[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.