Catholics & the 2004 Presidential Election - Collected Readings & Resources


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bishop Rene Gracida: "Denying Holy Communion: A Case History" 

Posted by Christopher Blosser at 11:42 PM

To each and every bishop that has raised objections to the implementation of Canon 915 against those engaging in public, Bishop Rene Henry Gracida offers a clear and instructive step-by-step example of how to go about doing so, presenting Case History on Denying Holy Commmunion [PDF format].

According to Gracida:

There can be no doubting that most of the major political figures who are on record publicly as favoring abortion-on-demand, euthanasia, cloning or fetal experimentation qualify under those three conditions ["grave sin, understood objectively"; "obstinate persistence"; "manifest character"] for censure. They qualify for being denied Holy Communion because they have a direct impact on the moral or immoral structure of a government, inasmuch as they are the direct agents in matters pertaining to legislation which forms a structure of sin, or a structure of goodness.
However, adds Gracida citing the Pontifical Council, pastoral prudence suggests the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion." Thus:
There is no need for public denial of Holy Communion. There is no need to reduce the need for public denial of Holy Communion to the worst case scenario: the minister of Holy Communion loudly refusing to give the Host to a loudly protesting pro-abortion politician in front of a church full of people. The implementation of Canon 915 can be carried out in complete privacy and confidentiality.
Bishop Emeritus Gracida proceeds to present a case history of one public official (a State Representative of the Texas Legislature) he had disciplined in his own diocese. Bishop Gracida confronted the Catholic representative's public advocac of "abortion rights" in a clearly worded and direct letter, presenting the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter.

There was no response to the letter, and so after a period of time -- and with no change in the individual's stance on abortion -- the Bishop was obliged to send another, this time offering the formal warning:

I regret that now I am compelled by the pastoral good of the local Church and for the salvation of souls to take the followings actions. I am attaching to this letter a copy of the teaching letter I wrote to you on June 3, 1993. Secondly, I am writing to inform you that your public position for abortion is in violation of Canon 1371 which forbids any Catholic to teach a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff or by an ecumenical council. Both Pope John Paul II and the Second Vatican Council have condemned abortion as a grievous offense against the law of God. Thirdly, I am by this letter giving you a formal warning according to Church law that unless you repent of your position, I will have no other choice for the good of the Catholic Church and for the salvation of souls to impose the penalty of forbidding you from receiving the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.

As Bishop of this Diocese and the Shepherd of the souls entrusted to my care by the Lord and by the successor of Saint Peter, I have the responsibility to resolve this serious scandal which your public position on abortion has created.

I pray that God will give you the grace to repent and retract your advocacy of abortion. I do want to hear from you about this matter. Please call my office (XXX-XXX-XXXX) and ask for an appointment to meet with me.

Again, there was no response from the State Representative. Consequently, says Bishop Gracida, he signed and mailed to the State Representative a decree of Interdiction, barring the individual from the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and Annointing of the Sick, concluding with the request that if the individual experienced a change of heart to meet with him immediately.

Says Bishop Gracida:

I never heard from the individual, who died in 2001, while still under Interdiction. I never publicized the Decree of Interdiction. It was a matter between me, the individual and God. Whether or not the individual ever received Holy Communion after having been Interdicted, I do not know, and it is not important that I should have known since it was a matter of the internal forum. If the individual did receive Holy Communion while under a Decree of Interdiction it would have been a further sacrilege.

Some will argue that the Decree of Interdiction should have been made public at the time it was issued. I disagree. The Corpus Christi CallerTimes would have exploited the news just as they had exploited the three Decrees of Excommunication I had earlier issued against three abortionists in Corpus Christi who chose to make their excommunication known publicly. If it had been reported to me that the individual was receiving Holy Communion after receiving the Decree of Interdiction I would have published the decree in the Diocesan Newspaper.

In summary, every bishop has the duty and obligation to implement the provisions of Canon Law in accordance with the Declaration by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. There is no need for confrontation at the altar rail during the distribution of Holy Communion. The Canons can be implemented without public confrontation at the time Holy Communion is being distributed.


Bishop Gracida stands as a model of courage, respect, and charity in dealing with issues of this nature. I say "charity" because just as a father's discipline is motivated by love for his children, so was Bishop Gracida's implementation of the Interdict in this case motivated by "the pastoral good of the local Church and for the salvation of souls" -- the soul of the individual in question as well as those of his diocese.

Let's hope that Bishop Gracida's excellent "Case History on Denying Holy Communion" has been presented to the USCCB Commmittee headed by Cardinal McCarrick, which if I understand correctly is still in the process of determining how to do so themselves without "disruption at the communion rail."

Thanks to Bill Cork for the tip.


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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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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. Newsmax.com 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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