Some say that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be banned from receiving holy communion. Others say that they should also be excommunicated. Those who have abortions and those who immediately facilitate such abortions are already automatically excommunicated (if aware of the censure). The difficulty with politicians and even with voters is “remote” cooperation. Some bishops demand and others only ask that such politicians not come forward to receive the sacrament. There seems to be little effort at dialogue or compromise between the majority of bishops with groups like the American Life League and Human Life International. (This has created a real strain between bishops, orthodox and liberal, with some of our most faithful pro-life Catholics, particularly committed teens. Other voices remain apologists for pro-abortion politicians, contending that pro-life hardliners do not understanding all the ins-and-outs of politics. Pro-abortion and pro-infanticide politicians are sometimes given the mask of a pro-life stand because of efforts for the poor or against the death penalty and war. This post is a response that I made to a recent comment on this matter:
I am no authority on the Healthy Start program. And that is why all of us must be extremely careful before we start calling for other people to be denied communion. As Catholics, we can agree the act of aborting a baby is morally wrong. And Catholics are blessed that our bishops, pastors and many lay faithful have been strong voices for public policies in support of this moral principle. But excommunicating people who do not have have exactly the same stance as we have, unless we are prefectly informed as to the working of politics and public policy AND pefectly informed as to their conscience and motivation for their actions, is misguided.
To be honest, Father, I find your position to be that you are against abortion unless it threatens you with a tax increase. I find a lot of other “pro-life” Republicans to be the same way. But that is my judgement based on your statements. As a voter, I am free to not vote for you based on this judgement. But it would be wrong for me to try to deny you the sacraments.
FATHER JOE RESPONDS:
Dear Katherine, are you sure you have read what I wrote here? You state: “I find your position to be that you are against abortion unless it threatens you with a tax increase.” Excuse me? Read it more closely. Did you review my pages of analysis on EVANGELIUM VITAE? How can I put it more succinctly? Maybe this– tax exemptions be damned! The tax issue is an overused threat that Democrat politicians use against the Church on such issues as abortion and homosexuality. However, when it comes to fighting racism or violence or poverty; they are quick to demand that the Church come onboard. They want to tell the Church her business, but will accept no criticism themselves. They are bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
The Church already denies communion to non-Catholics and to those in bad marriages. The law of the Church says that those guilty of gross heresy and scandal can also be denied the sacrament. The pro-abortion position is a violation at the heart of the Gospel of Life. Even bishops who do not publish a list of names regarding those banned from holy communion still seek to educate them and request that they do not receive. They have been put on notice, the problem is that they mock the bishops and Pope by coming up anyway. Their pro-abortion stand spurns the basic meaning of the incarnation and the value that God gives every human life as incommensurate. A politician or leader supporting abortion on demand is bad enough; what the Church is arguing upon in this instance is that Catholics cannot do so and remain in good standing with the faith. The pro-abortion position signifies, in a sense, affiliation with another religion– one more orientated toward the primacy of man and selfishness than to God and sacrifice. In ancient days, the distinction was the same although the contrast was with man-made idols exhibiting a hunger for human blood.
Your comment possesses a fatal error, the assumption that one can be personally opposed to abortion and yet remain an enabler for abortion. Actions often do speak louder than words, especially in the matter of murdering human beings. Such reasoning is not new. Mussolini was a tyrant who murdered many who opposed him, but his apologists argued that at least he insured the trains ran on time. Hitler ordered the extermination of six million Jews, but supporters praised him for resolving the housing crisis. If either of these men had practiced his Catholicism, would not the denial of communion be the least we could do? By the way, membership in German National Socialism was eventually judged as grounds for excommunication. The debate in American circles revolves around individuals. No one has yet seriously suggested that the entire Democrat party and some Republicans should be so censured.
While the Catholics in public office should be informed, you insist that it is more important that the Church should be under their formation. This is not only misguided but is a direct repudiation of Pope Benedict XVI. Every night I pray the children’s prayer to my guardian angel. I pray that should I die before I wake that he will take my soul to God in heaven. But look at what you argue. It is bad enough that people should bargain away their souls to the devil; but you would have us sell our souls to pro-abortion Democrats! Sorry, but you are the one sorely misguided and I will pray that the Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Father will make some real impact with you.
It is not enough to say that you are pro-life and then to support and vote for those who insure the holocaust of innocent children in our land. You say you are pro-life, what do you do to show it? Do you march each January in Washington, enduring the cold and snow, and do you lobby our representatives afterwards? Do you attend right to life prayer vigils? Do you volunteer at the local pregnancy crisis center? Or do you just make excuses for those who support the killing of children?
When you think about abortion, is our sympathy reserved to the women or do we also ponder the child in the womb? Do we imagine Christ as that child? Abortion is an echo of the ancient rebuttal, “There is no room in the Inn! Go away!” It is Herod the elder sending out his soldiers to kill the newborn King! Have we made a place for this child in our community and in our hearts? Do we grieve and remember the millions of children who are left faceless except for the face of Christ? They have no voice other than our voices!
This is an issue that goes beyond religion and yet one that religion cannot avoid. Any compromise results in the destruction of innocent children. Do you not fear God? And you think for me it comes down to tax-exemption? Bah! I want to save my soul! Do you not love the Lord and his children who will probably see his face?
These are questions we all have to ask ourselves. Where do our allegiances rest?
Treating the collaborators of such terror in the womb as good and faithful Catholics is blasphemy to the sacrament and a scandal to those who remain faithful to Jesus and the truth. Excommunication is a censure that the Church can impose, either automatically or through direct action. However, what these politicians should most reflect upon is the state of their souls. Murder is the matter of mortal sin. And many of us have blood on our hands!
Vote for whom you pleeeeease, but do not presume to orchestrate the Church regarding her sacraments. Archbishop Burke has courageously taken the stand that I believe best reflects the teachings of Christ. However, do not think that the many other bishops have done these pro-death politicians and their supporters any favors. Remember, the same sacrament that brings life and salvation to one can bring spiritual death and judgment to others. The Eucharist heals but it also convicts us of our sins!
I would like to add a few more reflections. The old order of Mass used to have the priest say with the distribution of holy communion: “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” My personal reservation as a pastor of souls, is that to give the sacrament to those who are staunchly in the pro-abortion camp, is in fact if not in word to say, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ damn your soul unto death eternal. Amen.” Unworthy reception is itself a mortal sin. I desperately do not want to be a part of that. Critics might say that it is their own fault, but do we not have an obligation to offer them correction and to fight for their souls? While largely denied other men, every priest as a confessor able to offer absolution is defined by the Church as a judge of individual souls and sinfulness. He can grant God’s mercy or withhold it if the penitent is not properly disposed. I see a similar situation with holy communion, although the local bishop has an over-riding role. Most priests today also have the authority to lift the censure of excommunication for abortion, but again the subject must be contrite and desire to make a true amendment of life. If the local bishop were to excommunicate people by name, then only he or the Pope could lift such a censure.