Cardinal Mahoney made a number of interesting comments on the topic of giving communion to pro-abortion Catholics politicians. According to Tidings Online:
In Rome, Cardinal Mahony told CNS: "I'm slightly mystified why this is all coming up now. We've had pro-choice Catholic politicians going to Communion since Roe vs. Wade," the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
"The church has always been quite cautious about denying anyone the sacraments of the church," he said. "And, in fact, with respect to the Eucharist, it really is not possible for a priest or bishop to deny someone Communion unless that person is known to have been a public sinner, in the sense of having been interdicted or excommunicated or formally sanctioned in some way.
"The presumption is that if someone presents himself for Communion, that they are doing so with the belief that they are in a state of grace and receiving in good faith the Eucharist," he said.
"That is the decision the communicant makes, not the person giving Communion," Cardinal Mahony said.
The Cardinal's position appears to be that education is a more efficient and productive strategy than sanctions:
The cardinal said the only way to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion is to convince people that it is wrong.
"What the church has been doing has had great success," he said, citing a recent poll of young women showing that support for the most liberal access to legalized abortion "has dropped from 64 percent to 55 percent."
"The politicians themselves are not going in for abortions; it's women themselves, so that's the group we need to influence," he said.
I'll agree with Mahoney that education should be emphasized -- from every pulpit, in every parish, our bishops and priests should be proclaiming the Church's teaching. Denying communion to obstinate sinners, however, is another matter. Canon law professor Dr. Peters has posted an analysis of the Cardinal's comments to his blog, pointing out statements by the Cardinal that are either incomplete or altogether erroneous. Dr. Peters concludes:
Let's be clear about what Abp. Burke and others are doing: Their stance against pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving the Eucharist is completely justified. In brief, their decisions are 1) made in the realm of sacramental discipline, not penal law; 2) meant to prevent serious scandal to the faithful, curb sacrilegious reception of Communion, and impress upon certain persons the gravity of their deeds; 3) binding on all ministers of the Eucharist in their jurisdictions; 4) illustrative for others who, someday, as will we all, have to account to Jesus for what they did with His Precious Body and Blood. I need hardly add that all that is necessary to secure one's readmission to the Eucharist would be confession and firm purpose of amendment.
I agree with His Eminence that we have had pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving the Eucharist since 1973. What’s changed is that we now have bishops who are saying enough is enough.