Catholics & the 2004 Presidential Election - Collected Readings & Resources


Monday, April 26, 2004

"The Final Sanction" and "Pascal's Wager" 

Posted by Christopher Blosser at 8:58 PM

In a column for BeliefNet.com, Charlotte Hays (describing herself as a Republican, and Arinze as "one of her favorite cardinals") makes her case that the Church should -- for the time being -- continue to give Senator Kerry communion "if he asks for it", regardless of whether he stands in opposition to his Church's teachings (You can read her column here).

Ms. Hays contends that

The Church must do a better job of forming consciences in general, and John Kerry's conscience in particular. Kerry deserves to know, and to be told repeatedly, first in private and then in public, that he cannot claim to be a good Catholic as things stand. Public sinner though he is, Kerry deserves lengthy, intense, and private consultation from his Church before, if it comes to that, he must be turned away from communion. In a way, it's possible to regard Arinze's remarks as a way to open the campaign to educate John Kerry about what it means to be a Catholic. . . .

The important thing is to offer John Kerry the chance to do the right thing. Is a holy flip-flop impossible? Improbable? Yes, but with God all things are possible, and John Kerry deserves the chance to embrace his faith publicly. If he refuses, and if he becomes president, then the Church should turn him away. Having a Catholic of such stature flout the teachings of the Church would be untenable. The matter would no longer revolve around one politician's conscience but around the edification of the entire flock.

Ms. Hays makes some good points in her column, and I agree with her on this:
The problem with sanctioning Kerry is that part of the blame lies with the Church itself. The Church has not done an adequate job of forming consciences in this regard. Ordinary Catholics do not realize why certain difficult teachings are of paramount importance to leading a Christian life. So many Catholics think of abortion as something on which the Church has a "rule," but they do not realize that the Church's defense of innocent life has a direct link to Christ himself. There is a connection between killing an innocent child and killing Christ all over again. The Church teaches that every life matters. Every human being is offered redemption by that one oblation made on the cross. Because every life is important, even the most inconvenient among us cannot be snuffed out in utero.
However, I disagree with her proposal that the prudential and compassionate route would be to continue to give Kerry communion and postpone the "final sanction" until his presidency for the following reasons:
  1. From the Pope's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" to the recently published "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life" (specifically for those in Kerry's line of work) to the Bishop's document "Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility" to the public responses of several courageous bishops to Kerry's own private meeting with Archbishop Kerrick, who I'll wager reiterated the Church's teaching -- I believe the Church has already put forth a significant amount of effort to educate Kerry (and other Catholics) on the incompatibility of supporting abortion and being a "Catholic in good standing." If Kerry doesn't get the message, he's either deaf or unwilling to listen.

  2. Ms. Hays' plea to give Kerry communion EVEN IF he persists in supporting abortion would contradict the Church's chief obligation to care for the salvation of his soul. If Kerry's priest values his soul, and takes seriously St. Paul's warning of "eating and drinking to one's damnation," then -- until Kerry publicly renounces his stance and indicates that he will adhere to the Church's teachings -- I would think it far better to refuse communion, causing temporary public embarassment, than risk jeopardizing his soul for eternity.

Finally, getting philosophical for a moment, I find the dilemma is reminiscent of "Pascal's Wager": supposing that the Church's teaching were true, and that one could indeed merit damnation by unfaithful reception of the Eucharist . . . wouldn't it be in one's best interest to refrain? And seen in this light, wouldn't it be the greatest sign of personal disrespect and carelessness as Kerry's priest to continue to dispense communion under the present circumstances?


Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch


Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.

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Ad Limina Apostolorum

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Kerry Communion Watch @ Beliefnet.com

The Candidates on Abortion: Where do they stand?

Documentation

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Periodicals

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Related Documents & Articles

Worthiness To Recieve Communion: General Principles
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Evangelium Vitae
Pope John Paul II

Worthy to Receive the Lamb: Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion, from Archbishop Donoghue (Atlanta, GA), Bishop Baker (Charleston, SC) and Bishop Jugis (Charlotte, NC).
August 4, 2004

Catholics in Political Life U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. June 7, 2004.

Catholic Politicians and Bishops. By Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis. America June 21-28, 2004.

A Time For Honesty, Pastoral Statement by The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark. May 5, 2004.

Why Communion Could Be Denied to Anti-Life Legislators. Interview with Father Thomas Williams, dean of the School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Why Don't Catholic Politicians Practice What the Catholic Church Preaches?, by Judie Brown. Washington Dispatch April 19, 2004.

How to tell a Duck from a Fox: Thinking with the Church as we look toward November, by Archbishop Chaput. Denver Catholic Register April 14, 2004.

On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility, a Pastoral Letter by La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke.

Blood On Their Hands: Exposing Pro-abortion Catholic Politicians, by Mark Stricherz. Crisis May 2003.

The Failure of Catholic Political Leadership, by Robert P. George & William E. Saunders. Crisis 18, No. 4 (April 2000).

Denying Holy Communion: A Case History, by Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida. [PDF Format].

Ten questions regarding the denial of the Eucharist, by Barbara Kralis.

Recommmended Reading

John Kerry, Abortion and the Catholic Church

Irreconcilable Differences", by Matthew Mehan. NRO Sept. 16, 2004.

John Courtney Murray and the 'Liberal Catholic' Justification of Abortion Investigative report by Christopher Blosser. August 30, 2004.

"Please answer the question, Senator Kerry", The Mighty Barrister. August 2, 2004.

You wouldn't even ask. Fr. Pavone (Priests for Life). July 2004.

Kerry isn't making abortion stand clear, by Raymond J. Keating. Newsday July 27, 2004.

Senator Kerry May Be Human . . . But is He a Person?, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 23, 2004.

Kerry's Catholic Problem, by Brent Bozell. July 7, 2004.

The Body Politic and the Body of Christ: Candidates, Communion and the Catholic Church. Debate btw/ Thomas J. Reese, S.J. and George Weigel. June 23, 2004.

The Kerry challenge, by George Weigel. May 5, 2004.

Rites and Wrongs: Why John Kerry should not take communion, by Philip F. Lawler. Wall Street Journal April 30, 2004.

John Kerry's Catholic Problem", by Cal Thomas. April 26, 2004.

Kerry Distorting Catholic Doctrine. Newsmax.com interviews George Weigel. April 16, 2004.

"Personally Opposed, But…" Five Pro-Abortion Dodges, by Todd M. Aglialoro. Crisis April 1, 2004.

On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

Reagan vs. Reagan and The Stem-Cell Cover-Up, Catholic Kerry Watch, August 14, 2004.

Senator Kerry dismisses religious convictions as "ideology"  Catholic Kerry Watch. August 9, 2004.

Ron Reagan & Functionalism, Revisited, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 29, 2004.

Out of Touch, by Michael Fumento. Refuting Kerry's claims on the use of embryonic stem cells. Citizen Magazine August 2004.

Stem Cell Defection, by Ramesh Ponnuru. National Review August 16, 2004.

Stem Cell Research: Fact Sheets, Letters to Congress and Articles from the USCCB.

On Voting, "Proportionality" and Cardinal Ratzinger's Memorandum

What Ratzinger Said, by James Akin. Sept. 9, 2004.

Bishops Refute Flawed Theology (of Andrew Greeley) Barbara Kralis. August 22, 2004.

Thoughts on Proportionality, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 12, 2004.




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