An Unnecessary and Untoward ControversyGEORGE WEIGEL
Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize Community in France, was one of the great Christian spirits of the 20th century.
Cardinal Kasper's tribute to Brother Roger took place at his funeral, this past August 23. On August 16, while attending evening prayer at Taize's Church of the Reconciliation, the 90-year old monk was stabbed to death by a deranged woman, dying almost instantly. One might have hoped that the death of such a great soul would have become an opportunity to ponder a life lived in complete dedication to Christ, and to Christ's reconciling work in the world.
It was not to be, though, as the New York Times ran a story on Brother Roger's funeral that launched an unnecessary and untoward controversy. Here is the lead of the Times story: "Brother Roger Schutz pursued many ecumenical dreams in his life, but in death one of them came true. At a Eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal for Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination." The first falsehood here is that Brother Roger believed in open and "indiscriminate" intercommunion, which he did not. The second falsehood is the suggestion that Cardinal Kasper (who presided at the funeral at the request of the Taize Community) distributed holy communion "indiscriminately, regardless of denomination" — which he did not.
Since the 1970s, all Eucharistic celebrations at the Church of the Reconciliation at Taize are Catholic liturgies, presided over by priests or bishops. "For those who...cannot or do not wish to receive communion in the Catholic Church, a special arrangement enables them to receive the 'blessed bread.' After the Gospel reading...a basket of small pieces of bread is blessed by the celebrant and set on a table next to the altar. At the moment of communion, the distribution of the Eucharist and the distribution of the blessed bread are done in a way that clearly indicates the difference. In this the Orthodox and Easter-rite Catholics recognize their traditional practice of distributing the 'antirodon,' namely parts of the altar bread that have not been consecrated. At Brother Roger's funeral, in accordance with the usual practice at Taize, those present could receive either the consecrated Eucharistic species or the blessed bread."
The Times' story suggests that a policy decision was made to give holy communion to non-Catholics at Brother Roger's funeral. That is simply not true. The suggestion demeaned both the faith of Brother Roger in the Real Presence and the delicacy and integrity with which Taize has tried to live both the truth of the Eucharist and the quest for ecclesial reconciliation. It also set off a wholly unnecessary controversy that would have pained Brother Roger deeply. The Times owes Taize (and Cardinal Kasper) an apology.
George Weigel. "An Unnecessary and Untoward Controversy." The Catholic Difference (September 28, 2005).
Reprinted with permission of George Weigel.
George Weigel's column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3123.
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
Copyright © 2005 George Weigel
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