I’m Medieval peasanting my way to Eucharistic Coherence

When I heard that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops planned to speak out on eucharistic coherence, my eyes bugged out. They were going to talk about something American Catholics cared about, that is pertinent to our life and world today, that is inherently important? Our U.S.C.C.B.? There are a handful of individual bishops I admire, but as a whole, the U.S.C.C.B. can be depended on to put out documents called things like “De dispositione sellarum navalium” (loosely: “On Rearranging Deck Chairs”). But a statement about eucharistic coherence sounded like they got hold of something real, something we could really use right now. I decided to pay attention.

But I have been busy, and every time I opened Twitter, I realized that more of the “Biden-Communion-U.S.C.C.B.-will they-won’t-they” discourse had gone on without me. There had been another podcast, another bit of analysis, another impassioned personal essay and countless other hot takes, and I wasn’t keeping up. I feel a sickening tug of guilt, like when you didn’t do the homework and you thought you could skate by, but the teacher just announced that the thing you didn’t read is definitely going to be on the test.

If this is you, I am here to tell you: This will not be on the test.

I am not saying that the issues of who can and cannot, should and should not receive the Eucharist aren’t important or relevant. They’re important because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, and if questions about it are not relevant to us, then what possibly could be?

And it’s relevant because so many people do take their moral cues from public figures, for better or worse. Some Catholics took their cues from Donald J. Trump, and now some are taking their cues from President Joe Biden. It’s relevant because non-Catholics are learning about what the church considers important. It’s relevant because many of us are still raw after having peeled ourselves painfully away from what has become of conservatism. Many of us care fervently about protecting the lives of the unborn but also about protecting the lives of immigrants and people of color and prisoners and gay people, and we are tired of being told we have to choose one side or the other if we want to be on the side of Christ. Many of us care about the Real Presence, and because we love the Lord, we do not want to see his precious body and blood treated like a weapon or a bribe or a talking point.

Coherence is what we need, eucharistic and otherwise. This is not a coherent age. Retweets and ratios and podcasts and hot takes, yes. Banging gongs and clashing cymbals, yes. Coherence, no.

But coherence generally comes from simplicity. And simplicity comes when you cut away everything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there, even if it is interesting or titillating or gets you lots of clicks. So simplicity is what I’m going for. It is what I call “Medieval Peasanting.” Read the rest of my latest at America Magazine


Image: Detail of a bas-de-page showing Dunstan healing injured peasants. Image taken from f. 197 of Decretals of Gregory IX 

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8 thoughts on “I’m Medieval peasanting my way to Eucharistic Coherence”

  1. I largely agree with what’s written here with one huge exception: “There are Catholics who find two things abhorrent: abortion and the American pro-life movement.” Over the years, I’ve often wondered what the pro-life movement ever did to you or someone you love that you detest it so much? The pro-life movement should not be confused with conservative Republicanism. Rick Santorum put that myth to rest for all of us when he endorsed Arlen Specter. And way back when the Republicans held both houses of Congress and the Presidency during W’s presidency and couldn’t get a parental notification bill passed, most dedicated pro-lifers knew then that politics was never going to be the answer.

    The Catholic pro-life movement is about helping women become able to parent. Pro-lifers are paying women’s rent, buying clothes and car seats and diapers, and getting them documentation so that they can work here legally. Many, many pro-life families take women and their already born children into their homes. Pro-life organizations are well known among the poor and not just the ones who’ve ever contemplated terminating pregnancies. Just one quick example of pro-life activism in action: Door dashers in Philadelphia (almost all poor immigrants) who need to take their children with them on their runs regularly get their kids’ car seats and booster seats from pro-life organizations.

  2. I thought I was black and white on abortion until my daughter was in a two year relationship with an abusive partner. It turns out when the think of your child getting pregnant by a sociopath, there’s a lot more gray than you realized. I am so tired of the politicalization of abortion. I would imagine if we spent a least a hot minute focusing on the things that bring a woman to that point maybe they would know we are Christians by our love after all.

    1. It’s ironic that you would end your comment with a quote about showing others we are Christians by our love, while also advocating for taking the life of an unborn child simply because of who their father happens to be.

      1. And I think you didn’t get Meg’s point at all.
        Just wanted to add a more positive voice: Meg, I think I get what you said.

        1. Thank you. I never said I was advocating for abortion. It’s just that after that experience I have a lot more compassion and less judgement for women who feel like abortion is the only option.

          I’m a whole life, not just pro life. There currently is no political place for me. And with the handling of the child abuse and now hearing about the horrific mass graves at re-education schools, I’m beginning to feel like we aren’t so removed from the medieval church after all.

          Yes, count me in as another very frustrated and disenfranchised catholic.

          1. I share a lot of your frustrations Meg. I am disillusioned by much of what I see in the pro-life movement and in the Church, although like you, it doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the Church or justifying abortion.

  3. “There are Catholics who find two things abhorrent: abortion and the American pro-life movement.” I won’t go so far as to say that I find the entire American pro-life movement abhorrent, because there really isn’t just one American pro-life movement. The pro-life movement is diverse and multi-faceted. I will say that I find much of it abhorrent, which is really sad. As far as whether the bishops should deny Communion to a pro-abortion politician, I detest partisan politics (I constantly go back and forth in my mind about which party currently disgusts me the most, and it’s almost always a toss-up), and I certainly don’t think the Eucharist should be used as a political weapon. But I don’t think Biden’s or Pelosi’s stance on abortion is because they haven’t given it a lot of thought. I think they’ve given it plenty of thought, and have decided that it should be a protected right. They are publicly opposing one of the most central teachings to the Catholic faith. I know that many people who present themselves for Communion are not in a state of grace, and that none of us is truly worthy. It’s not the priest’s place to interview everyone who comes through the Communion line to see if they’re in a state of grace. But when someone is publicly known to not be in a state of grace, it seems reasonable to me for the priest to withhold Communion.

  4. Simcha – this is just brilliant. You put into words here (as you so often do) something I’ve been trying to articulate for years, actually. Thanks for writing it, and I hope it is read far and wide.

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