As CKW is in the habit of recognizing courageous bishops, Lawrence E. Brandt (Bishop of Greensburg, PA, deserves favorable mention for his pastoral letter (presented on August 10, 2004).
Brandt declines to mention any pro-abortion pol by name and maintains that it has not been his policy "to endorse or oppose individual political candidates for public elective office." Nevertheless, on the matter of "pro-choice Catholics," the bishop could not be more explicit in where the Church stands on legislators who bring public scandal to the Church by adopting a pro-choice/pro-abortion stance. Here are some choice excerpts:
In view of the well-articulated, well-publicized, and consistent position of the Catholic Church on abortion for 2,000 years, and on the basis of dialogues which may have taken place concerning public officials' advocating questionable positions from the point of view of Church teaching, it is difficult to imagine that Catholic public officials or aspirants for public office could be ignorant of the fact that voting in favor of abortion legislation is gravely wrong and is a rejection of a core doctrinal holding of the Catholic Church concerning the sanctity of human life from the moment of fertilization.
An established pattern of voting in favor of abortion legislation and an established pattern of public rejection of a core teaching of the Church amount to being a person who is engaged in public cooperation with a grave moral evil. It means, furthermore, also having separated oneself in a fundamental way from the Catholic Church because one is no longer sharing the covenant of core beliefs and values which identify a person as Catholic.
Any public official who says, "I can vote for abortion and still be a Catholic in good standing," is being intellectually condescending to every Catholic by making himself or herself the sole judge of what "Catholic" means. For a public official or a person campaigning for public office to say, "I can be in favor of abortion and still be a good Catholic," is asking us to believe that his or her position is just as valid as the position of the Catholic Church, which is diametrically opposed to it. This must be viewed as intellectual sleight of hand! This is also demeaning to the intelligence of any informed Catholic. When such candidates or public officials renew publicly and in church, during the Easter season, their baptismal vows, by affirming that they "believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church," then such a declaration, in the minds of very many, is bearing false witness to the Catholic faith. . . .
A public pattern of cooperation in a grave evil, which affects the lives of millions of people, and a public pattern of rejection of a core doctrinal holding of the Catholic Church, have a direct bearing on one's proper dispositions for receiving Holy Communion. A pattern of public cooperation in grave evil inevitably calls into extreme question one's worthiness to receive Holy Communion. To do so nonetheless, as Saint Paul says, profanes the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Cor. 11:27). A pattern of public rejection of a core doctrinal holding of the Catholic Church separates one in a fundamental way from the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. What sense then does receiving the effective sign of that oneness in a communion of faith, which is the Eucharist, have in such a situation? None, because it is a contradiction in terms. The Eucharist is aptly called Holy Communion because, of its nature, it reflects a communion or unity of belief on the part of those receiving it. Here the words of the second-century martyr Saint Justin are appropriate: "No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ." The reception of the Eucharist by those who enable grave evil and publicly support it is offensive to every committed Catholic in the Church because such individuals have proven that they have repudiated what we are because of what they do. To receive Holy Communion under these circumstances is not only offensive to committed Catholics, but it is also offensive to pro-life Catholic public officials who often risk their public careers to fight for the pro-life cause. It is also offensive to those Catholic public officials who voluntarily refrain from receiving the Eucharist because of their recognition of their compromised status. . . .
On the matter of whether individuals guilty of "obstinent persistence" in grave sin and the source of public scandal ought to be denied communion, the Bishop is hesitant, and takes a different approach:
I think the decision about the reception of Holy Communion should be put where it belongs -- on the person contemplating receiving Holy Communion. It should not be imposed on the bishop, on the priest, on the deacon, nor on the Eucharistic minister. That is "passing the buck!" It should be placed exactly where it belongs, which is on the conscience of the individual contemplating receiving communion. . . . I think the moral responsibility for the decision to receive Holy Communion should be put where it belongs, so that it is the potential recipient who bears the full weight of the consequences of his action before God, the Catholic Church and "society itself." I say society itself because this is not just a Catholic problem about Holy Communion. It is a problem with much deeper and wider implications. It is a cause of very serious concern for all the citizenry about a matter of integrity. It is a very serious concern about placing public trust in a person who has demonstrated public misrepresentation. Any individual who says he can advocate for and enable the practice of abortion and claims that he can still be a Catholic in good standing, has a very serious problem with integrity which any community can ignore only at its own peril.
It is true that my colleagues and I at Catholic Kerry Watch might question whether "placing the burden on the sinner" is truly enough, in light of the clear instructions by Cardinal Ratzinger which call for the active denial of communion when "precautionary measures" have failed to achieve any kind of resolution (Worthiness to Recieve Communion: General Principles", par. 6).
Nevertheless, Bishop Brandt takes a firm and commendable stand in informing his diocese not to recognize or honor those who bring public scandal to the faith:
In view of the seriousness of this situation, as well as the false witness and the misunderstanding it can cause, it is pastorally appropriate that the Catholic community, its organizations, and institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of the fundamental tenets of our faith and the moral requirements which follow from them by giving such public officials or candidates for office any awards or honors or platforms, which might be interpreted as support for their positions or actions.
And in informing public officials themselves:
Furthermore, as with the reception of Holy Communion, such public officials should voluntarily refrain from presenting themselves as candidates for the positions of lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or other public functions in the life of the Church, including being a godparent at baptism or a sponsor at confirmation. All of these roles require that a person live a life of faith in conformity with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
You can express your thanks by contacting the Bishop's office at 724-837-0901.
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.