If you’re pro-choice you can’t be Catholic?

Image from www.messagesfromgodthefather.com/During the Pope’s recent NYC visit, Rudy Guiiniani, along with 2500 fellow worshippers, took communion. The former NYC major was then sharply criticized by NY Archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan who felt Guilani should have abstained because of his pro-choice politics. Earlier this year St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke vowed to deny Giuliani communion should the presidential candidate attend a mass over which he presides, and has further asserted that, “anyone administering Communion is morally obligated to deny it to Catholic politicians who support an abortion-rights position contrary to church teaching.”

Other Catholics have criticized Giuliani’s recent partaking of the sacrament on the grounds of his divorces.

This select proscription seems arbitrary and difficult to understand. If Giuliani’s unworthy to receive communion, is he worthy to be a member of the church? If he has defied the church laws to such an extent, should he be excommunicated? Too harsh? So he’s allowed to remain a practicing Catholic – but no communion. What of other sacraments? Confession? Last rites?

Then again, if the church shunned every pro-choice parishioner, or every woman who once had an abortion, or every man who condoned a female’s right to choose, it would end up with a severely diminished congregation – a problem it faces as it is.

And upon closer inspection, moral distinctions become even murkier. What about parishioners who vote for a pro-choice candidate not because of an abortion stance but because he or she offers more affordable health care for their children, or because the candidate vows to end a senseless war?

And what about pro-life politicians who, almost without exception, rigorously endorse the death penalty, another “mortal sin”? Or those who advocate torturing suspected enemies? While we’re at it, I don’t know of any admitted pedophile clergyman who has been denied communion – or those who continually abetted them, either.

Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan was a Catholic, and his vote helped decide Roe v Wade in 1973. Pope Paul VI had nothing to say about him, as far as I could dig up, nor did D.C. Archbishop Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle. Brennan retained his right to take communion, and presumably also last rites since in 1997 his funeral mass was held at St. Mathew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C.

And what about those who have sex before marriage or use contraception? Pope John Paul II deemed both acts “intrinsically evil“, and Pope Benedict XVI has since conceded the teaching to be “unchangeable.”

Those lines could become pretty short at communion time.

Yet Pope Benedict didn’t refuse to serve communion to Giuliani. How could he? Although Giuliani took communion at St. Patricks, during a mass attended primarily by clergy, the following day the Pope held mass for 60,000 at Yankee Stadium. Should everyone have been asked their stance on abortion before the Eucharist was lifted to their mouths?

If believing in the legality of abortion – or further, propagating this belief and working to one individual or whole communities gain or maintain access to abortion – is such a deal-breaker, again – why is this spoken of only in select instances, and only during an election cycle?

Because to consistently condemn congregants based on this criteria-even if possible-would decimate the church. Its prevalence and power would shrink. And that, above all else, cannot be allowed.

So it’s a mortal sin. Just like contraception. So much so that we will block reproductive health measures to fight AIDS in Africa in order to prevent the use of life-saving contraception. However, it’s not so much of an issue that we will risk losing much of our flock over it.

Then again, why should someone be turned away from a religion for sinning? Isn’t that the whole point? If someone, especially someone engaged in what your religion considers to be sinful life choices, wants to be an active member of your church, to listen to your clergy’s sermons, to worship with you, shouldn’t that be a good thing? If you really want to change someone’s mind or behavior, keeping that person in the fold should be the best way to do so. Wasn’t that what Jesus was all about, embracing the sinner?

Or maybe it’s not about casting out mortal sinners, maybe it’s the public chastising that’s important. The standing on a chair in a dunce hat humiliation – giving satisfaction to those who see themselves as morally superior, as those who truly deserve communion.

After all, how many behaviors can be criteria for removal from the church without disseminating the church itself?

And if you want to talk about human acts that would deign one unworthy of partaking in something holy…well, the Pope himself is hardly exculpable.

Catholics for Free Choice, a self described “independent not-for-profit organization engaged in research, policy analysis, education, and advocacy on issues of gender equality and reproductive health,” conducted a poll during the 2004 US presidential election and found that 53% of Catholics identified themselves as pro-choice and 61% believed abortion should be legal.

The organization’s splinter group, Catholics in Political Life: Challenges to Faith in Democracy uses the church’s own teachings to open the debate about abortion and gender issues:

1. Catholic teaching regards the well-formed conscience, not catechism or statements by bishops, as the final arbiter in moral decision making.

2. Recent teachings of the church acknowledge that it does not know when a fetus becomes a person so it cannot state explicitly that abortion is murder. However, there is no doubt about the personhood of a pregnant woman, and the protections that the hierarchy would grant to fetal life should be extended to include women facing difficult or unsupportable pregnancies. Not only that, but for those who do think that abortion is killing, the church does permit killing in certain instances, some military conflicts being a prime example.

3. The church has not made its teachings on abortion infallible. As recently as 1995, in Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II and his advisers considered and rejected the inclusion of the adjective “infallible” to describe its teaching on abortion.

4. The Catholic system of probabilism supports Catholics’ right to dissent from church teachings if there is a solid probability that the teaching is wrong and that this belief is supported by theologians or that the dissent is informed by prayerful and thoughtful discovery.

Read the rest here.

Go into any mass on any Sunday morning across the US, and you’ll see a group of flawed individuals, most of whom haven’t been cleansed by confession in a long time, step forward and take “the body of Christ.”

If Cardinal Egan really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, even without advocating contraception use or extramarital sex, there are plenty of ways he could have used his tenure as NYC Archbishop to do so. As it is, he will likely retire within the year, having submitted his resignation to the Pope, as required, upon his 75th birthday.

His legacy is marked by improving the archdiocese’s financial standing by closing 15 schools and 21 parishes, having an imperious demeanor, and weathering a nasty 2006 lawsuit alleging sex abuse cover-up and a closeted (sexually active) Egan.

According to Rocco Palmo, an American-based writer for The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly published in London, priests under Egan had serious problems with his leadership:

Long-simmering tensions among a broad cross-section of the archdiocese’s priests broke into the open today with the circulation of an anonymous letter under the authorship of a group calling itself “A Committee of Concerned Clergy for the Archdiocese of New York.” Saying that, “At no time has the relationship between the Ordinary and the priests of the Archdiocese been so fractured and seemingly hopeless as it is now,” the authors have urged their confreres to lodge “a formal vote of ‘NO Confidence‘” (emphases original) in Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who became archbishop in 2000. Using strong language throughout the 950-word missive, the authors allege a widespread finding that Egan’s relationship with his priests has been “defined by dishonesty, deception, disinterest and disregard.”

Running his mouth about which Catholic is worthy of communion does little for his supposed cause and, in my opinion, nothing for to rectify his reputation or improve the good he might leave behind him.


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4 Responses to “If you’re pro-choice you can’t be Catholic?”

  1. ejwilson Says:

    Cardinal Egan was very courageous and behaving as a bishop should when he rebuked Giuliani for presenting himself for communion at the Papal Mass. I can’t possibly understand why an individual who disagrees with the doctrines of the Catholic Church would insist on remaining Catholic and seek to dilute the teachings. There are plenty of churches who don’t uphold the culture of life by remaining silent on the issue of abortion and promoting artificial contraception.

    Catholics who are in a state of mortal sin (that is they are conscious of a serious sin yet have not availed themselves of the Sacrament of Penance) should not present themselves for communion. In fact, when they do so, they eat and drink to their own condemnation (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27).

    Church law states that those who procure an abortion are excommunicated latae sententiae (automatically). Additionally, Canon 915 states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin (i.e. publicly and constantly flout Church teachings), are not to be admitted to holy communion.” The individual responsible for enforcing this canon is the minister of holy communion, thus their is no need for a public excommunication in order for an obstinate sinner to be denied access to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

    Additionally, your comments about Church doctrines’ lack of popularity amongst those who self-identify as Catholics suggest the Church should be flexible in order to make the Church more “relevant” and “acceptable.” Indeed, this is the exact opposite of what the Church must and will do. It would be better that the Church consist of a small number of orthodox faithful instead of vast numbers of lukewarm Catholics.

  2. Mary Says:

    ^ What he said. He did his research! (Yes, I’m Catholic and pro-life! But I stumbled here by accident..)

  3. Fr. Rob Cook Says:

    Hi. I would like to use the purple image of the chalice and host with the Last Supper behind it for a vocations poster. Do you know who the artist is or who I might need to contact about permission? Thank you!

  4. Julie Ann Marra Says:

    Hi Father Cook,

    The image is from http://www.messagesfromgodthefather.com. Good luck with everything!

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