Theology on Tap program enters sixth year

Entering its sixth year in Boston, “Theology on Tap” has proved that one can find God in a bar — at least on certain nights, anyway. The program offers young adults the opportunity to attend informal talks with religious and lay Catholic leaders at The Kells, a bar on Brighton Ave. in Allston.

In past years the program was held each Thursday in September, but this year the Office of Young Adults is joining forces with the Kennedy School Catholic Caucus at Harvard University and setting up talks every other week in September and October.

The Harvard group was running its own “Theology on Tap” program every two weeks in the fall of last year, according to Mary Kate Connolly, who has worked with the archdiocese-sponsored program for two years.

The Harvard group had met at The Redline bar in Harvard Square, but has been homeless since The Redline began sponsoring Harvard’s H Bomb student magazine, which features sex advice and nude pictures of Harvard undergraduates.  The group no longer felt The Redline was an appropriate place to meet and asked to join with the archdiocese-run program, said Connolly, a lawyer and chairperson of the spiritual development committee for young adult ministry, which organizes quarterly Masses and days of recollection, along with “Theology on Tap.”

“Theology on Tap” began in June 1981 at St. James Parish in Illinois after a college graduate talked to his parish priest about the many questions he had about his future. It spread from the Archdiocese of Chicago to dioceses throughout the country. The first Boston meeting of “Theology on Tap” took place at The Kells in September 1999.

The first talk this fall was “Catholic Politicians, Voters and Communion,” given by Father Peter Landry, a priest in the Diocese of Fall River, on Sept. 16. Father Landry said the two important things to remember about this topic are most bishops in the United States believe Catholic pro-abortion politicians should not present themselves for Communion and the quickest way to stop those politicians is for Catholic lay people to vote them out of office.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, anyone who supports legalized abortion is “outside of moral communion with the Church” and should not take Communion, Father Landry said.

Father Landry said the bishops noted, “The typical Catholic, even a practicing Catholic, today kind of looks at Holy Communion at Mass like anybody looks at birthday cake at a birthday party. By the very fact that you’re showing up, if you’re not going to be given birthday cake, it’s almost an insult.”

But every Catholic must examine their conscience, think of the dignity of the Lord in the Eucharist and determine if they are properly fit to receive Jesus before taking Communion, he said.

Readiness to receive Communion must be based on objective criteria, said Father Landry.

The dignity of Jesus in the Eucharist is central to the issue of Catholic pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion, he said. When the significance of the Eucharist is recognized, the importance of being in full communion with the Catholic Church before receiving Jesus makes sense, he said.

Father Landry referred to a memo Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, sent to the U.S. Bishops, that said some moral issues have more weight than others. Abortion is always wrong, and no Catholic should support it, the memo stated. Cardinal Ratzinger also used the term “proportionate reasons,” writing that there are times when voting for pro-abortion politicians is not immoral.

This term has been misunderstood by the media and many Catholics, Father Landry said. The proportionate reasons must be extreme to outweigh abortion, he said.

Although almost all the U.S. bishops agreed that pro-abortion politicians should not receive Communion, they left denying Communion up to the discretion of local bishops, said Father Landry.

Most bishops have said that the politician is responsible for examining his own conscience, but there is no national rule for dealing with a politician who continues to present himself despite knowledge that he should not receive Communion, Father Landry added.

Many of the forty people who attended Father Landry’s talk stayed after to chat with each other.

Bronwen McShea, a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, said the issue became clearer for her when Father Landry spoke about the dignity of Jesus in the Eucharist.

When the Eucharist is central, the teaching on abortion becomes clearer, she said.

Ron Kelner, a Bedford native who works in high-tech marketing, said Father Landry’s talk was one of the most well-attended, informative “Theology on Tap” sessions he had ever been to. It was almost an hour longer, and there was more audience participation, he said.

“It was definitely a topic of interest,” he said.

The next talk will be held at The Kells on Oct. 14. Former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and president of the Catholic Citizenship Raymond L. Flynn speak on the Church’s call to faithful citizenship.