My problem in all of this is that what we have from bishops is a big fat nothing. Everyone can go to Communion, apparently, whatever you may have done, whether you have mortal sin or not, whatever you profess in public. It's just fine. Oh sure, you're not supposed to go, but they're not going to do anything if you do.
What's the point of a prohibition without any enforcement?
make a clear, unambiguous and quotable statement (so that lazy reporters can faithfully cite the message) that pro-choice Catholics should not take communion; and
clarify the confusing message about the difference in status between the church's long-standing teaching on abortion and the modern spin on the death penalty (to undercut the liberals who want to make a moral equivalence between John Kerry's pro-choice position and, e.g., Justice Scalia's position on the death penalty).
On the first point, the bishops' statement gets a C-. On the second point, it gets an F. It is almost unbelievable how undistinguished and uninspiring ... in short, how average these guys are.
This is about what I expected, and not all that bad considering the circumstances. The bishops cannot risk taking a public position that would risk a public splintering of the group. We will see a few more bishops follow Chaput & Sheridan's lead on this. We will see a few bishops take the Mahoney "all are welcome here" approach. Others will take a "the sin is on their heads" approach and ignore the scandal that has developed.
The vast majority, however, will do what they do best -- remain silent, and thereby permit the scandal to grow.
Despite the fact that they ducked the key issue, I am still pleased by the rather strong language in support of life and in rejection of the "private Catholic / public heretic" language popularized by the two JFKs.
. . . In short, it's vague enough, in every aspect, to justify nearly any interpretation. In sentence after sentence, just when you think they're gearing up for a punch ("The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms . . .") they qualify it with an arbitrary phrase which makes any disciplinary response or judgment utterly impossible (". . .which would suggest support for their actions").
One could have wished for something with a little more punch, but I suppose such a wish would have been unrealistic.
I guess that, like Owald, I'm hoping this statement will serve as an impetus for more bishops to follow the examples of Bishop Burke and Archbishop Chaput. We'll see what happens.
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.