[I apologize, but for some reason that remains a mystery to me I lose my weblog connection almost as soon as I log on. So I can’t post to this weblog in the normal manner. (If anyone knows why, I welcome advice.) For the time being, I’m having to post via email, which is sloppy and doesn’t allow me to create links. If this continues, I may have to move to another weblog format.]
In the meantime, this:
Whether due to painstaking archeological efforts or to a 20 second visit to Google, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus at First Things has managed to discover the relevant text on Catholic moral teaching that the American bishops must have been rummaging through their waste baskets these last couple of years trying to locate. This remarkable discovery of this elusive text will, happily, free the bishops to turn to other responsibilities, one being the implementation.
With thanks to Fr. Neuhaus, here are the relevant sentences – from a letter sent to the U.S. bishops in 2004, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in his official capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI:
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. …
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist. …
When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it’ (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
Now that we have the pertinent text, all we must do is await the findings of the research teams at the San Francisco and Washington, DC archdiocesan chancery offices who have been laboring to decipher exactly what Nancy Pelosi’s actual position is on unlimited abortion license, partial-birth abortion, and related matters. (Similar efforts are surely under way at the New York archdiocese with regard to Rudy Giuliani’s position on these issues.) Not wanting to be taken in by Ms. Pelosi’s hundreds of public statements and recorded votes on these matters, these research teams keep plodding, hoping one fine day to be able to “clarify” her position and, some years thereafter perhaps, its sacramental implications.
Meanwhile, the faithful and theologically traditional Catholics, those most naturally predisposed to trust in the American bishops, must endure the continued scandal of episcopal equivocation, cowardice, and evasion. Claiming not to want to politicize the Eucharist, they have stood by as it has been politically exploited in the most shameless way.
If a Pastor refuses, "instructing (a Catholic politician, who by public record has publicly supported abortion and/or euthanasia) about the Church’s teaching, informing her/him that s/he is not to present herself/himself for Holy Communion until s/he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning her/him that s/he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist," and furthermore, as the Pastor refuses to instruct said Catholic politician of this Church position, the Pastor continues to distribute Holy Eucharist to this Catholic politician, does the Church have any position or recourse toward the Pastor?
My old friend, Aramis:
These are the kinds of questions I should be asking you. But my thoughts are these: It's important to maintain the proper relationships. That is: It's better to have a face-to-face, Christian-to-Christian conversation than to go over someone's head to a higher authority.
So, first, a heart-to-heart chat with this very hypothetical pastor you mention. And then, depending on how the conversation goes, and only if necessary, a letter to the bishop (who may or may not be well disposed to follow the Vatican guidelines), but who must be told (if such a letter is necessary) that the letter was preceded by a conversation with the pastor which proved unavailing.
Depending on how likely you think the bishop might be to take the matter seriously, you might copy the letter to the Papal Nuncio in Washington. The bishop is not likely to be charmed by this, so use discretion.
Remember the difference (von Balthasar mentions this) between success and fruitfulness. The goal is fruitfulness, meaning, the victory of a truth that is indistinguishable from love, a victory not in a future outcome but in an act of faith too sincere and generous to be dismissed.
Thank you for your kind and gentle response. I make the assumption that
this sort of gentle and yet firm conversation and dialogue would be what
is recommended between the pastor and this said Catholic politician who is
a member of his congregation.
I can't help reflecting on the use of the word "instructing" and its
relatedness with your Emmaus Road Initiative. We have lived a few
generations where little or no or bad Catholic instructing has been the
norm. The challenge today is bringing forth Catholic truth and to do so
in a manner that is informative, instructive, and demonstrable. I have to
say that I believe that there is no one better qualified for this task
I also wondered if you could share any thoughts on Schwager's, "Banished
from Eden"? I am in my 2nd read through and find it most challenging,
stretching my mind in all sorts of ways, and at the same time somehow it
is calming and reassuring for me. The book is difficult at times and
then, with the ol' slap to the head, I go, DDDAAAHHH, as he writes a most
obvious truth that I had not seen before. I know he is truly missed.
Deacon Bob Dio;
Nicely put both Aramis and Gil's comments, but this is a very serious and at the same time misleading question. If we (clergy) hold the Eucharist in so little accord as to make it available to those who openly and publically disregard the teaching on what is and is not grave sin, how can we in good conscience teach the real presence of God in a truthful manner, and be taken seriously.
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