VATICAN CITY — A Vatican official has defended his decision to administer the Eucharist to Argentina's president, despite the leader’s effort to legalize abortion in his country. The official also administered the sacrament to the president’s consort, who is by protocol Argentina’s first lady.
Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, administered Holy Communion during a Mass offered Jan. 31 in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, shortly before a meeting between President Alberto Fernández of Argentina and Pope Francis.
Argentine newspaper La Nación posted a video of the Mass, in which Argentina's President Alberto Fernández and Fabiola Yáñez, the president's domestic partner, can be seen approaching the bishop to receive the Eucharist.
President Fernández has pledged to promote a bill in the country’s legislature that would legalize abortion. In 2018, Argentina’s Senate defeated a bill that would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The Argentine bishops have responded to the president’s abortion advocacy with a planned pro-life Mass and other pro-life activities.
President Fernández was divorced in 2005. Yanez has been his consort since 2014; in 2019 she moved into Argentina’s presidential residence.
Archbishop Sorondo was asked by online newsite LifeSiteNews last week about the distribution of Holy Communion to President Fernandez.
The bishop said that according to canon law “you are obliged to give communion if somebody asks you for communion. Only in the case that he is excommunicated. The President is not excommunicated, so I can give communion if he asks me for communion.”
Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law says that Catholics who are ”obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
In 1994, the Congregation from the Doctrine of the Faith clarified that “Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion.”
With regard to advocacy for the legal protection of abortion, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a memorandum to US bishops which stated that a Catholic politician who consistently campaigns and votes for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws “should not present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin” and that his pastor should warn him “that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”
Also present at the Mass were members of Fernández’ government, accompanying him on a European trip: Foreign Minister Felipe Solá; Secretary for Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Beliz; Justice Minister, Marcela Losardo; and the Secretary for Religious Affairs, Guillermo Oliveri.