I don’t know if Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is the first bishop to say supporters of gay marriage shouldn’t take communion, but it certainly took me by surprise. In a statement to be made public today, Myers is telling New Jersey Catholics who disagree with the church’s teachings on gay marriage to “refrain from receiving Holy Communion,” according to the North Jersey Record.
During all my time in Argentina–the 80 percent Catholic country where gay marriage has now been legal for two years–I never heard about a political litmus test for receiving communion. I also never heard about priests denying communion to the politicians who voted in favor of the gay marriage bill, the way some American Catholic leaders have advocated for politicians who support abortion rights.
I actually asked about this during my interview with Father Alberto Bochatey, head of the University Catolica Argentina’s Marriage and Family Institute. He told me denying communion was an American phenomenon. He also said that he believed gay couples in the country’s churches faced less discrimination than they do in its soccer stadiums. (Whether they should receive communion, he said, was up to the members of the couple and their confessors.)
Bochatey might have been blowing smoke–the church earned a lot of bad press for declaring a “holy war” against the marriage bill and they have an interest in looking as moderate as possible while still maintaining their opposition. But the fact that the Argentine church shies away from making a battleground out of the sacrament of communion while it appears the American church is expanding its politicization suggests the American church is rather bold in mixing faith and politics.