Dear brother Knights,
When I called the Archdiocese of Washington to ask whether or not a priest could be compelled to give communion to a Catholic pro-abortion proponent, the person on the other end had to admit that he was not sure. Years ago I recall a scandal along these lines with Virginia Representative Jim Moran in the Arlington diocese, who, although married out of the Church, would come up, baby in his arms, and dare the priest to withhold communion. One priest, who did not want to give him communion, took a lot of heat– much of it from the diocese. The recent statement from the American bishops is certainly pro-life, but may inadvertantly leave conscientious priests in the terrible no win situation of trying to obey lawful authority in avoiding conflict and yet desiring to protect the Eucharist from sacriledge and to preach without compromise the Gospel of Life. Coincidentally, Moran went into a heated tirade against Rev. Michael Dobbins, pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish, recently, when the priest refused to recognize at Mass another pro-abortion politician (not Catholic) who was running for mayor in Arlington. Instead, he permitted a associate priest, Fr. Bryan Belli to preach against the sin of abortion and the harvesting of stem-cells from murdered unborn children. Moran threatened them, saying that what they had done was unethical and illegal. Here is a case in point where the bishops’ strategy of a dialogue “without teeth” seems inadequate. Moran did shout a backhanded compliment: “You priests are closed minded!” Yes, I suppose we are sometimes, but only because we have sought to put on the mind of Christ.A dozen young people from colleges across the country walked from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC in “Defense of the Catholic Church” and to spread the message that you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion. Nevertheless, while many have applauded young people for taking up the “right to life” cause, this group of remarkable Crusaders were banned from speaking in churches by several dioceses like Philadelphia and Baltimore.The American Life League ran a series of stinging ads challenging the American bishops and Cardinal McCarrick to enforce canon law and to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege when pro-abortion politicians and others (who have made such “public” stands) take it upon themselves to receive holy communion. The young people have shown no spite or anger, only sadness that the nation’s shepherds have largely chosen to remain on the sidelines. One priest remarked that the ads in protest were so severe that the American Life League owed Cardinal McCarrick and the leaders of the Church an apology. However, others thought that these good men should at least have shown the same respect and hospitality to the young marchers for life as they have in the past to the high profile anti-life politicians.While they were able to find lodging in the city, my parish (Holy Spirit Church) had offered them a place to stay if needed, thanks to the generosity of parishioners. They attended 9:00 AM Mass on Friday, July 30 and were invited to say a few words afterwards– an invitation that no other Washington pastor made. (It must be stated, to his credit, that despite the tension with the A.L.L., Cardinal McCarrick did not formally forbid the young people to speak in his churches. Nothing the young people said violated the archdiocese’s rules against participation in partisan politics– they did not name politicians by name, did not tell people for whom they should vote, and spoke with respect in regard to the Church’s shepherds.) Following the celebration, a reception was held in the Parish House were the young people had a hearty breakfast and got to meet parishioners. Also in attendance were Reginald Grier, a parishioner, a Knight of Columbus at Fletcher Council and volunteer member of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. [His sister is the past Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York and a EWTN regular, Delores Grier.] John Stakem, a Knight of Columbus from St. Pius X Council, and past parishioner was present, too. John Stakem and Joseph Markauskas are long-time pro-life volunteers and are involved with the local pregnancy center. Joe and Betty Markauskas had even offered to give the young people housing while in town. We were very pleased that the director for the Forestville Pregnancy Center was present, Chyllene McLaughlin, along with her assistant. We wanted to communicate to these young people that they were not alone. Holy Spirit Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Pregnancy Center in the larger pro-life community, were very much behind them. May God bless them for their sacrifices and may their witness bear fruit. On April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, authoritatively explained at a press conference in Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians should be denied Communion. Relying on Canon 915, which specifies that “[t]hose…who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: “If they should not receive, then they should not be given.” Last month I quoted Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter on the Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion in its entirety. Twice now I have asked The Catholic Standard to publish it to no avail. Speaking from the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith (Holy Office) he gives us the perspective of the universal Church: 5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” , nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.The Knights of Columbus is a non-partisan organization. However, while not endorsing candidates, we can discuss the issues they raise. Senator John Kerry is a Catholic. Nevertheless, his position regarding the unborn is very disappointing. The Dubuque, Iowa Telegraph Herald gives a recent quote from the senator: “I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception.” Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood has given him a 100% rating for his pro-abortion and partial birth infanticide voting record. He even opposed parental notification legislation. It is hard to figure and we must pray for this wayward son of the Church.
President Bush is a born-again Methodist who has taken a lot of criticism for the war and for his capital punishment stand; nevertheless, he has sought limits on the use of stem cells from aborted babies, has opposed use of federal funds for abortion and has ceased U.S. bank-rolling of the United Nations’ population control program. He also opposes same-sex marriage efforts. (Coincidentally, his brother Jeb is a Catholic convert and a Knight of Columbus in Florida.) As I said, we do not take sides, but our policy was very strained with the thunderous welcome given President Bush from 2,500 Knights at the recent convention. “Four more years!” delegates to the convention roared as Bush entered the hall and embraced their leader, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson. President Bush spoke for 35 minutes without mentioning his opponent. As a nonprofit charitable organization, the Knights are forbidden by tax laws from making political endorsements. But Anderson gave Bush a warm welcome, thanking him for “supporting the right to life of unborn children” and “restoring moral integrity to the office of the president.” A dozen senior prelates were in the audience for Bush’s speech, including Cardinals Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, William Keeler of Baltimore, Edward Egan of New York and Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Knights are soldiers in the armies of compassion. You’re foot soldiers. You’ve heard the call,” Bush said. “You have a friend in this administration. You have somebody who wants to work with you to change America for the better.”
Whatever, the outcome of the election, I know that the Knights will continue to defend the dignity and sanctity of human life.
Father Joseph Jenkins