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Monday, June 14, 2021

Guest Post: Biden Sacrilege and St. Augustine

By James M. Thunder
Our hearts are restless until 
they rest in Thee.

​This week, at their semi-annual meeting, the bishops of the United States will discuss “Eucharistic coherence,” the issue of how they should react to public figures (Biden, Pelosi and so many others) who promote public policies – in the form of orders, laws, regulations, treaties, budgets, etc.-- contrary to fundamental moral teachings (plural) of the Catholic Church.Their discussion will occur over the objections (“concerns”) expressed in letters dated May 7 from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and May 13 by 68 U.S. bishops, to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
I have been facilitating a parish group reading St. Augustine since 2013. This year we returned to the Saint’s autobiography, The Confessions. Many of you may be familiar with his account of the stealing of pears from an orchard when he was 16. He spends almost six pages (in the 1942 translation by Frank Sheed) describing the act and then analyzing his motives. (Book II, chapters 4-10) I realized in reading it this year that the teenaged Augustine had failed the rule-of-thumb for moral action offered to my 8th grade class by the priest, a member of the Archdiocesan Mission Band (of Chicago), who gave the class a day of recollection prior to graduation. He said: Do not do at night what you would not do during the day. Do not do in a group what you would not do alone. When Augustine stole pears, he did so at night with a group of friends.

​In our reading this time, we did not pass over, as we had in 2013, St. Augustine’s greater sin. A year or two after he stole the pears, Augustine committed a sacrilege so heinous from the vantage 25 years later as a 43 year old bishop writing his autobiography, he could not bring himself to describe it at any length or analyze his motive. The teenaged Augustine was not baptized but he knew a great deal about the Catholic Faith. His mother Monica was a devout Catholic. He knew about the Real Presence and he knew about sacrilege. He tells us, “I wasted myself in baseness, pursuing a sacrilegious curiosity which led me…to the uttermost treason and the deceiving service of devils…I dared so far one day within the walls of Your church and during the very celebration of Your mysteries [the Mass] to desire and carry out an act worthy of the fruits of death…[Thesubsequent] punishments[, Lord, You levied against me] were as nothing to the guilt of my act…” (Book III, ch. 3)

​In light of the action of teenaged Augustine, and the very mature Biden and Pelosi and their colleagues, we should encourage our bishops to look at the definition of “sacrilege” given in Paragraph 2120 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

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