July 13, 2007


Abortion and Communion

The issue of pro-abortion Catholic politicians who are receiving Holy Communion won’t go away.

We all recall that it was an issue when Democrat John Kerry was running for president in 2004.

This year, it’s Republican Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani, and the same rules apply to him as they did for Kerry.

That is, Catholics have an obligation to respect life, and it is a grievous sin to encourage abortion. Those with any grievous sin on their souls are not worthy to receive Communion. It’s not just a rule for politicians. It applies to everybody.

Pope Benedict XVI was queried about this issue while he was on the plane from Rome to Brazil on May 9.

During the trip, a reporter asked him if he supported the action of the Mexican bishops in excommunicating legislators who voted to legalize abortion. He replied, “Yes. This excommunication was not something arbitrary, but is foreseen by the Code [of Canon Law].”

However, the Mexican bishops actually had not excommunicated those legislators. Therefore, the next day the Vatican issued a correction. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said, “If the bishops haven’t excommunicated anyone, it’s not that the pope wants to do so.”

The new statement from the Vatican stated, “It is simply part of Church law that the killing of an innocent baby is incompatible with going to Communion.”

There’s a difference between excommunication and not being able to go to Communion.

Any mortal sin—adultery, skipping Sunday Mass, stealing a large amount of money, defaming someone’s good name, etc.—is incompatible with going to Communion. But the present controversy concerns abortion.

Obviously, since the reporter asked about what the Mexican bishops had done, this isn’t just a problem in the United States.

Britain’s two cardinals recently spoke out. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland said, “I remind politicians to avoid cooperating in the unspeakable crime of abortion, and the barrier such cooperation erects to receiving Holy Communion.”

And Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of England said, “The longstanding tradition of the Church teaches that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong should approach the Eucharist only after receiving faithfully the sacrament of penance.”

The U.S. bishops have not taken a united stand on the issue of whether priests should refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians. In 2004, they opted to let each bishop decide for himself. There’s agreement that such politicians should not present themselves for Communion, but not on whether they should be refused if they do. It’s expected that the bishops will discuss the matter further at their meeting in November.

Meanwhile, we have to face the fact that the Church still has a serious need to educate the faithful about the seriousness of the issue of abortion.

In her syndicated column in The Indianapolis Star on June 14, Froma Harrop wondered why Giuliani was the only one of the nine Republican candidates for president in the previous week’s debate whom Wolf Blitzer questioned about his views on abortion. Of course, the answer is that Giuliani is the only one of the candidates who is Catholic and pro-choice.

Harrop then made the statement, “Many Catholics don’t fret that much over abortion.” Unfortunately, she’s right.

Those states with the highest percentage of Catholics are those with the most pro-abortion politicians—Massachusetts, for example.

Or Rhode Island, which has the highest percentage of Catholics in the nation and where polls say that 63 percent of the people are pro-choice. That’s the state where Bishop Thomas Tobin wrote in the The Providence Visitor, “As Catholics, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life, to cherish and protect human life as a precious gift of God from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. As a leader, as a public official, Rudy Giuliani has a special obligation in that regard.”

As much as the popes and bishops have emphasized life issues, they apparently have not been able to convince most Catholics, although we hope that isn’t true here in Indiana. And it’s not just abortion, but also euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and capital punishment, too.

Obviously, it’s not just the politicians who need to be thinking with the Church.

— John F. Fink

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