A popular argument by some clerics who argue that they are not comfortable with denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion political celebrities is that the decision to receive is up to the conscience of the celebrity. In prior posts, I have indicated why this highly subjective view of conscience is contrary to Catholic teaching and even to relevant canon law. But today it is time to consider one of the most effective ways of exposing fallacy: reductio ad absurdum, that is, showing that a point of view is mistaken by showing that it leads to absurd results-- to "a reduction to absurdity."
Let us take a hypothetical bishop who goes to the media and says that he is not comfortable with denying the Eucharist to a pro-abortion celebrity--in reality, some have already actually done this. But now let us go to a local priest who has a correct grasp of Catholic teaching and canon law on this issue and as a result is firmly convinced in his conscience that for him to give the Eucharist to the local pro-abortion governor or legislator or to John Kerry would make him as a priest an accomplice to the profanation of the Eucharist. Our hypothetical priest has an informed and correct conscience. Moreover, he is certainly obligated to protect the Eucharist from profanation. How can our hypothetical bishop expect that priest (or for that matter a lay person who is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) to act contrary to a well-formed conscience and give the Eucharist to a pro-abortion celebrity?
The hypothetical bishop can forbid the priest from denying the Eucharist, but, in that case, the bishop has contradicted his own public statement that the individual conscience is supreme on this issue. Or the bishop can let each priest make his own decision on giving or denying the Eucharist. That latter option would at least be consistent with the bishop's public statements on the supremacy of individual conscience. Yet, even this latter option is not desirable because it introduces chaos into the sacramental life of the Church within a particular diocese and between different dioceses.
In other words, the best our hypothetical bishop can do is to recognize that both theology and canon law require a consistent policy of refusing the Eucharist to pro-abortion celebrities. The Eucharist is protected, and Catholic sacramental life remains orderly and uniform within and between dioceses.
Some may object that a policy of denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion celebrities would itself be the source of chaos because there would have to be a complex laundry list of political positions that preclude one from receiving the Eucharist. The truth is that there would be no chaos. Any political celebrity openly and obstinately contradicting Catholic teaching on what is grave sin should be told not to approach the Eucharist and should be denied the Eucharist if he or she does approach. We are not talking about the death penalty issue--the Church has no absolute prohibition against the death penalty, contrary to the implications of some who speak publicly. We are not talking about the mechanics of economic policy about which Catholics can and do legitimately differ. We are not talking about the Iraq War because the Church recognizes that Catholics can legitimately differ on the application of just war criteria to a particular situation.
Any laundry list of obstacles to communion would involve grave and intrinsically evil matters about which the Church recognizes no right to diversity of opinion. In addition, the only practical and feasible targets would be celebrities who persist in denying such Church teaching and thus create scandal--not the average anonymous parishioner.
Catholic liberals are continuing to spout what can only be called "whoppers" in the news media that misrepresent Catholic teaching in their eagerness to defend pro-abortion Democrats. As noted before, one common misrepresentation is that the abortion issue and issues such as the death penalty or the Iraq War are on the same plane. The other great misrepresentation is that denying the Eucharist to a political celebrity is equivalent to denying the Eucharist to an anonymous parishioner where scandal is not a factor.
The biggest misrepresentation was recently made by that reliably unreliable source of Catholic teaching, the Rev. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University, who is quoted as saying that "Abortion is not a dogma." Here is an excerpt from the news article containing the McBrien quote:
"The only way that you can separate yourself from the church is by knowingly and deliberately denying a dogma of faith," said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at Notre Dame and a liberal in such matters. "Abortion is not a dogma."
"Communion Becomes a Test of Faith and Politics," by Daniel J. Wakin, N.Y. Times online, May 9, 2004 (free reg'n required).
Well, a "dogma" is a divinely revealed teaching. It may be defined solemnly as was done in the case of the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary, or it can be defined "in an ordinary way, as with the constant teaching on the malice of taking innocent human life" (John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary s.v. "Dogma"). As Hardon notes, a dogma is a "[d]octrine taught by the Church to be believed by all the faithful as part of divine revelation" (Ibid.). And it is clear that the grave immorality of the direct and voluntary taking of an innocent human life--which includes deliberate or procured abortion--is a divinely revealed teaching:
This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
Consistent with the Pope's declaration, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed that the grave immorality of the direct and voluntary taking of innocent human life is a divinely revealed teaching (see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the 'Professio fidei,' June 29, 1998, section 11 (also refer to section 5), available at EWTN.com.)
So McBrien, not surprisingly, is again wrong. The only remedy for this mess is exposure of these wild misrepresentations and a constant reiteration of the truth. The power of the truth cannot be suppressed by sound bites.
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.