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Politics, abortion, and the Church Part II.

Catholic pro-abortion politicians and Catholic bishops are facing criticism. As explained in last month's article "John Kerry, the American election, and Catholic bishops," (C.I., June 2004, pp. 21-27), the former are being criticized by church-going Catholics for being pro-abortion, and the latter for their refusal to protect the Blessed Sacrament from unworthy recipients. If Holy Communion is the affirmation of the spiritual union of the faithful with the Lord Jesus, people ask, how do bishops justify the giving of Communion to those who claim to be Catholic yet publicly reject basic Catholic teaching on the duty to protect the newly conceived child and the age-old Christian teaching on marriage?

Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry is the lightning rod in the storm: he defends same-sex "marriage," euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and a woman's "right" to kill her preborn baby, yet goes to Communion even if sometimes only for a photo-op. But Mr. Kerry, of course, is not alone. The American Life League counts 71 Catholic members of Congress (out of 150 Catholics) as reliable pro-abortion voters, and an additional 415 Catholics in state legislatures in the same category. All of these men and women vote for legislation that the Church says they have "a clear and grave obligation to oppose" (Doctrinal Note, January 2003, Declaration on abortion, Rome, 1973).

The bishops who have responded so far seem to fall into four categories.

Group one

The first group rejects the idea that action is necessary. The teaching of the Church is clear, they say: everyone who comes to communion must be properly disposed, i.e., be in the state of grace. As for those who break this rule, they are subject to St. Paul's rule: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor, 11:27). These people are adults and hence they can make up their own minds.

Until now, these bishops say, the only persons who are refused communion according to Church law are those who are excommunicated, or interdicted, or obstinately persist in manifestly grave sin (Canon 915). As we do not have any of these persons, said Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, I am not about to add new sanctions to the reception of Holy Communion.

The cardinal is joined in this position by Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Bishops Carl Mengeling of Lansing and Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y Since mid-May 2004, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has joined them ("it is not the business of bishops to choose who receives communion"), as well as Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh. The last states that the standard response of the Church when dealing with grave moral issues is to teach. That, he argues, we must now do more clearly. "What we must also now teach with greater clarity is that legislative support for abortion is wrong" (Origins, June 3, 2004, pp. 37-40).

Group Two

The second group of bishops seems quite distinct from the first one. They are not at ease with the above position, but, on the other hand, are perplexed about what to do. Among them are Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishops Tim Dolan of Milwaukee, Charles Chaput of Denver and Sean O'Malley of Boston. All of them have spoken out against pro-abortion politicians in general, but so far have not gone beyond that position. One may also place Archbishop John Myers of Newark in this group. He has written eloquently on the nature of the Church, the nature of Communion, and the fallacies of the Catholic pro-abortion stand, but he has stopped at that. Nevertheless, since his May 5 pastoral letter New Jersey Governor McGreevey has announced that he will respect the Archbishop's wishes and no longer go up to Communion, while State Senate Majority Leader, Bernard Kenney, another Democrat, has said he is leaving the Catholic Church (Rel. News Service, May 19, 2004).

Group Three

A third category of bishops includes those who have tangled with pro-abortion politicians and have taken action against specific ones. They include Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento, California (who told former California governor Gray Davis not to receive Communion); Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux City, S.D. (who told Senator Tom Daschle to stop advertising himself as a Catholic); Bishops Joseph Galante of Camden, N.J. and John Smith of Trenton, N.J., who told divorced, pro-abortion Governor James McGreevey they would refuse him Communion, the principal reason here being that the Governor remarried without getting an annulment; and Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, who has rebuked Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano for her veto of an informed consent bill. None of these bishops have, as yet, asked their priests to deny communion to these politicians, but they have made it abundantly clear that such people are not Catholics in good standing.

Group Four

The fourth and final group consists of bishops who disagree with group one's interpretation of Canon 905, specifically the clause "obstinately persist in manifestly grave sin." Abortion is intrinsically wrong, can never be justified, and breaks the Divine Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." When a politican is personally informed by his or her bishop of the grave moral offence, even after the Church and especially the Holy Father have continually taught this since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965, which called abortion an "abominable crime"), then surely, if words mean anything at all, one must speak here of" obstinately persisting in a manifestly grave sin."

These bishops, therefore, have asked their priests to cease giving Communion to those politicians to whom it applies. Among them are Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Bishops Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE, Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND, Thomas Wenski, Orlanda, FL (; and Michael Sheridan of Colorado-Springs (who on May 14 also admonished all Catholics to refrain from receiving Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, samesex "marriage," euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell research CNA Today, May 14, 2004) ( May 2004).

A sixth bishop who has joined this group is Robert Vlasny of Baker, Oregon, who states: "I do believe that abortion supporters and especially pro-abortion public officials ... should refrain from approaching the table of the Lord's Body and Blood and that they should be refused Communion if they do approach provided they have made their support for abortion very clear in a public forum ..." ( (Communique, June 4, 2004).

This body of bishops has the support of Rome's Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who is very concerned about the unworthy reception of Communion by public dissenters.

In summary, group one which rejects further action counts five supporters, plus one who wants to emphasize the need for more teaching first.

The other three categories, for a total of sixteen bishops, have either moved resolutely to halt the scandal of public sinners receiving communion (seven) or are leaning so close to this position that it only seems a matter of time before they will meet the scandal head on (ten).

Other news

In other news, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago notified all his priests not to give Communion on Pentecost Sunday, May 30, 2004, to members of the Rainbow Sash movement, a group which publicly rejects the Church's teaching on homosexuality and same-sex spouses.

Synod 2005

The debate over liturgical abuses and reception of Communion by dissenting Catholics is to be taken to a global level as the Church prepares for the October 2005 Synod of Bishops. The controversy over the denial of Communion to Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry and others

because of their pro-abortion views has made the discussion a hot topic within the Church. Other countries are struggling with the same problem. Canada, for example, will have an election on June 28, 2004, with the Catholic Prime Minister Paul Martin being pro-abortion and pro-same-sex "marriage," together with many other Catholic Liberal candidates who share these views.

In readiness for next year's synod, where the theme is the Eucharist, bishops around the world have now received a Vatican-prepared outline that focuses in large part on the rules that govern celebration of the Eucharist, including who should and who should not receive Communion.

The 75-page outline, called the lineamenta, has not been released publicly by the Vatican, but it is understood that it repeatedly makes the point that the Church does not have the power to give Communion to Catholics in grave sin, to those "teaching error," or to "persons living an immoral life" (The Universe, May 16, 2004).


Meanwhile in Washington, D.C. forty-eight of the 73 Catholic Democrat members of the House of Representatives, including some who have consistent prolife voting records, have written a letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick warning that if the Catholic bishops impose sanctions on pro-abortion Catholic politicians, they will risk reviving anti-Catholicism.

"For many years Catholics were denied public office by voters who feared that they would take direction from the Pope," they wrote. "... While that type of paranoid anti-Catholicism seems to be a thing of the past, attempts by Church leaders today to influence votes by the threat of withholding a sacrament will revive latent anti-Catholic prejudice, which so many of us have worked so hard to overcome" (Wanderer, May 27, 2004).

The National Catholic Register took a position directly opposite to that of the Congressmen, stating in its May 30th editorial: "It would be wrong for the bishops to stay silent in the face of forces so powerful and so deadly."

John Paul II

In Vatican City, in his latest blunt assessment of U.S. society, Pope John Paul II on June 4 denounced the acceptance of abortion and same-sex unions as "self-centered demands" erroneously depicted as human rights.

The pontiff, addressing visiting U.S. bishops, said that "in the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking," bishops should stress to congregations "their special responsibility for evangelizing culture and promoting Christian values in society and public life."

"Rights are at times reduced to self-centered demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women's rights, the approval of same-sex unions in the name of homosexual rights," he said.

The previous week John Paul warned another group of U.S. prelates that American society is in danger of surrendering to a "soulless vision of life."

Bishop Fred Henry

Finally, a Canadian bishop also has taken his stand with those of group four, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, Alberta. "The same principles [that apply to Presidential candidate John Kerry]" he said, "would apply to the Clarks, Chretiens and Martins" [two former Prime Ministers and the current one, all three Catholic and pro-abortion]. "I believe the question, 'If a dissident Catholic leader persists in opposing fundamental Church teaching, should he or she be turned away if they present themselves for Communion,' has to be answered, 'Yes'" ("No communion for Kerry," Western Catholic Reporter, LifeSite News, May 21, 2004).

One week later, the same bishop issued a brief pastoral letter to be inserted in the bulletins of all parishes describing Prime Minister Martin as "morally incoherent" and "a scandal to the Catholic community." Shortly thereafter, still before the election, Bishop Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough, ON, endorsed that letter for his own diocese.
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Article Details
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Author:de Valk, Alphonse
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:Clement of Alexandria.
Next Article:"Let them live" 2004.

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