pointedview (pointedview) wrote,

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Compassionate Catholicism?

Prior to posting this, I'd like to state that I was baptized Catholic. My mother is Catholic, and was taught by nuns. My maternal grandparents were devout members of the Catholic Church, and helped build a local one before they died. Although I personally identify as Episcopalian (admittedly a lax one), I know several Catholics that I count among my most valued and dear friends. If there was a fire at our residence, one of the things I would try to grab to save would be the rosary a friend of mine gave me -- it was her first communion rosary, and she gave it to me that I might pray at my grandmother's funeral. Catholicism is not alien to me.

With all that being said, I'm reposting the following from the AJC article regarding Archbishop John F. Donoghue's intent to deny Catholic politicians communion if they are pro-choice.

Bishops harden abortion stance
No Communion for pro-choice politicians, regional leaders say

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/04/04

Catholic public officials and political candidates who support abortion rights are "cooperating with evil" and will be denied Holy Communion unless they publicly recant, the Archbishop of Atlanta and the bishops of Charleston and Charlotte said Wednesday.

The joint statement is one of the strongest in the country by church leaders tackling the tension between politics and doctrine on abortion.

In their joint statement, Archbishop John F. Donoghue of Atlanta and the bishops of Charleston and Charlotte tackled the tension between politics and church doctrine on abortion.

Only a handful of the bishops who lead the nation's 195 Roman Catholic dioceses have said they will deny Communion based on a political stance on abortion. Most have taken no position.

"Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their public service the teaching of the church," wrote Archbishop John F. Donoghue of Atlanta, Bishop Robert J. Baker of Charleston and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte.

The church dispute went public in January, when Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis said he would deny Communion to John Kerry just as the Massachusetts senator became the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kerry, who supports abortion rights, is the first Catholic to head a major party's presidential ticket since John F. Kennedy, whose 1960 race preceded the Supreme Court ruling that determined the legality of abortion.

The issue has reverberated beyond the national political scene.

"I am Catholic, but I am also a Democrat, so . . . it puts me in a tough position," said Georgia state Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth). "I have to be pro-choice because that's the Democratic position."

Marin, a native of Puerto Rico, attends St. Patrick's Church in Norcross. He said he feared some Catholics would be driven from the church as a result of its stand on denying Communion, in which Catholics consume bread and wine they believe is transformed into Jesus' body and blood.

Marin said he was not sure whether he would continue to try to take Communion. "I will have to see if the Catholic religion still fills me up, spiritually," he said.

State Sen. Mary Squires (D-Norcross), a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Chamblee, said she would obey an official church "edict" and not take Communion.

Squires said that she "cannot and will not recommend" abortion to anyone but also believes the church should be "extremely wary about stepping over the line and making secular law."

Neither the pastor of St. Patrick's nor the pastor of Holy Cross could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Kerry has said he accepts the church's stance against abortion, "but I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist."

No distinction

The statement by Donoghue and the two Georgia bishops allows no distinction between a personal and public stance. "There can be no contradiction between the values bestowed by Baptism and the Catholic faith, and the public expression of those values," the bishops' statement said.

Donoghue could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He was attending a Knights of Columbus meeting in Dallas, where President Bush spoke on Tuesday. Bush reminded Catholics of his own opposition to abortion and referred to the Republican Party as "promoting the culture of life."

Recent public opinion polls have indicated the nation's 65 million Catholics, who make up about a fourth of the electorate, are evenly split between Bush and Kerry.

Sixty-six percent of Catholics say they don't want bishops pressuring lawmakers and that the church's position won't affect their vote in November, according to a survey taken recently by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn.

The Atlanta archdiocese, which covers North Georgia, claims more than 300,000 Catholics.

Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah chose not to sign the statement issued by the archbishop. "He wants to take another approach," said his spokeswoman, Barbara King.

Bishop F. Joseph Gossman of Raleigh released a separate statement last month, saying politicians should decide for themselves whether to partake of the Eucharist. "Since no human being can know or judge another's relationship to God, I am persuaded that my position responds both pastorally and adequately to the present situation," he wrote.

Congressional letter

In May, 48 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter of complaint to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., head of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on politics. The Catholic lawmakers said the denial of Communion based on "voting record" would be "counterproductive and would bring great harm to the church."

As Catholics, they wrote, "we do not believe it is our role to legislate the teachings of the Catholic Church." Among the signers were former Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Georgia's congressional delegation includes two Catholics: Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican, and Rep. Jim Marshall, a Democrat.

Marshall, who has voted for restrictions on abortions, including a ban on the so-called partial birth abortion procedure, lives in the Savannah diocese. He was not a signer of the letter to McCarrick.

Gingrey, who opposes abortion, said he supported the church speaking out on the issue. "I commend the church for finally waking up to this," said Gingrey, who attends St. Joseph's Church in Marietta, but denying Communion to certain politicians "is maybe not what I would recommend."

Local authority

The U.S. bishops conference in June approved a statement letting local bishops decide how to deal with Catholic politicians whose public stances contradict church teachings.

Tension between doctrine and politics has centered on abortion, although the Catholic Church has taken stands on other public policy issues, including the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

"Abortion is in a class by itself in church teaching," said David Hains, director of communications for the diocese of Charlotte. "The victims of abortion are always innocent. You can make an argument about capital punishment or war."

— Staff writers Carlos Campos, Jim Tharpe and Bob Kemper contributed to this article.

Text of letter from bishops

Published on: 08/04/04



As bishops, we have the obligation to teach and guide the Catholic Faithful whom we shepherd in the Body of Christ. A fundamental teaching of our Church is respect for the sacred gift of life. This teaching flows from the Natural Law and from Divine Revelation.

Life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, a truth underscored by the commandment: "You shall not kill" (Deut 5: 17). The Old Testament also teaches us that human life in the womb is precious to God: "...I formed you in the womb..." (Jer 1: 5). The right to life is a value "which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote" (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 71a). A law, therefore, which legitimizes the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion is intrinsically unjust, since it is directly opposed to the natural law, to God's revealed commandments, and to the consequent right of every individual to possess life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their public service the teaching of the Church, and to work for the protection of all innocent life. There can be no contradiction between the values bestowed by Baptism and the Catholic Faith, and the public expression of those values. Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance (cf. Canon 915).

Holy Communion is where Catholics meet as a family in Christ, united by a common faith. Every Catholic is responsible for being properly prepared for this profound union with Christ. Participation in Holy Communion requires certain dispositions on the part of the communicant, namely, perseverance in the life of grace, and communion in the faith of the Church, in the sacraments, and in the hierarchical order of the Church (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 35-38).

The Church also recognizes that there is a manifest lack of a proper disposition for Holy Communion in those whose outward conduct is "seriously, clearly, and steadfastly contrary" to the Church's moral teaching (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37b). A manifest lack of proper disposition for Holy Communion is found to be present in those who consistently support pro-abortion legislation. Because support for pro-abortion legislation is gravely sinful, such persons should not be admitted to Holy Communion.

We also take this opportunity to address all Catholics whose beliefs and conduct do not correspond to the Gospel and to Church teaching. To receive the great gift of God - the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ - we must approach Holy Communion free from mortal sin. Those who are conscious of being in a state of grave sin should avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Holy Communion. To partake of the Eucharist is to partake of Christ Himself, and to enter into sacramental communion with our Lord we must all be properly disposed.

Because of the influence that Catholics in public life have on the conduct of our daily lives and on the formation of our nation's future, we declare that Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of the Church on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, especially those running for or elected to public office, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in any Catholic church within our jurisdictions: the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Dioceses of Charleston and Charlotte. Only after reconciliation with the Church has occurred, with the knowledge and consent of the local bishop, and public disavowal of former support for procured abortion, will the individual be permitted to approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

We undertake this action to safeguard the sacred dignity of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to reassure the faithful, and to save sinners.

Most Reverend John F. Donoghue
Archbishop of Atlanta

Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Charleston

Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis
Bishop of Charlotte

I'm pretty taken aback by this. To me, these politicians are coming into the church as private citizens, seeking contact with their faith, absolution, and solace for the difficulties of daily life. When they are in the church, they are not performing the duties of their job. Their job requires them to serve all of the citizenry, regardless of faith, and Catholicism is just one of many faiths.

I believe it's wholly inappropriate for these bishops to once again ignore and disrespect the separation of church and state and get involved in politics by punishing members of their congregation in this way. These people are coming to them as individuals, not as legislators. It is all well and good to quote scripture, but only if one can be consistent in doing so. If Communion is intended to be the body of Christ, then it would seem that His compassionate teachings of forgiveness would be the ones most relevant here. I do not believe that Christ would deny or obstruct a sinner's desire for audience, so it is hubris for the bishops to do so on His behalf.

I am not the first to wonder how consistently this will be meted out. People talk about activist judges, but activist bishops have existed for a while, too.

Poster Doug Gillett made the following comment on the AJC's message boards:
As a Catholic, this chafes me something fierce. How come nobody ever talks about the possibility of pro-choice Republican Catholics like Pataki, Giuliani, or Schwarzenegger being denied Communion? The Catholic Church also opposes the death penalty and was against the war — does that mean that pro-death-penalty, pro-war Catholics like Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum are going to be denied Communion? How about Pat Toomey? Or Lincoln Diaz-Balart?

I also wasn't the only one to notice that these pronouncements occurred during an election year, and I can't help wondering if it has to do with Bush's campaign initiative requesting church member rosters.

I'm not saying they don't have the legal right to do this, but in a way, it seems like they're not practicing the morals they are supposed to espouse. I'm sure they'd say they're trying to uphold the teachings of the church, but it seems to me they're doing so selectively.

I have slightly mixed feelings, because I do support his right to practice his religion, and even be an advocate for it but the way he's doing it just rubs me the wrong way. I mean, go out and spread the word, give hope to followers, and so on, but don't shut them out when they turn to you as private citizens. Given the nature of a politician's job, I don't think that those who serve can ethically allow their personal viewpoints to overwhelm their obligations to their constituents, and it does no good to anyone to make them pariahs of a sort within their faith. Have the bishops forgotten the quality of mercy? Have they forgotten to judge not, lest ye be judged?

It's thorny, and it bothers me.
Tags: politics/government, religion
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