In a statement issued today entitled "Catholics in Political Life" (June 18, 2004), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for Catholic institutions to refuse honors or a platform for pro-abortion politicians, whether Catholic or non-Catholic:
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 which would suggest support for their actions.
This means that we should not see John Kerry holding campaign events at Catholic schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, or soup kitchens. Kerry will have to limit his photo opportunities with Catholic symbols to his entering and exiting Catholic churches for Mass.
On the issue of denying Communion, the Conference recognizes that the decision is in the hands of individual bishops:
The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.
Source: U.S.C.C.B. link above.
This stand is not a concession. The Conference cannot bind the hands of any bishop in this matter. St. Louis Archbishop Burke and other brave bishops are completely free to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Obviously, Cardinal Ratzinger, in his letter to U.S. bishops, must have upheld the power of bishops to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Hopefully, this green light from the Vatican will mean that more bishops will play the man and defend the Sacrament. To repeat, the Vatican has given the green light to bishops who think it is necessary to deny the Eucharist to politicians like Kerry.
The conference statement also shows that the view apparently held by some that Catholic teaching requires leaving the decision on whether to receive the Eucharist solely to the individual communicant's conscience is wrong.
This statement is a victory for those who see the need to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Kerry. It is a victory because for decades the status quo has been that these politicians can receive Communion with impunity. This statement recognizes that the status quo is changing. And that is a victory for the right to life.
Postscript: The Archdiocese of New York sponsors the Al Smith Dinner as a fundraiser which is a big media event with speeches by the presidential candidates. If, as the bishops' statement says, the Catholic community should not provide a platform for pro-abortion politicians, then Kerry should not be allowed to address the gathering. Let's see what transpires. See this N.Y. Times editorial from May 10, 2004, already bemoaning the fact that Kerry may not be allowed to speak at the dinner.
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.