Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
There comes a time when something is so egregious and boldly sinful that it must be met with strong ecclesial and canonical penalties and remedies.
We have certainly seen this in the Church with the Archbishop McCarrick case and other matters and scandals of a similar nature. And, as we have seen, too often these matters were not dealt with forthrightly and promptly — or, in some cases, at all.
A similar situation has set up in New York, where one of the most permissive and callous state abortion laws was not only passed, but was also greeted with applause by the New York state senators as it passed.
The bill allows abortion up to the final day of pregnancy. Under the “Reproductive Health Act,” non-doctors are now allowed to conduct abortions, and the procedure could be done until the mother’s due date if the woman’s “health” is endangered. The previous law allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if a woman’s life was at risk.
Of course, allowing non-doctors to perform abortions endangers abortive mothers, but never mind that — when it comes to abortion, the right to abortion is all that matters, all former concerns about “coat hangers” and “back-alley” abortions notwithstanding. Further, the “health” of the mother is undefined and can mean anything at all.
This “limit” is no limit at all. New York now allows, without limit, all abortions until birth itself.
To add further to the ignominy of this terrible bill, the Freedom Tower was lit up pink (to symbolize women’s “rights”) in celebration of this abortion bill. Recall that more than 1,000 people died at the World Trade Center site now occupied by the Freedom Tower. They were murdered by terrorists on 9/11. How callous and bold to use this very site to celebrate the unjust killing of infants in the womb.
Even worse, the “Catholic” governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, not only signed the bill on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but decreed a celebration.
He said, “I am directing that New York’s landmarks be lit in pink to celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.”
To date, the Catholic bishops of New York have issued a statement expressing dismay and “profound sadness” and rang a church bell in protest. Respectfully, that is not enough.
Canonical penalties are due to the governor and other Catholics who voted for this legislation. This is necessary both for the common good, to avoid the scandal of tolerance of evil, and as a strong summons to the governor and others to repent before the Day of Judgment.
There is a glimmer of hope.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo’s standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive Communion.
“This legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor,” he said.
Again, with respect for the bishop of Albany and all the bishops of New York, questioning if the signing of this horrendous bill will “impact Cuomo’s standing” in the Church is not enough. He, and any other bishops of New York whose jurisdiction is involved, must make a decision, and soon.
All canonical penalties that can apply should be applied here. Omitting such penalties, as has been done in the past, and staying in “dialogue” with such politicians has been of no avail.
It must be made clear to all that no Catholic can support such legislation. But the governor and others have done even more: They have called for celebrations and hope that other states will follow the “bright light” of their example.
This cannot be allowed to stand without canonical penalties.
I am not a canon lawyer, but the truth is clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not in communion with the Catholic Church. At this point, canonical penalties forbidding him to receive Holy Communion — or even, if possible, issuing a formal excommunication — are simply affirming what is already true and what he himself has done.
To fail to issue all possible canonical penalties at this point would, to my mind, show the Church to be irrelevant and a laughingstock.
Some will argue that the Church is in no moral condition to issue statements, let alone penalties. But that cannot stop us from doing what is right and necessary.
Even a compromised judge still has the obligation to apply the law. Even an imperfect parent must still insist on what is right with his children and apply necessary punishments.
It is precisely our lack of insisting on what is true and our reluctance to correct error and apply medicinal penalties that has gotten us into the many internal problems we face. Catholics and non-Catholics must understand that we are serious about our teachings and that we cannot and will not stand idly by while a “Catholic” political leader celebrates the killing of children in the womb.
It is time to end the charade, even the lie, that Andrew Cuomo and others like him are Catholics in good standing. They are not, and this must be made plain to them and to others.
Join me in praying that Bishop Scharfenberger and other bishops in New York with jurisdiction will do what is right and necessary.