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A new document from the U.S. bishops on the worthy reception of Communion skirts the issue of pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
BY WAYNE LAUGESENRegister Correspondent
BALTIMORE — A new
document by U.S.
bishops about who should and shouldn’t receive Communion says nothing about refusal
of Communion to Catholic lawmakers who write or vote for pro-abortion laws.
And, contrary to the wishes of at
least one bishop, it contains no specific guidelines regarding couples who use
Colorado Springs, Colo., Bishop Michael Sheridan, an
outspoken critic of pro-abortion politicians who receive Communion, felt the
24-page document “could have made a few issues more clear.” He does feel,
however, that it has “good catechetical value.”
Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, adopted 201-24 Nov. 14 at the U.S. bishops’
annual fall meeting, says: “In order to receive holy Communion we must be in
communion with God and with the Church. Mortal sin constitutes a rejection of
communion with God and destroys the life of grace within us.”
It lists 10 sinful activities of
modern life — inspired by the 10 Commandments — as general examples of behavior
that should prevent Catholics from receiving Communion in the absence of
Bishop Sheridan said the document
should have stressed that canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law forbids Communion
to those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.”
Several bishops, including Bishop
Sheridan, have stated in recent years that politicians and others who aid the
abortion industry are obstinately complicit in grave sin and should not take
The issue emerged again during
debate on the Eucharist document when Providence,
R.I., Bishop Thomas Tobin argued
for an amendment stating that individuals in “diminished communion with the Church”
would make it necessary for the diocesan bishop to carefully examine the
details and possibly make “a formal canonical response.”
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said Catholics who write or vote for
pro-abortion laws are rampant and cause widespread scandal and confusion by
defying canon law and receiving Communion.
“Why is it that whenever one of
these politicians is notorious for voting against the natural moral law
ultimately he gets his picture in Time
magazine receiving holy Communion?” Archbishop Burke
asked. “It’s an open affront to the Church and her most sacred teaching. It’s
profoundly confusing to the faithful, and we should clear it up.”
Opponents of Bishop Tobin’s
amendment, which failed on a voice vote, said the document was not intended as
a technical tool for bishops, pastors or ministers, but as an aid to the laity
in personally preparing for Communion.
The list of grave sins mentioned
in the document includes “committing murder, including abortion and
Though the document says nothing
about pastoral refusal of Communion to Catholics who make pro-abortion laws, it
says anyone who publicly rejects definitive Church teaching gives scandal and
should refrain from receiving Communion.
“Scandal is an attitude or
behavior which leads another to do evil,” it states.
San Diego Auxiliary Bishop
Salvatore Cordileone tried to amend the document to
state specifically that contraception, in absence of reconciliation, would be
reason to avoid Communion. His amendment failed 75-148.
argued that on the list of examples of grave sins should be “those issues that
are serious and commonplace because they’re readily accepted as morally
legitimate by society as a whole.”
“Contraception fits those
criteria,” the bishop said. “We all know how widespread it is, and there’s no
doubt about its seriousness. The contraceptive mentality is at the heart of all
of the problems our contemporary society is experiencing in the areas of
marriage and family life. People have been misled.”
told the Register the document should not be confused or misused as “tacit
approval” of contraception.
“The Committee on Doctrine
unanimously felt it would call too much attention to this one particular issue
and detract from the whole document,” Paterson,
N.J., Bishop Arthur Serratelli said in opposition to Bishop Cordileone’s
said that the document, drafted by the Committee on the Doctrine that he heads,
was never intended to include an exhaustive list of specific sins.
“This is not meant in any way to
be a tacit approval, and the other document we approved today [on married love]
deals with the issue of contraception very thoroughly,” Bishop Serratelli said. “It would be difficult for anyone to
believe we approve of contraception.”
In response to the defeat of
amendments to the Communion document, Lincoln,
Neb., Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz told
the conference the statements have little weight regardless of what they say.
He quoted various past statements of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before he became Pope
“He said we must not forget that
the episcopal conferences have no theological basis,”
Bishop Bruskewitz said. “He said ‘they do not belong
to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that
cannot be eliminated. They have only a practical concrete function.’
“He said, quote: ‘No episcopal conference as such has a teaching mission. Its
documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by
the individual bishops.’
“He said quote: ‘It is a matter of
safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an
ecclesial structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The
national level is not an ecclesial dimension.’”
Said Bishop Bruskewitz, “I just say this to contextualize all of the
various productions of this episcopal conference.”
Wayne Laugesen filed
story from Baltimore.