matthew 18:17) and "Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (v. 18). So, obviously, some form of judgment is to go on.
The Church has always taken this to indicate that it has a responsibility to carry out this binding and loosing with prudence and wisdom as part of its pastoral mission. That's what it has done for many centuries through the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Before Confession was formalized, the very early Church debated about whether the baptized who had sinned by giving up their faith (often under threat of persecution) should be re-accepted. So, judgment was being exercised.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: "The binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head. The pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundations and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the pope" (nos. 881-882).