June 7, 2019
House Keepers & Losers
I can still picture the street I grew up on during my childhood (not pictured above!). Working- middle-class Detroit, brick single-family homes for the most part, not cookie-cutter homes, but distinct from each other. Each home had its own look beyond the bare structure: landscaping, backyard vegetable gardens or lawn, awnings or shutters, screened porches on a few, large covered open porches, tiny front "stoops," bay or picture windows, multi-gabled or simpler roofs--each was wonderfully unique.
To my child's eye, each house was the house in which the Stafford or Szalma or Edwards or Korolishin or Panagas families lived. Each house was an outward physical face of its family living inside, whom I knew by name and sight.
I didn't know what went on inside those houses. They were private. You knocked on the door for important business ("Can my mom borrow two eggs?) or, in our neighborhood, you would call out your playmates standing at the side door by singing out their names. Sometimes a mom or dad would come to door and say Billy was "in for the night" or maybe "grounded."
On occasion I was invited inside by a playmate, usually with his parents' permission. Stepping inside was like passing through a portal into a private new world. Aspects of the family's unique life was expressed inside in the décor, colors, fabrics, furniture, wall hangings, photos-and the aromas from the kitchen! No two menus were the same. The differences in the public exterior of each home paled in comparison to the variety and uniqueness inside each private home. No doubt my friends felt the same way stepping into my home.
Each house was the sanctuary of a family. It had its own integrity and rules. Once inside, I still knew there were more boundaries for me, areas "off limits." I wouldn't dare open the neighbor's refrigerator or lie down on his couch for a nap.
Such is the nature of a house. It has external borders, but a household also has its own internal boundaries even for members for proper conversation and conduct, marital privacy, and bodily modesty. I was once sent from the table by my father for a rude complaint about the menu. I crossed a line. I was temporarily excommunicated, but repented.
There can be more serious infractions in families: defilement of the marriage bed, or a husband beating his wife and kids. Transgressive family members may be removed from the house to preserve a measure of its integrity. Outsiders may with justice come inside, so to speak.
God has built a house--with house rules. Jesus speaks of his Father's house, where he goes to prepare a place for us. Also of the sheepfold, a house for sheep, of which he is the Entrance. There is a border to this fold to keep out predators. Families, if they are healthy, do not open their tables (or beds) to the world. Neither can the Church.
The House of the Lord and the Table of Lord have boundaries. The Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Thomas John Paprocki, made news--and waves--for guarding the boundaries. He dared to decree, per canon law, that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael J. Madigan,
who facilitated the passage of the Act Concerning Abortion of 2017 (House Bill 40) as well as the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 25), are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois because they have obstinately persisted in promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion as evidenced by the influence they exerted in their leadership roles and their repeated votes and obdurate public support for abortion rights over an extended period of time. These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor.
Such are house rules. Breaking them--or not enforcing them--may attract an Intervention. God's watches over his House, inside and out. He welcomes all, but as Lord of the House, not a careless doorkeeper.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.