Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Grace, with Strings Attached"

"Oruaseht", contributor to a discussion group of which I'm a member, observes that in his tradition, infants, Alzheimer's patients and people with Down's Syndrome can be baptized but are not allowed to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion. He writes:

...Our Lutheran practice of making reason/rationality a requirement for grace really knocks the bottom out of sola gratia. It's sola gratia IF you have the necessary mental cognition. Grace with strings attached.

5 comments:

Philippa said...

This is also the case in the Roman Catholic faith. My aunt, who suffers with Alzheimer's is denied Communion because she can "no longer discern the Body and Blood of Christ."

I was horrified to hear this.

Lord have mercy.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Philippa, I'm really appalled. I mean, I was writing about it in the abstract, but to know of a flesh-and-blood case, that shocks me.

May the prayers of the saints and our poor prayers as well supply her spiritual needs.

DebD said...

I can't say I know for sure if this is universally true with Lutherans, since many practices seem to depend upon the pastor's personal convictions... but I am equally appalled by the *idea* of it (both within Lutheranism and Catholicism). I can't help but wonder what Henri Nouwen would have thought of the Catholic tradition since he worked with mentally handicapped adults until his death.

Ann said...

I think in Catholic Churches at least, that this is left up to the individual Parish priest or the priest giving communion. I served as an interpreter for deaf patients at a nursing home for Catholic services and several were in later stages of Alzheimer's, but were still allowed communion. I also know of many intellectually/mentally disabled people who receive communion. (I've worked with people with disabilities both professionally and as a volunteer for more than 20 years.) As far as I know, the only real requirement for any of these folks was for them to be able to be respectful of what they were receiving. (ie, if a receipient began throwing the Host on the floor or spitting it out of his/her mouth, then communion couldn't be offered.)

elizabeth said...

Wow. Things can really get misguided. I remember seeing a paper by an Orthodox convert (now a priest) that he wrote that the Orthodox church has a place for the physically and mentally ill... he also spoke of the healing service ...

I likewise disturbed at the need for rational understanding in other traditions; from what I know it (the need for rational understanding first) is a character of the West that the Orthodox did not follow or develop in such a way. Thank God...