Catholics & the 2004 Presidential Election - Collected Readings & Resources

Friday, May 28, 2004

Newsweek Religion Writer Opines on Abortion Controversy 

Posted by Oswald at 11:52 PM

Newsweek religion writer Kenneth Woodward publishes an opinion piece in today's New York Times [free reg'n required] discussing the coming clash between pro-abortion politicians and Catholic bishops. Woodward clearly does not favor denying the Eucharist to these politicians. Yet, there are signs that the debate on this issue has focused the issue and advanced the defense of life even among those like Woodward who shrink from the obvious and long overdue need to deny the Eucharist to those pro-abortion celebrities who obstinately persist in propping up legal abortion.

The first positive sign is that Woodward eventually points out—after an initial erroneous description of papal teaching—that the abortion issue cannot be put on a par with issues like the death penalty and the Iraq War:
But this line of reasoning [the much misused "Seamless Garment" line of reasoning] is fraught with peril. For the pope, the bishops and—if polls are to believed—for most practicing Catholics, abortion is the taking of innocent life and therefore violates the most fundamental of human rights. By contrast, the pope's opposition to capital punishment is conditional, not absolute, and the church's application of just war principles is open to reasoned debate. When it comes to abortion, there is far less room for discussion.
Not only is there far less room for discussion when it comes to abortion—there is no room for discussion as to a Catholic supporting abortion. In a culture that shrinks from any absolutes—except perhaps when it comes to the evil of tobacco or "homophobia"—the Catholic Church announces that direct abortion is intrinsically evil. That is the source of the conflict because our culture finds any absolute, non-negotiable moral stand intolerable.

Woodward also reports that the U.S. bishops may release their task force report on the issue of pro-abortion politicians earlier than anticipated because of the controversy. An early release would be a sign that our opinions do count. When you write a letter to the editor or e-mail a bishop, your voice can have an impact on evolving events. Woodward in the paragraph quoted above faces the reality of Catholic teaching, instead of hiding behind the misuse of the Seamless Garment argument that falsely puts abortion, the death penalty, and war on the same moral level. They emphatically are not on the same moral level. The death penalty targets convicted criminals, not the innocent. The decision to go to war in Iraq was motivated by Saddam Hussein's defiance of the U.N. on disarmament. The Iraqi dictator was also a genocidal tyrant who routinely engaged in torture, mutilation, and massacre as an open and official instrument of state policy directed at innocent civilians.

From reading Woodward's column, it appears that he anticipates that the task force may favor telling the pro-abortion politicians to voluntarily refrain from receiving the Eucharist. The task force may even recommend imposing some lesser sanctions such as barring such politicians from making speeches at Catholic institutions. That is some progress, even if it fails to live up to the full moral imperative. Yet, no committee or task force can tie the hands of a courageous bishop. Some bishops will continue to be bold and apostolic on this issue. They will continue to move the ball down the field even if all we get is a field goal.

The truth is making progress when even someone like Woodward recognizes the moral problem of pro-abortion Catholic politicians and the sophistry of the excuses made in the past by such luminaries as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Yet, Woodward himself has room to grow. He refers to the stand of Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs as "eccentric" for calling on Catholic voters who vote for pro-abortion politicians to refrain from the Eucharist unless they repent and go to confession. Sheridan just stated the obvious, but the obvious becomes "eccentric" when compared to the timidity of many other bishops. It reminds me of one Catholic biblical scholar who refers to Jesus as a "Marginal Jew." I guess Bishop Sheridan should take comfort that on this issue he is the "Marginal Bishop." He has good company in his so-called "eccentricity."

In addition, the title of Woodward's piece "A Political Sacrament" is vaguely offensive, if not outright blasphemous. The Eucharist is not a political sacrament in spite of the best efforts of pro-abortion politicians to make receiving the Eucharist a false public statement of their standing as Catholics. The Eucharist is, like all sacraments, an Ecclesial Sacrament. It is a sign of unity and communion with the Catholic Church. And that is the source of the problem for the politicians. On this Memorial Day weekend, it is good to recall the famous World War II saying, dating from Pearl Harbor, to "praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition." Keep praying and keep speaking out. The truth is our ammunition.

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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Contributing Editors:

Oswald Sobrino of
Catholic Analysis

Earl E. Appleby of
Times Against Humanity

Jeff Miller of
The Curt Jester

Ad Limina Apostolorum

Christopher Blosser of
Against The Grain

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Ad Limina Apostolorum
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Catholics for Bush [Blog]
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Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.
The Galvin Opinion
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News Resources

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Kerry Communion Watch @

The Candidates on Abortion: Where do they stand?




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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. 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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