House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the news again, declaring that she has never been denied Communion because of her pro-abortion views and voting record. She assured readers, however, that she’s “in agreement with Catholics” on other issues, so I guess that makes the legal dismemberment of babies in the womb ok. Besides, it varies by region whether or not the bishop pushes the issue, she commented, again implying that, in California at least, abortion isn’t a moral problem. (article at http://lifenews.com/nat4098.html )
In discussing the issue of denying Communion to Catholic politicians who promoted legalized abortion, the USCCB (U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops) has issued a number of, well, waffling and unclear statements. In 2004, with John Kerry on everyone’s minds, the bishops condemned abortion in the strongest language, but then hid behind, “Well, maybe pro-abortion politicians don’t know it’s wrong. The bishop has to talk to the particular politician and have a dialogue on the subject. You can’t judge any given bishop’s response to the situation.”
Funny, since Cardinal Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, laughed at Raymond Arroyo during an interview on EWTN when asked whether communion should be denied to pro-abortion politicians. I forget the exact wording, but the reply was along the lines of, “Yes, of course they should be denied. Is this even a question? You do not need a cardinal from the Vatican to tell you this!” Apparently, we do, but is anyone listening?
A few bishops objected that the USCCB actually has no authority under Canon Law to tell anyone to do anything; the bishops report to Rome, not the USCCB. Some pointed out that, more than three decades after Humanae Vitae, everyone knows what the Catholic Church teaches on these issues. The “discussion” has lasted long enough, they said.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Archbishop Burke of St. Louis was heavily criticized. It was muttered to the press that he was behaving inappropriately and, besides, he was causing problems for other bishops. What sin was so heinous that he deserved public chastisement? He broke ranks with the USCCB and categorically stated that, no, thank you, he did not need to personally talk to John Kerry about the “issue”, Kerry knew that the Church teaches abortion is a grave evil and supported abortion on demand anyways. Therefore, Archbishop Burke said, in keeping with his duty as bishop, he had instructed all priests in his diocese that Kerry would not receive Communion in the Diocese of St. Louis, because John Kerry was no longer in communion with the Catholic Church by reason of his support of this evil.
Thank God for bishops who are willing to do their jobs.
It seems that the USCCB has learned something from the 2004 debacle. The latest voting guide, “The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” published in November 2007, states on page four, that “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters,” because we don’t want to be tarred and feathered by the media, who make fun of such voters, “Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” (whole document at http://www.usccb.org/bishops/FCBullInsert.pdf )
Although some pro-life leaders hailed the document as a significant improvement and were encouraged by its placement of abortion at the top of a hierarchy of issues, I’m not entirely sure that people who want to see themselves as Catholic and pro-abortion are going to bother to dig through to page four to find this. And have you heard of any candidate for national office who was actually promoting racism? It throws the whole sentence off track and distracts from the emphasis on the life issues.
Too many Catholics do not pay attention to what the Church says on the life issues (abortion, euthanasia, contraception, IVF, embryonic stem cell research, etc.). Frankly, I don’t think most Catholics know what the Church says, because it is never preached. We had one priest, a few years back, who actually told the congregation, “If you support embryonic stem cell research, do NOT come up for Communion, because you are supporting a grave evil.” People muttered after mass that Father had been awfully harsh. Well, gee, murdering the unborn for their body parts is pretty harsh, too…
The only other time I heard abortion or embryonic stem cell research mentioned at our parish was during the annual pro-life mass, a tiny event held for the members of the pro-life ministry. The sermon was wonderful: clearly explained, thorough in its coverage of all the life issues, emphatic on the centrality of life to all of our other rights… but we never heard a whisper of it on Sunday.
Too many Catholics, including Speaker Pelosi and, apparently, the USCCB, are more concerned with how well they blend in with the culture around us. Nobody likes feeling “odd.” Gone is, “The world will hate you because it first hated me,” or, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” replaced by the inane, “All that Jesus said was, ‘Take my brother’s hand and pass my love around…’ ” (I kid you not; our parish uses this tripe at the Agnus Dei for the “contemporary” mass. Complete with hippy handclapping.) We think that we can change the truth by voting on it at the USCCB, or by allowing for what is “normal” in our culture.
From Cardinal Ratzinger’s book “Called to Communion”, pp.154-155:
The fortuitous majorities that may form here or there in the Church do not decide their [the saints’] and our path; they, the saints, are the true, the normative majority by which we orient ourselves. Let us adhere to them…
Are we standing with the saints on the path, or are we sinking in the bog, insisting that, since we agreed on it, this is really the path?
If the saints are really the normal ones, what does that make us?