April 8th, 2013
06:14 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Are Catholics who support same-sex marriage and take Communion like people who commit perjury?
That was the stance taken by Detroit's archbishop on Sunday, after an academic with ties to the church wrote that Catholics in favor of gay marriage should skip Communion.
In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, the archbishop said Catholics who both support same-sex marriage and take Communion would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury."
On Monday, though, the Archdiocese of Detroit tried to reframe Archbishop Allen Vigneron's comments.
“For a Catholic to receive Holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: 'I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches,’ ” Vigneron told the paper. “In effect, they would contradict themselves.”
On Monday, the archdiocese looked to step back and add context to the statement.
“The archbishop's focal point here is not ‘gay marriage’; it is a Catholic’s reception of Holy Communion,” Joe Kohn, the archdiocese spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “If a Catholic publicly opposes the church on a serious matter of the church’s teaching, any serious matter - for example, whether it be a rejection of the divinity of Christ, racist beliefs, support for abortion or support for redefining marriage - that would contradict the public affirmation they would make of the church's beliefs by receiving Communion.”
Kohn continued: “As the archbishop states, the pastors of the church are ready to assist Catholics to help them understand and avoid this conflict.”
Same-sex marriage has been a hot-button issue in recent years but has received elevated attention in the past few months because of high-profile Supreme Court hearings.
The original blog post was written by Edward Peters, a professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. In it, Peters writes that Catholics who promote same-sex marriage “should not approach for Holy Communion” and “risk having Holy Communion withheld from them ... being rebuked and/or being sanctioned.”
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Peters to be a judicial adviser to the Vatican. He blogs about canon law on his blog “In Light of the Law” and has received a great deal of attention for writing that certain Catholic politicians – such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo – should not be allowed to take Communion because of their beliefs.
Receiving Communion is an important aspect of Catholicism and it is traditionally marked by worshippers receiving the Holy Eucharist during church service. Catholics believe by receiving Communion, they are receiving the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.
On his blog, Peters cites canon 915, a Catholic law that outlines who is not eligible to be “admitted to Holy Communion,” as his reasoning. This particular canon cites people who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” as ineligible to receive Communion.
A majority of Catholics, according to polling, disagree with this view of Communion.
A 2011 survey by the National Catholic Reporter found that 86% of Catholics said they believe a Catholic “can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church.”
The same survey found that 35% of Catholics said the church's opinion on same-sex marriage was very important, a number that reporter William D’Antonio says is lower than in previous years.
“What more and more Catholics are saying,” D'Antonio wrote in 2011, “is that my lived experiences are different than what the church is saying.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.