An item on the news this morning reported that a further gay rights protest has been planned in the Netherlands after a Roman Catholic priest, Fr.Luc Buyens, refused Holy Communion to an openly gay man elected Carnival prince in his home town of Reusel. The mass concerned takes place at the end of the Carnival celebrations.
I have only briefly looked at reports of this on the internet and there appear to be conflicting accounts , but it seems to me that Fr Buyens does seem to have got himself into a bit of a mess, exposing not only prejudice but the double standards found in the Church and causing a lot of hurt into the bargain.
The first thing that doesn’t make sense is that apparently Fr. Buyens told local resident, Gijs Vermeulen, that he would be withholding communion because of the open proclamation of homosexuality and offered to give him a blessing instead. Vermulen went to the mass and did not approach the priest either for communion or the blessing (no surprise there, think about how you would feel yourself and go figure!)
What exactly was it that the priest was withholding communion for, the fact that he was in a gay relationship or his honesty concerning this – and should the sacrament be withheld as a “protest “or “punishment” in this way?
According to reports, Vermulen then complained that if the Catholic Church were consistent then other people would be excluded from communion. The diocese of Den Bosch, in an attempt to show it does not discriminate, has announced it will also be asking remarried divorcees and other people “living in sin” not to take communion from now on! (It has not said whether it will carry out a full scale investigation into all its parishioners’ private lives to ascertain who is worthy and who isn’t!)
Oh dear! So an awful lot more people are going to be hurt and churchgoers are going to be divided into two groups, those who are “righteous” and the “sinners” – even though we are all sinners?
Gay rights protestors have taken action by turning up to services at the St Jan basilica in Den Bosch to challenge whether they will be given the sacrament. Fr Buyen's Bishop’s advice was that nobody is to be given communion at this service as they reportedly “do not want to discriminate.”(Guys- you already did!) Apparently, some activists have lodged police complaints of discrimination; all in all, not a pleasant situation.
To be honest, I know very little about when priests can and do refuse the sacrament, one of the articles says it can be witheld in the event of "grave sin". I do think one of the problems is that priests are often called on to play God, to judge people based on fallible human knowledge and assumptions. I do not personally believe a committed loving same sex relationship is sinful, but at least the Bishop's decision is right in one respect; if everyone who is a sinner is to be excluded, then none of us can take Communion.