Wafer Watch

Here is an article that seems to suggest that Archbishop Wuerl, Washington DC, will deny communion to catholic politicians if there hometown bishop has asked them not to present themselves.

Here are my thoughts:

  • The Catholic Church has authoritatively taught that abortion is intrinsically wrong.
  • Therefore, all Catholics, including Catholic politicians, should be pro-life.
  • All Catholics, including Catholic politicians, who are not pro-life must voluntarily refrain from communion.
  • Catholic politicians that are not pro-life who persist in presenting themselves for communion may be denied communion at the discretion of their Bishop.  This isn’t a matter of partisan politics, but follows from the Catholic undertsanding of the teaching authority of the Church and the meaning of communion.  It is a pastoral matter, and a function of the Bishops teaching responsibility.  It is not necessary to protect the sacrament and keep it holy.
  • Catholics who are not politicians or public officials and who are not prolife should not ordinarily be denied communion even if they persist in presenting themselves for communion.  The scandal involved when a politician or public official defies Church teaching and yet persists in presenting themseves for communion is not present in the case of private individuals.
  • Catholics are not required to refrain from voting for pro-abortion candidates for public office when pro-life candidates are also running.
  • However,Catholics may not vote for pro-abortion candidates precisely because of their position on abortion.  This follows straightforwardly from the principles above that the Church has authoritatively taught that abortion is intrinsically wrong and that all Catholics should be pro-life.
  • Catholics may vote for a pro-abortion candidate because they think that on the whole that candidate is better than another candidate that is pro-life.  The reasons for doing so must be proportionate. 
  • Proportionate reasons are more likely to be present than many pro-life conservative Catholics think because elections have little impact on either abortion policy or the abortion rate.  What must be weighed in deciding if there are proprtionate reasons is not the serious of the abortion issue in the abstract, but, rather, the actual difference that the election will have on abortion policy and the abortion rate.  Conservateive Catholics also must keep in mind that Catholics who are on the left are likely to see their differences with conservative candidates on issues other than abortion as being very serious.
  • Catholics that vote for a pro-abortion candidate precisely because they are pro-abortion should volutarily refrain from presenting themselves for communion, but if they persist they should not ordinarily be denied.
  • Whether there is a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate despite their position on abortion is a prudential judgement.  Accordingly, Catholics may reasonably disagree about whether propertionate reasons exist in particular cases.  Catholics that vote for pro-abortion candidates despite their position on abortion have committed no sin and have no reason not to present themselves for communion or to be denied communion when they do so.
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