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."
The anti-Catholic "Catholics"--those so-called Catholics who reject fundamental dogmas of the Church, her moral teaching on controversial issues, and who seek a fantasy Third Vatican Council to implement their destruction of the Church--are enraged about the progress the Bush campaign has made among Catholic voters.
A recent Pew Center poll gave Bush a seven point margin among Catholic voters. This fact sparks rage and panic among liberal Catholics when compared to the last election in which the Catholic vote split about evenly between the two major parties.
It is not only the Pew poll that has sparked panic. The Republican National Committee has made no secret of its aggressive outreach to Catholics, including a new website called KerryWrongForCatholics.com. In my view, the liberal and radical internal opponents of the Church are sensing that they are losing the political battle.
All of which brings me to a Boston Globe column appearing today by James Carroll. In the column, Carroll attacks the Republicans for questioning the Catholicism of Kerry. The problem is that, like Carroll himself, Kerry embraces anti-Catholic views and stands. Kerry of course favors abortion and unlimited embryonic stem cell research.
In addition, you would also have to be extremely naive to believe that Kerry really opposes the legalization of gay marriage. Kerry will do whatever he can politically to assist the gay activists, and the activists know it. That is why the gay activists are fervent Kerry supporters.
Who is James Carroll? He has recently published a collection of his Boston Globe columns focused on attacking Bush's War on Terror. From the editorial review at Amazon.com for this particular book, you can safely conclude that Carroll is a classic Bush hater. You can also see telltale signs of that obsessive Bush hating in the column published today.
But who really is James Carroll? James Carroll is probably most famous for his book attacking the Church: Constantine's Sword, whose central thesis is that Christianity is anti-Semitic. Let's let Philip Jenkins, a non-Catholic scholar of religion from Penn State University, describe Carroll more fully:
Carroll is simply wrong about anti-Semitism being integral to Catholic Christianity: no direct historical highway leads from the evangelists to Auschwitz. Just as suspect, therefore is Carroll's attempt to discredit traditional Christianity by contextualizing it together with the dreadful crimes of anti-Semitism. He is overpresenting his case in order to justify a "reform agenda" that amounts to a blueprint for the annihilation of the Catholic Church. Much of Carroll's book is devoted to his agenda for a proposed Third Vatican Council, which would cure the Catholic Church of the dreadful faults that have made it a "failed and sinful Church." For all its excellent intentions, its moral fervor, Carroll's book is a frontal attack on Catholic Christianity, and this agenda shapes its interpretations on every page.
Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), p. 190 (emphasis added).
James Carroll is a professional anti-Catholic. As Professor Jenkins, again a non-Catholic, has pointed out, the most prominent anti-Catholics today in the United States claim to be Catholics (see Jenkins, p. 156). Carroll is a prominent leader of that pack.
But Carroll's column serves a good purpose for it proves what I have sensed since Kerry emerged as a prominent Democratic primary candidate. Kerry as a liberal Catholic espousing anti-Catholic stands on crucial issues would harm the Church not only because of his positions on the issues but also as a powerful embodiment of those forces seeking the radical revision of Catholicism.
People would look to a President Kerry and see a quintessential Cafeteria Catholic thumbing his nose at fundamental Catholic teaching and bolstering the sagging internal fortunes of the liberal Catholics.
There has always been a strong connection between what is happening in secular culture and politics and the internal agenda of liberal Catholics. The on-going sexual revolution was and is the most prominent example. So much of the liberal Catholic agenda is merely revising Catholic teaching to match the secular sexual revolution.
So as the results of our presidential elections center more and more on the cultural war gripping this nation, the liberal Catholics have a lot at stake on the outcome. They want a secular culture of unabashed liberalism as the wind at their back as they seek to dismantle Catholicism from within.
The latest polls and the efforts of many faithful Catholics in this election are raising their fears that the wind is dying. And so we see James Carroll striking back, just as we see reckless media efforts to mislead Catholic voters into thinking that a pro-abortion vote is morally permissible in this election. The panic of the liberals is a sign that they fear losing the cultural war.
In his column Word from Rome (Sept. 24, '04), John Allen, Jr. reports that
. . . Julian Hunte, a pro-choice Catholic politician in the West Indies who was awarded a papal knighthood Sept. 19. Hunte was made a Knight of the Grand Cross Pian Order. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano bestowed the honor in a New York ceremony.
As the [Catholic Herald] notes, the award is especially interesting in light of the debate currently swirling in the United States over the eligibility of pro-choice Catholic politicians for the Eucharist.
Hunte, the Minister for External Affairs of Santa Lucia, recently concluded his term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. The Vatican recognized him for his role in a resolution regarding the work of the Holy See in the United Nations.
Hunte was also, however, the deciding vote last year on a bill in the upper chamber of the St. Lucian parliament that decriminalized abortion in that Caribbean nation. In December, that measure passed by five votes to four, with Hunte in favor.
"I think every woman must have a choice. I am a pro-choice man," Hunte said during a parliamentary debate before votes were cast.
According to Allen, "the Vatican's classic approach to political forces with which it disagrees might be dubbed 'constructive engagement.' The idea is that it's better to keep lines of communication open than to burn bridges." A priest by the name of Fr. Linus Clovis calls it a mockery, however, and is appealing the Pope to overturn the decision. Read the rest of the story.
Even the USCCB, despite all their waffling on the issue of communion, came to the decision that:
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.
So it is to be expected that some Catholics might be compelled to voice their discontent with this award, which is clearly an act of extremely poor judgement on the part of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See.
Fifth Column blogger Steven Kellmeyer offers an interesting reflection on the transitory nature of pro-choice "Catholic" politicians in the United States:
Florida hurricanes have delivered two body blows, an uppercut and a vicious right hook, transforming the Sunshine State into an awesome example of what a whirlwind can do. Catholics in America should take careful note.
It has long been the contention of pro-life supporters that geographical location cannot define personhood. A child is a child no matter where that child is located. It cannot be the case that the individual in question becomes a child when she is outside the womb, but remains only a tissue-mass when she is inside the womb.
The USCCB, however, finds the geographical argument compelling in another context, however. Apparently, geographical location does define heresy. For example, John Kerry, Frances Kissling, Ted Kennedy and all the rest may be Catholics in good standing when they step on a plane in Boston, but they are not Catholics in good standing when they step off that same plane in St. Louis. Heresy is diocese-specific. . . .
As Steve develops his line of thought, he arrives at the conclusion that the USCCB is on the verge of schism, or at least balanced precariously on the edge, awaiting that moment when one bishop decides that another's decision to continue giving communion to obstinate sinners in a state of public, even defiant, disobedience to the Church, is tantamount to profaning the Eucharist.
. . . You cannot publicly and vociferously support legal abortion and be in communion with the Church. Now, the bishop who first announces that he cannot give Jesus to his fellow bishops because they profane the Eucharist will hardly be looked on with great love by Rome. Formal schisms are terrible things. But, on the other hand, Rome can hardly disagree with such a bishop by arguing that the USCCB's ruling is (theo)logically coherent. It manifestly isn't. Worse, Rome has no other basis upon which to dispute the justice of such a decision. She would have to go along with the formal break. The Catholic Church in America is hanging by the merest thread, dependent upon the willingness of every single bishop to remain quiet, to refrain from pronouncing the final, damning words that severs the erring bishops from communion with the Church. Once those words are pronounced, we will have created another Protestant Church.
Undoubtedly, the USCCB is praying the whole issue will just curl up and die after the campaign. That's why certain bishops have insisted on refraining from judgment until after the elections. Contrary to popular belief, it may very well be the case that these bishops do not give a damn about the elections. They are undoubtedly much more worried about the impending schism the elections have forced out into the open.
It's certainly an interesting theory. But could it be true? Have things really come this close? -- Read his post, then please, discuss. I'd like to hear your thoughts.
Update: Jamie Blosser has a thoughtful response to Steven's concerns in a post to his blog ("Ad Limina Apostolorum"): "A New Donatism?".
Next month, October, is Respect Life month. It's a good time to reflect on the meaning of the Kennedy-Cuomo legacy. In brief, it's OK to be Catholic in public service as long as you're willing to jettison what's inconveniently "Catholic."
That's not a compromise. That's a deal with the devil, and it has a balloon payment no nation, no public servant and no voter can afford.
It's difficult for me to picture 'neocon' George Weigel, just war scholar, theologian and Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, as a Democrat.
But in A Catholic Votes for George W. Bush"America Vol. 191, no. 8 (Sept. 27, 2004), he reveals his past history, his break from his former party, "the maturation of Catholic social doctrine" under the pontificate of John Paul II, and why he'll cast his vote for George W. Bush in November:
The Republican Party is not a perfect home for Catholics. Its libertarian wing is a cause for concern on the life issues; its corporate wing seems too frequently interested in federal protection and too infrequently attentive to worker re-training. But no political party is ever really "home" to those who take Catholic social doctrine seriously. And the fact of the matter is that, for Catholics like me, the party of Lincoln is a far more comfortable place today than could be imagined forty years ago; moreover, it is an immeasurably more comfortable platform from which to work on the great issues of the day than Michael Moore's party.
Republicans now have a real chance of fashioning a long-term governing majority, built in part on the "new ecumenism" of Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Catholic social doctrine - including those priority life issues - could become an even more important factor in shaping the political philosophy of that new majority than it already is in a Bush White House where staffers and speechwriters already take Catholic social thought seriously. There is no chance of doing this in today's Democratic Party, because the party's leadership and the overwhelmingly majority of its activists are unalterably committed to the pro-abortion agenda, to embryo research (which Senator Kerry has tried to demagogue in a singularly ill-informed and cynical way), and to the utterly un-Catholic concepts of human dignity and freedom that the abortion license and embryo research exemplify.
Catholics struggling today with their "genetic" Democratic political loyalties should remember this: Americans don't just elect a president; we elect a party and its people, who will fill the federal government for years - and the appellate bench for decades. A second Bush Administration will give Catholics an unprecedented opportunity to help create a new governing majority informed by the riches of Catholic social doctrine. That can't be done in the Democratic Party. And that's yet another reason to vote for a good, decent, and brave man, George W. Bush, the Methodist who gets the Catholic vision more than his Catholic opponent.
I can already predict the skeptical response of certain Catholic factions -- Catholic Workers, for example -- to Weigel's claims about the compatibility of the economic and foreign policies of the Bush administration with Catholic social doctrine.
And yet, it is impossible to contest Weigel's chief point: so long as the Democratic Party remains formally committed to the enforcement of abortion-on-demand, advancing embroyo stem-cell research, suppressing recognition of the humanity of the unborn, and endorsing a platform that enthrones the autonomous "right" of an individual to murder a child in the womb, its promise to be a party "to all Americans who seek a better future for themselves, for their loved ones, and for our country" is severely compromised. It is no wonder, then, that many Catholics see better hope in working with the Republican party to establish the "culture of life."
Today, MSNBC airs the Hardball/Newsweek Special Report "Under God: Bush, Kerry, and the Faith Factor." "There is no argument over the importance of religion in the election," Jill Lawrence reports in USA Today.
Frequency of worship is a prime predictor of how people vote. Surveys of voters leaving the polls in the 2000 election showed that 63% of people who attended church more than once a week voted for [Republican George] Bush, compared with 36% for Democrat Al Gore. Weekly churchgoers broke 57%-40% for Bush.
Protestants made up over half the 2000 electorate, and Bush won 55% of that vote, beating Gore nearly 2 to 1 among white Protestants. That support was critical to capturing the Oval Office since Gore bested Bush among virtually every other religious group, from black Protestants to Catholics to Jews, as well as nonbelievers.
"Church attendance itself, regardless of one's brand of faith, seems to be part of what divides America about Bush," Dane Smith and Eric Black write in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "In a recent national poll by Time magazine, those who attended church once a week or more favored Bush over Kerry 59 percent to 35 percent."
For the president, paying close attention to his religious base doesn't just make sense--it is imperative. Opinion polling shows that Americans' votes most closely track their religious attendance. Voters who say they go to church every week vote Republican, by overwhelming margins. Those who go to church less frequently vote Democratic, by nearly similar proportions.
Persuading religiously observant citizens to register and vote is key to President Bush's reelection strategy, but is not the easy sell that many political believers--or rather believers in politics--might think.
Constantly subjected to stereotypical slanders from the secular elite that dominates America's increasingly indistinguishable news and entertainment media, indifference and discrimination from government, and neglect and betrayal by soi-disant "conservatives," millions of Christians remain skeptical, even leery, of political involvement. Indeed, an estimated 4 million white evangelical Christians did not vote in the last presidential election.
If President Bush's nightmare is evangelical Protestants staying home, Senator John F. Kerry's is faithful Catholics going to the polls and this despite the fact that Catholic voters gave Gore 50 percent of their votes in 2000, a 4 point margin over Bush.
"As a Catholic himself, Kerry would hope to do even better," Johnson notes.
But the Catholic Church isn't exactly cooperating. Kerry disagrees with church doctrine on abortion, and the controversy has occasionally slowed his campaign....[In fact,] his candidacy has become a test case for...developing guidelines for how U.S. bishops should approach Catholic lawmakers who promote policies opposed by the church.
It is a test that many bishops seem determined to flunk.
The faith factor is the fear factor in the reality show that is the 2004 elections. It is likely to determine the survivor.
This month's issue of Commonweal features a good article by the former Newsweek religion editor Kenneth Woodward ("Catholics, Politics & Abortion: My Argument with Mario Cuomo" Sept. 24, 2004), taking issue with former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. Mario Cuomo was famous for his 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame ("Religious Belief and Public Morality", in which he laid the groundwork for future liberal Catholic politicians (such as Senator John Kerry) to proclaim themselves "personally opposed" to abortion and yet endorse a "pro-choice" stance in opposition to any legal restrictions.
Noting that the Church does not insist that every immoral action be prohibited by law, Cuomo depicted the question of abortion's legal treatment as a matter of prudence akin to the range of questions with which the seamless garment was concerned. It was a question on which, he suggested, reasonable people, including reasonable Catholics, could disagree. According to Cuomo, what made a politician truly pro-life and truly someone prepared to act in the spirit of the Catholic teaching was not his opposition to legal abortion or its public funding. Though Cuomo acknowledged the bishops' clear teaching on those issues, it was, rather, the politician's stance on the whole range of sanctity and quality of life issues. And here, he implied, liberal Democrats, such as himself, who shared the bishops' stated positions on capital punishment, welfare, housing, taxation, defense spending, and international human rights policy had records far superior to those of pro-life conservatives whose only specific areas of policy agreement with the bishops had to do with abortion and related issues. . . .
Cuomo's Notre Dame speech provided a virtual playbook for pro-abortion Catholic politicians who wished to claim that their public support for "the right to choose" abortion was not inconsistent with their personal moral opposition to deliberate feticide. It taught liberal politicians of every religious persuasion how to explain to Catholic constituents that their differences with the bishops over the particular issue of abortion are overshadowed by their broad agreement with the bishops across the wide range of "quality of life" issues. It relieved much of the internal and external tension experienced by public men and women, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who wanted to be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.
Mr. Woodward points out a glaring omission in Cuomo's speech:
. . . At this point it is worth noting what Cuomo did not say, as well as what he did. Never once did he say that abortion was evil, intrinsically or otherwise. Never once did he say -- as the bishops had, as he himself could have -- that opposition to abortion as a matter of public morality is a defense of the human rights of the unborn. Never once did he say the abortion dispute is a disagreement over the scope of social justice. He did not say these things, and never has, I believe, because doing so would make his position difficult if not impossible to defend. He did not say these things, and never has, because, as I think his record makes clear, he does not believe them to be true.
As I have argued in an earlier article, it is because John Courtney Murray would have recognized the humanity of the unborn that he would have rejected its defense as an issue of "private morality"; to recognize the humanity of the unborn is to implicitly acknowledge that it is not just the autonomous choice of the mother that is at stake, but the very life of another. Senator Kerry illustrated Woodward's point this past July when he opened up a pandora's box of philosophical issues, and scandalized many of his supporters, by acknowledging in his distinctive convoluted ramble, that the life of the fetus may very well be human.
Cuomo revisits his argument (and tangles with Princeton Professor of Jurisprudence Robert P. George) in a report on religion and American politics published by the Brookings Institute (One Electorate under God?), in which Cuomo appeals to a lack of "public consensus" on abortion -- a statement which Woodward challenges:
I take it he meant-and still means-that there is no political majority to support any restrictions on public access to abortion, not to mention recriminalization. Politically, he may be right. But how would Cuomo know since he has never mustered the political courage to test his own assumptions?
Woodward points out that the moral consensus seems to be tilting towards the pro-life position, supported by numerous polls (as far back as 1987) showing that many Americans, contrary to the illusions of Planned Parenthood, are morally uncomfortable with "abortion on demand," preferring that it "should be restricted to the rare and so-called hard cases of rape, incest, and immediate physical harm to the mother."
It is on this point that Woodward challenges Cuomo:
Given his celebrated intellect and powers of persuasion, Cuomo might have nurtured this emerging moral consensus into political expression. In his Notre Dame speech he conceded as much: "And surely, I can, if so inclined, demand some kind of law against abortion not because my bishops say it is wrong but because I think that the whole community, regardless of its religious beliefs, should agree on the importance of protecting life-including life in the womb, which is at the very least potentially human and should not be extinguished casually."
This teasing way of letting his listeners know that he was aware that this argument and option were open to him was, in fact, Cuomo's way of telling them the option was merely private-a "prudential" judgment that no one could make for him. But his words led not a few in his audience to assume that he would use his influence to modify his party's embrace of abortion on demand, should the opportunity arise. God knows, he had his chances.
Much as critics of Senator Kerry point to his persistent and militant defense of abortion-rights, Woodward proceeds to illustrate with several examples Cuomo's increasing support of "abortion on demand" (and concurrently, opposition to any religious criticism of the issue) over the course of the Clinton years, and challenges Cuomo on his hypocrisy:
Then I spoke by phone with Cuomo in June, I asked him why he did not deploy the same passion on behalf of abortion that he used in fighting the consensus-even in New York State-supporting capital punishment. "The argument I made against capital punishment," he said in quick reply, "was not a moral argument" (emphasis his). But the truth is that Cuomo never gave a speech that did not glisten with the sweat of moral conviction, and his campaign against capital punishment was no exception. In One Electorate under God?, he explains his opposition to state-sanctioned capital punishment: "I am against the death penalty because I think it is bad and unfair. It is debasing. It is degenerate. It kills innocent people." That is exactly the kind of moral argument prolife people make against abortion and its funding by government.
Neither logic nor consistency has been the hallmark of our foremost "philosopher-politician." He has convinced himself, it seems to me, that "moral" arguments can proceed only from what he calls religious "dogmas," and thus cannot be used in making arguments in the public square. And this is precisely the kind of reasoning that sustains the pro-choice position of this year's most prominent Catholic politician, John Kerry.
It is a tired refrain of Catholics for Kerry that their cherished Senator really doesn't support abortion, that as a Catholic he is truly "personally opposed." And yet, just as Woodward challenges Cuomo's zealous support of abortion-on-demand and omission of criticism when the opportunity presents itself, many Catholics are challenging the moral inconsistency in the rhetoric of Senator Kerry's adoption of the "Cuomo Defense."
If anything, it is most reassuring to see Mr. Woodward join us in taking a stand. Perhaps he will convince other Commonweal readers to follow suite.
A new wrinkle in the story occurred today, when the CDF itself - Ratzinger's office - made a statement on the letter and its media fallout. Fr. Augustine T. DiNoia, undersecretary to Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke to representatives of CNS news, in an article published this morning:
"The memo was certainly not intended to clear the way for Catholics to vote for candidates who are in favor of laws permitting abortion or euthanasia, but rather to clarify that the simple act of voting for such candidates might not per se justify one's exclusion from Holy Communion," said [DiNoia].
After a helpful discussion of the theological principles of cooperation with evil - material and formal - Fr. DiNoia spoke directly to the situation of 'proportionate reasons':
The recent doctrinal memo's mention of "proportionate reasons" has led some people to suggest a set of reasons that could justify voting for pro-abortion politicians -- or to argue that no "proportionate reason" can exist in such a case. Father DiNoia said one obvious proportionate reason would be when, as often occurs, Catholic voters must choose between two candidates who support legalized abortion but to widely differing degrees. In that situation, not to vote at all would seem to go against a Christian's responsibility to participate politically.
While this statement certainly does not allow an absolute prohibition against voting for 'pro-choice' politicians, neither does it grant unrestricted liberty to do so, with apologies to Father Greeley. DiNoia rightly points back to the contents of the memo itself, forbidding us to take its postscript in isolation. The memo clearly states that the issues of abortion and euthanasia carry greater 'weight' than other moral issues, and that there can be no 'legitimate diversity' regarding them. To unjustly 'flatten' the spectrum of moral issues involved, as Father Greely would have us do, does not do justice to the very question of proportionality which he would have us respect. It is telling, I think, that the only scenario Fr. DiNoia proposes is one in which a pro-choice politician is contrasted with another pro-choice politician. As Jimmy Akin proposes,
"[A] pro-abort president would be responsible for extending the abortion holocaust to include approximately nine million Americans. No other issue involves numbers that high. Nothing short of a full-scale nuclear or biological war between well-armed nation states would kill that many people, and we aren’t in imminent danger of having one of those."
It is difficult to imagine another issue or scenario which could successfully stand up to the death of nine million Americans through legal abortion. Except, perhaps, the death of eight million Americans due to a slightly less pro-abort president. This is not to say, of course, that other scenarios, which might collectively carry this much 'weight' are de facto impossible. Even Fr. DiNoia admits defining these scenarios is 'extremely difficult.' is An active imagination could come up with plenty of scenarios, especially with some help from some hyper-paranoid documentaries in our theatres. But when it comes time to approach the polls, it's time to put a clamp on your imagination and deal with real life.
With recourse to the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI, and the instructions of various bishops who have spoken up on the matter, Barbara Kralis addresses the recent errors of interpretation of "proportionate reasons," and how faithful Catholics can "limit the damage".
Ms. Kralis also corrects the mistaken notion that Bush is "100% pro-life", informing her readers that:
Since Bush is trying to 'limit the harm' more than his opponent, here is where we realize the apparent value of Cardinal Ratzinger's timely teaching of 'proportionate reason.' In fact, it is possible that if Bush were l00% pro life, Cardinal Ratzinger would not have had to introduce the teaching of 'proportionate reason' and we would not be having this discussion today.
This is the circumstance where one could apply a 'proportionate reason' to vote for President Bush because Bush would limit the harm. The good that Bush would do would far outweigh any evil that Kerry would do.
Archbishop John J. Meyers of Newark on the correct interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger's statement and "proportionate reasons" ("A Voter's Guide"Wall Street Journal Sept. 17, 2004):
. . . Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. Although Pope John Paul II pleaded for an alternative to the use of military force to meet the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter, nor did he say that it would be morally wrong for Catholic soldiers to participate in the war. In line with the teaching of the catechism on "just war," he recognized that a final judgment of prudence as to the necessity of military force rests with statesmen, not with ecclesiastical leaders. Catholics may, in good conscience, support the use of force in Iraq or oppose it.
Abortion and embryo-destructive research are different. They are intrinsic and grave evils; no Catholic may legitimately support them. In the context of contemporary American social life, abortion and embryo-destructive research are disproportionate evils. They are the gravest human rights abuses of our domestic politics and what slavery was to the time of Lincoln. Catholics are called by the Gospel of Life to protect the victims of these human rights abuses. They may not legitimately abandon the victims by supporting those who would further their victimization.
Austin Ruse, President of the Washington D.C. based Culture of Life Foundation, on the "death" of the USCCB's presidential questionaire:
The good news is that something is going on. The dreadful questionnaire has been pulled. In the past few years more and more of the bishops have begun speaking out against the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The bishops as a body overwhelmingly voted in June that pro-abortion politicians must not present themselves for communion.
Cracks are appearing in the Soviet-like façade of the lay bureaucracy at the bishops' conference. Some bishops are getting uppity. Like peasants revolting against their masters, a growing number of mostly young, energetic, and orthodox bishops have begun to scale the walls.
And the Kerry candidacy has given them an unexpected toehold. The Kerry candidacy is a gift from God to the Catholic Church. A bad Catholic running for president has brought into high relief the internal contradictions of the USCCB Lefties who support pro-abortion Democrats who happen to be good on gun control.
At the meeting of Catholics for the Common Good, Tony Kosnik, a theologian and former Catholic priest, said Catholics must ask: "Will voting for Bush bring an end to all abortions?" Abortion remains legal, he noted, even though Republicans control Congress and the White House.
AUGUSTA -- When the highest-ranking Catholic priest in Maine spoke at an anti-abortion luncheon Saturday, he drew criticism from an audience member who said the bishop is "talking the talk" but not "walking the walk" in opposing abortion. Speaking to a crowd of about 100, Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Diocese of Portland faced a University of Maine professor who said priests should not give communion to politicians who support a woman's right to choose.
The man criticized Malone for telling the audience that opposition to abortion was one of the most important facets of modern-day Catholicism, while opposing a push to take communion away from politicians who support the right to choose.
"The action you took is in direct contrast to the words you share with us today," Terence J. Hughes, an earth sciences professor, told Malone. "I am not going to dishonor my Lord Jesus Christ by giving communion to politicians whose policies cater to (those in favor of) killing babies."
Hughes' comments, which followed Malone's keynote address at the 30th annual Pro Life Education Association awards luncheon, prompted other complaints from the audience, many of whom said they are having trouble winning an audience with Catholic politicians in Maine who support the right to choose.
Regarding that pro-life/anti-Kerry protestors who attended the Kerry campaign rally at Steubenville last week, involving "several dozen Bush supporters" [Associated Press] or several hundred demonstrators (according to eyewitness reports) . . . a reader of my blog who attended the rally with her daughter was kind enough to send some photographs.
There's an ongoing presidential campaign. U.S. bishops as a whole urge us to participate as voters and do our civic duty. They urge us to inform ourselves as to the issues. So it is perfectly appropriate for parishes across the country to make available to Catholics the positions of each candidate on major issues.
For decades, the Church and the Popes have written about, preached about, and urged Catholics to oppose the grave instrinsic evil of procured abortion. John Paul II has even called us to fight the Culture of Death in democratic countries that have legalized abortion and other acts against innocent life. So it is even more appropriate to inform Catholic voters about the position of each candidate on the highly significant issue of abortion.
Right to Life of Michigan makes available such a comparison of the two major candidates on abortion and other life issues for free at its website, in both English and Spanish (scroll down to "Stark Contrast"). The organization urges that people copy and freely distribute this comparison sheet.
The actual flyer is in PDF format at this link. It is a one-page flyer, with nine bullet points comparing George W. Bush and John Kerry on the Life issues. It is concise and purely comparative. It reports the facts and lets the voter decide whom to vote for. The flyer itself does not endorse one candidate over another, although it does mention the fact that Bush is endorsed by numerous prolife organzations including Right to Life of Michigan. This factual disclosure is necessary so that no one can allege that the source of the flyer is trying to somehow misrepresent itself as neutral on the Life issues.
The fact of such pro-life endorsements is presented as the true fact that it is-- a fact that voters are entitled to know about and consider. But remember that the flyer itself is not an endorsement. It is not a partisan flyer. It is non-partisan and educational. Education on the issues is not partisan political activity.
So the challenge for us is to take this non-partisan, factual information and make it available to our fellow Catholics. Let the voters make an informed decision. No one can argue with that. All we need is the boldness to spread the truth at the grassroots level. The major media and the unions with which many Catholics are still associated won't do it. We have to do it.
If I tried to make a point in the previous post, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin does so a dozen times better in his explanation of what Ratzinger meant by "proportionate reasons". Definitely a "must-read" and worth passing along. Here's his conclusion:
Consider: A million and a half new Americans are murdered every year by abortion.
While particular historical circumstances increase or decrease the number of Supreme Court appointments a president gets to make (some presidents get many and some get none), if we average out the differences then it turns out that a pro-abort president on average could extend the abortion holocaust by four years equivalent to the four year term he spends in office.
At a million and a half kids killed per year, that means that a pro-abort president would be responsible for extending the abortion holocaust to include six million additional murders.
When one takes into account the fact that about half of the recent presidents have had second terms, that would mean a pro-abort president would be responsible for extending the abortion holocaust to include approximately nine million Americans.
No other issue involves numbers that high. Nothing short of a full-scale nuclear or biological war between well-armed nation states would kill that many people, and we aren't in imminent danger of having one of those. . . . Jobs? The economy? Taxes? Education? The environment? Immigration? Forget it. We do not have nine million people dying in a typical president’s term of office due to bad job programs, bad economic policies, bad taxes, bad education, bad environmental law, bad immigration rules -- or even all of these combined. All of them together cannot provide a reason proportionate to the need to end abortion.
Make no mistake: Abortion is the preeminent moral issue of our time. It is the black hole that out-masses every other issue. Presenting any other issues as if they were proportionate to it is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop Burke and "Proportionate Reasons"
A commentator posted a link to this article this morning. Since the commentator attempted to post the entire content of the article and did so anonymously (that is to say, lacking the courage to associate the opinion with himself), I was obliged to remove it. However, I'll take the liberty of responding to it here.
In essence, a vote for a pro-choice politician is not necessarily sinful if a Catholic, who is also against abortion, believes the candidate's other positions outweigh the politician's support for abortion rights, Ratzinger said. He heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a longtime Vatican observer and Jesuit priest who edits America magazine, said:
"If the voter says 'I like this candidate only because he or she is pro-abortion,' that's clearly a no-no. If, on the other hand, the voter says, 'and I like this candidate because he or she supports everything I like, but is wrong on abortion, and I've decided to vote for the person on these other issues,' that's alright."
This is the typical liberal spin that has been put on the last paragraph of the Ratzinger memorandum that "when a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons." It is also the kind of spin that is placed on the recent clarification by Bishop Burke, which has been characterized as a "softening" of his previous stance, or an entirely new one altogether).
Consequently, the spin of Ms. Montemurri of the Detroit Free Press is similar, or identical to, that of Fr. Andrew Greeley, Ono Ekeh, and self-described "progressive Catholic" blogger JCecil3: Catholics may freely choose between President Bush and Senator Kerry, and the moral crime of abortion is not -- or should not be -- the chief issue in influencing such a choice.
However, it must be questioned whether their interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishop Burke's commments are accurate. Following are some articles which might cause one to differ in their understanding of the circumstances that permit Catholics to vote for a pro-choice candidate:
In late August, Barbara Kralis published an interview with three bishops who challenged the underlying theological premises of Fr. Greeley's assertion that Catholics should have no qualms about voting for Kerry. According to Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, M.Div., J.C.L.:
"While it is an interesting intellectual exercise to debate whether Catholics, under certain very limited circumstances, may or may not vote for candidates who favor procured abortion, the more important practical question is whether practicing Catholics should, in fact, vote for a candidate who openly, consistently and even aggressively defends the killing of pre-born children when there are Pro-Life alternatives."
Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs asked "How do we balance out the murder of more than one million babies each year with any good or series of goods?" and noted that Greeley's reading of Ratzinger stood in contradiction to other magisterial teachings.
And Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, D.D., S.T.D. criticized Greeley's "tragic indifference to abortion," dismissing his "shallowness of mind akin to a harlequin."
Writing for MichiganNews.com, Michael J. Gaynor compares Cardinal McCarrick's lukewarm assurance in an interview with Zenit that "it is always important to continue supporting the principles that define Catholic morality" and that a "respect for life . . . [is not] the only value of reference," but must be considered with "a responsible policy in regard to peace, social justice and aid to the poor" with the astute observations of Bishop James T. McHugh and Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, TX, on what does (and more importantly, does not) constitute "proportionate reasons".
According to Bishop McHugh:
In many cases Catholics will have to make hard choices, not for the clearly acceptable candidate but for the lesser evil. When faced with two candidates, one of whom is unalterably pro-abortion and the other who does not support a pro-life agenda without exception, the voter can (a) vote for the pro-abortion candidate; (b) vote for neither; or (c) vote for the candidate who does not support a full pro-life agenda. Clearly, the choice should be (c), the lesser evil.
Bishop Gracida elaborates:
Since abortion and euthanasia have been defined by the Church as the most serious sins prevalent in our society, what kind of reasons could possibly be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion? None of the reasons commonly suggested could even begin to be proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for such a candidate. Reasons such as the candidate’s position on war, or taxes, or the death penalty, or immigration, or a national health plan, or social security, or aids, or homosexuality, or marriage, or any similar burning societal issues of our time are simply lacking in proportionality.
There is only one thing that could be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion, and that is the protection of innocent human life. That may seem to be contradictory, but it is not.
Consider the case of a Catholic voter who must choose between three candidates: Candidate A, who is completely for abortion-on-demand, Candidate B, who is in favor of very limited abortion, i.e., in favor of greatly restricting abortion, and Candidate C, a candidate who is completely against abortion but who is universally recognized as being unelectable. The Catholic voter cannot vote for Candidate A because that would be formal cooperation in the sin of abortion if that candidate were to be elected and assist in passing legislation which would remove restrictions on abortion-on-demand. The Catholic can vote for Candidate C but that will probably only help ensure the election of Candidate A. Therefore the Catholic voter has a proportionate reason to vote for Candidate B, since his vote may help to ensure the defeat of Candidate A and may result in the saving of some innocent human lives if Candidate B is elected and votes for legislation restricting abortion-on-demand. In such a case the Catholic voter would have chosen the lesser of two evils which is morally permissible under these circumstances.
"If the reasons are really proportionate, and the person remains clear about his or her opposition to abortion, that can be done," Burke said. The Archbishop was at pains to point out that in reality the question is not one of the fine points of moral theology, but of immediate reality. "What is a proportionate reason to justify favoring the taking of an innocent, defenseless human life? That's the question that has to be answered in your conscience. What is the proportionate reason?" He said that the difficulty of these nuanced ideas is the reason he did not discuss the problem of proportionality in his earlier statements in June. "It is difficult to imagine what that proportionate reason would be," he said.
According to the report, the St. Louis diocese intends to release a document clarifying its position on Catholics supporting pro-abortion politicians, and will include Burke's qualifying remarks. At this point, however, the question is whether the damage has already been done . . . and so the spin continues.
There are many ways of addressing poverty, homelessness, employment, and the rest of society's ills, and in spite of the claims of compatibility of Catholic social doctrine with both sides of the political spectrum (whether liberal Democrats, 'neocons' or Republicans), the Church has never formally aligned itself with a particular political platform -- and in fact, has specifically declined to do so.
At the same time, it cannot be doubted that the Church has spoken quite clearly in its condemnation of the abominable crime of abortion and euthanasia, and the practices of embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning which violate the sanctity of life from conception until death. This is precisely why when a politician proclaims his support of a woman's "right to choose", takes every opportunity to deny legislative restriction on abortion ("The Partial Birth Abortion Ban") or the recognition of the humanity of unborn ("The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act"; "The Unborn Victims of Violence Act"), endorses experimental research and destruction of human embroyos -- and defiantly proclaims his "right" to do so as a Catholic, his fellow Catholics are compelled to raise their voices in protest.
It is up to Catholics to decide what constitutes "proportionate reasons" for voting -- pray that we make the right choice.
Amy Welborn's commenters have some interesting news on John Kerry's rally in Steubenville where they say half the people present were protesters. One of the signs present was "Pontius Pilate was also personally opposed."
Update: The AP in their usual bias understates "Several dozen Bush supporters greeted Kerry in Steubenville with signs favoring a second Bush term and opposing the Catholic Kerry's support for abortion rights."
My good friend and CKW colleague Christopher Blosser kindly mentioned my daily coverage of the Republican National Convention on Times Against Humanity [scroll down]. As pro-life, pro-family readers who heard President Bush speak know, his most signficant affirmation was the following:
Because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child. Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of marriage against activist judges. And I will continue to appoint federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.
As for the president's opponent, CINO Senator John Kerry, the Death Party's standard bearer was aptly described in these words:
My opponent recently announced that he is the candidate of "conservative values," which must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. Now, there are some problems with this claim. If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you voted against the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed, you are not the candidate of conservative values.
Nor are you the candidate of Catholic values or, more important, Catholic moral doctrines, most especially, those defending the inviolability of innocent life and the sanctity of marriage, both of which are under relentless siege by an increasingly dominant Culture of Death.
Bush, Kerry and the future of Partial Birth Abortion Ban
On the issue of the President's stance on abortion, Mr. Sweeney points out:
He is opposed to abortion but makes the pragmatic exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
This puts him in some opposition to both Catholic teaching and the position of Republican party -- both do not provide for exceptions for rape and incest. Senator John McCain in 2000 unsuccessfully accused George Bush of "contradicting" his own party platform. It was a strange accusation for McCain to make because the two of them share the same position.
. . . In this life we don't get perfection. I would say that among electable individuals, we have no better candidate than George Bush."
During his first term, President Bush made a strong effort to stop the evil of partial-birth abortion. He succeeded to some extent, by signing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in November 2003, finally obtaining support of the House and the Senate and culminating an eight-year struggle by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and congressional pro-life leaders. The bill was a historic moment in the pro-life cause, representing the first direct national restriction on any method of abortion since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in 1973.
The Partial Birth Abortion ban still faces stiff opposition in the courts, and recently a New York Federal Judge struck down the ban as unconstitutional. According to LifeNews.com:
Pro-life groups reacted to the decision of a federal judge on Thursday striking down the ban on partial-birth abortions by saying that the next president will have the power to determine whether the gruesome abortion procedure remains legal. . . . The next president could have the power to appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices. With federal judges in lower courts relying on the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in favor partial-birth abortions, a change of one vote could cause the high court to reverse itself.
Senator Kerry voted against passing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act every chance he got -- six times. As president, he will continue to oppose it. Clearly, the future of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, as well as a number of other issues, such as the continued funding of abstinence programs and crisis pregnancy centers; opposition to human cloning and embroyonic stem-cell research, and the Mexico City policy opposing funding and promotion of abortion by NGO's (which Senator Kerry has promised to overturn as his first act in office), will be determined by our election of the next President of the United States.
Earl E. Appleby's busy Times Against Humanity covering the Republican National Convention. Now that President Bush has accepted the nomination, I expect Earl will give an excellent summary of events and grace us once again with is contributions. =)
In the meantime. here's a brief roundup of some GOP related stories that might be of interest to our readers:
CKW co-editor Oswald Sobrino has taken the time to review the Republican Party Platform, and declares it "Catholic-friendly."
Over at Curt Jester, CKW co-editor Jeff Miller reflects on the first Republican speaker to speak on abortion and same-sex marriage.
In 1992, a pro-abortion Zell Miller offered the nomination address for presidential candidate Bill Clinton -- who eventually became the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history. Today's Zell Miller is a different man, though still a Democrat. He says he has lost faith in his party though he and many other pro-life Democrats remain members of it." LifeNews.com has the story of Zell's "conversion."
Chris Matthews, no friend to pro-lifers, caused something of a scandal last year by giving the commmencement address at (Jesuit) Holy Cross University, in a move that was vehemently opposed by the Cardinal Newman society.
Needless to say, it was a pleasure to see the Senator from Georgia stand up to Matthew's "attack-dog" journalism and defend a woman's honor.
I had the impression that Michael Reagan was going to address the issue of stem cell research at the 2004 Republican National Convention (so reported CNSNews.com back in August). Unfortunately, it seems he was simply called to present a video biography of his father. While he did have the opportunity to remind his audience that My mother, father and birth-mother were pro-life, and pro-adoption," nary a mention was made about the issue of stem-cells.
As CKW pointed out last month ("Reagan vs. Reagan and The Stem-Cell Cover-Up" August 14, 2004), science is actually on the side of the Republicans, and it would only be to their benefit to counter the "junk science" and illusive promises made by Ron Reagan and others. So long as as they neglect to do so, I believe Senator Kerry and the Democrats will have the upper hand in their appeal for public support of embroyonic stem cell research.
Patrick Sweeney ("Extreme Catholic") blogs about his experience attending The Republican Catholic Outreach Event, and the amazing people who are working to keep the GOP faithful to its traditional pro-life roots.
"Serenity in Storms", by Fr. George Rutler. National Review, Sept. 2, 2004. Sermon preached before the President of the United States and guests assembled in the Church of our Saviour in New York City for a prayer service on September 2, 2004. It is based on Mark 4:41.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt: pro-abort pols "bear false witness" to Catholic Faith
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.
Chris Burgwald from "Veritas" is Director of Adult Faith Formation in the Diocese of Sioux Falls, and one of our programs is Theology on Tap. Last Friday, he invited his bishop, Bishop Robert Carlson, to speak on "Faith and Politics". Bishop Carlson spoke for about 40 minutes, and then answered some questions for another 15 minutes or so. Bishop Carlson made the Episcopal Spine Alert back in July with an excellent article instructing his diocese on the gospel of life.
According to Chris, Bishop Carlson's presentation is available via streaming audio at the Diocesan website, www.sfcatholic.org -- you can listen to bishop Carlson here. (He has also mentioned that they have begun taping the Theology on Tap presentations and making them available for check-out on DVD and VHS).
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.