Rorate Caeli

Guest Op-Ed: Remaining faithful to Christ

By Veronica A. Arntz

Highlights from Cardinal Sarah and Fr. Thomas Weinandy

This past week, there were two announcements about pieces of literature that left the liberals quaking (and complaining loudly). The first is a preface, written by Cardinal Robert Sarah, for a new book on Communion, who called for a return to receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling, rather than in the hands while standing. While many readers of this blog already follow this request, we should rejoice at this call for greater reverence.

The second is an address, which was given by Fr. Thomas Weinandy, whose open letter to Pope Francis critiquing Amoris Laetita caused him to lose his position at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This address, given at the University of Notre Dame in Australia, questioned whether the current papacy is properly following the four marks of the Church.

Looking at highlights from these two addresses will be a good reminder for us that Christ is the Head of His Church, and all of us within the Church owe Him our complete and utter obedience: as St. Paul writes in the letter to the Colossians, “He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Col 1:18, RSV2CE).

As reported by the Catholic Herald UK, Cardinal Sarah called the reception of the Eucharist on the hand while standing a “diabolical attack” on the Church. As he is reported to have written, “Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host. Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this lack of submission to the signs of God?”

Sarah gets to the heart of the issue: within the Catholic Church, there is a crisis of faith in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. The devil knows that, if he can take away the people’s faith in Christ’s Presence, then he is taking away the strength of the Church. The insistence on receiving the Eucharist while standing and in the hand was nowhere in the documents of the Second Vatican Council; rather, it was a practice that arose after the Council due to the anthropocentric liturgy. If, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger writes in The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), the liturgy has become a “self-enclosed circle” (p. 80) because of the increased involvement of lay people, then it naturally follows that one should be able to receive the Eucharist as one wishes, rather than in accordance with the tradition of the Catholic Church.

Indeed, the attacks made against Sarah for this preface are a sign that the devil is winning the hearts of many, for it is a sign of pride that we should want to receive Christ in the hands while standing. It is a sign of pride because many are unwilling to humble themselves, kneel, and receive Christ without touching His Precious Body and Blood. If we only knew and believed in His Presence—then we would not insist on our own way in this matter. As Sarah himself writes, “[Receiving kneeling and on the tongue] is much more suited to the sacrament itself. I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this manner…. This is a further act of adoration and love that each of us can offer to Jesus Christ.” Notice the difference in approaches: one group wishes to continue to receive him as they think is best, while Sarah is concerned about showing the proper love and reverence for Jesus Christ.

While we should not doubt the sincerity of those who wish to continue to receive the Eucharist in the hands, what we can say is this: receiving Him on the tongue while kneeling, shows greater reverence for His divinity. Indeed, we read in the Scriptures, “God has highly exalted him [Christ] and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11). Not a single soul can escape the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord over Heaven and earth, and all of us must bend our knee in His presence.

Fr. Thomas Weinandy’s address, entitled, “The Four Marks of the Church: The Contemporary Crisis in Ecclesiology,” gives a detailed description of the four marks of the Church—One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic—throughout the Church’s history, beginning with St. Ignatius of Antioch, followed by Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council document on the nature of the Church, and John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Weinandy makes his point clear: the leaders in the modern Church are failing to live fully the four marks, which reveal and explain her identity. In order for the Church to become healthy and fully alive once again in Jesus Christ, everyone, the hierarchy and the lay faithful alike, must return to living the four marks.

Weinandy explains that, under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there was never any question whether either of them stood on doctrine. As he said, “Both recognized that what truly made the Church one is her unalterable apostolic and universal faith, and her sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as fount and apex of her holiness…. Such is not the case, in many significant ways, within the present pontificate of Pope Francis.” Even though Weinandy praises the current Pope for his attention to the “defense of the sanctity of life, his concern for the poor and marginalized, and his encouragement to the young,” he acknowledges that there is much to be lacking in terms of proper doctrinal pronouncements. Weinandy claims that the current pontificate is challenging the Church’s unity, apostolicity, catholicity, and holiness.

What is to be done? “Only when we grasp that the Church’s very oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity are at stake, what makes the Church truly herself, can we fully appreciate the degree and consequence of the present crisis,” Weinandy says. He explains that our response cannot be merely negative, through rebuttals of the arguments. Rather, “From the time of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the time of the Second Vatican Council and St. John Paul II the Church has continually proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ and so the good news of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, a Church he conceived through his death and resurrection and to which he gave birth to in sending forth the Holy Spirit.”

We too must do the same. We must remain steadfast in our love of Christ, and we must proclaim His good news to everyone we meet. While recognizing the current situation in the Church is important, we cannot let it lead us to despair, nor can we allow it to consume all our attention and energy. Rather, we must put our attention on Christ, as the Head of the Church, and remain in constant prayer and communication with him, so that we can withstand the difficulties of our time. Rather than become overwhelmed by Church news, let us read the Scriptures or a work of a great saint. The way of the Church is through saints, and to bring the Church to the fullness of her four marks, we must respond to God’s grace in order to become saints, which involves acts of virtue, spiritual sacrifices, and prayer.

The words of both Cardinal Sarah and Fr. Thomas Weinandy remind us that Christ is the center of our Church, because he is present in the Eucharist. Thus, in order to live the four marks of the Church, we must give the proper reverence to him in the Eucharist. As Sarah has asked, this proper reverence involves receiving His Precious Body and Blood kneeling and on the tongue. Such reception would bring to an end many abuses of His Body and Blood, and it would bring Him great honor.

Moreover, we must never stray from the Church and must always uphold her true identity as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic through proclaiming the Gospel and remaining faithful to the Church’s teachings. Let both of these holy men inspire us to be faithful to Christ, especially in these days of sacrifice in the season of Lent.