There was a buzz yesterday about a scolding issued by our archbishop, Cardinal Egan, against former mayor Rudy Giuliani for receiving Communion during the Mass with Benedict XVI at St. Patricks' Cathedral the week before last. Egan cited Giuliani's support of the right to abortion. The former mayor's people responded by saying that Giuliani's faith “is a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential.”
Now leaving aside the debate over the communication of notorious and unrepentant sinners or, as in this case, those who lend their public support and influence to policies against God and the common good, I just have to say that Giuliani's response is pretty poor.
Faith is certainly a very personal matter, and because it has to do with the soul of a person, which is always in some sense unavailable to anyone else, it is also a secret thing to some degree. But to receive the Eucharist is always a very public act. To admit our truest identity--that we are Body of Christ--and that we want to made even more into the Body of Christ we receive, this is a public act because it is never about a private "relationship with God."
In the Eucharist we first of all confess that the Body and Blood of Christ is present in the bread and wine consecrated by the prayer of Christ the priest acting through his ministers and his assembly. When we receive this "eucharistized" food, we are brought into a sharing of life, mind, and heart with the humanity of Christ present in the whole Christ and his whole Body extended through history and in all his saints in the past and yet to come.
So something called a "communion," a sharing, could never be personal in the sense of being private. It could never be confidential in the sense of not being about a whole community of tradition and the faith of a people.
To dare to receive Holy Communion is to confess that God has made us into a member of the Body of Christ that taught and healed and suffered on the Cross in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth, and that God has done this in the Resurrection, which extends the Presence of Christ through history in the assembly of the Church which is his Body. I'm the first to admit that I don't live up to this. But that's not the point.