Bishops remind Catholics that abortion, homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” are incompatible with receiving Holy Communion
Ever more frequent attempts to drive religion and morality from the public square have left America divided.
On one side are secularists who in varying degrees subscribe to a philosophy based on a supposed right to absolute individual liberty, unrestrained by law, religion, or morality.
Americans who love liberty but abhor anarchy rally to the other side. They understand that true liberty comes from observing divine and natural law.
Dissident Catholics Try to Reconcile the Irreconcilable
The philosophical divide between these two camps underlies America’s Cultural War.
It is found in the clashes in courtrooms and statehouses over abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and, now, homosexuality1, civil unions, and same-sex “marriage.” It also influences the debate within the Catholic Church on denying Holy Communion to public officials who vote in favor of these anti-natural acts.
The Church’s perennial moral teaching is that these acts are intrinsically evil, and Catholics who promote or participate in them must refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they repent.
When Catholic bishops remind their flocks of Church teaching, however, militant secularists accuse them of meddling in public affairs, exerting undue pressure, or attempting to improperly influence elections.
Secularists Press Their Attack on the Church…
Citing separation between Church and State, these secularists argue that the Church must abstain from religious pronouncements that influence public life. They claim such Church pronouncements go beyond the purely spiritual and interfere in the domain of the State.
To say that the Church may not make moral pronouncements that have political consequences is to say the Church cannot promote morality. To a greater or lesser degree, every law has a moral dimension, and no moral principle fails to somehow influence law. If the State determines what type of pronouncements the Church may make, it erases the distinction between the spiritual and temporal powers, and the temporal sphere absorbs the religious. The State becomes the sole arbiter of morals. It becomes a sort of State-Church, as in the times of the deified Roman emperors.
…Aided by Liberals in the Church
The secularist attack on the Church’s freedom to preach the Gospel is greatly helped by liberal Catholics inside the Church. Liberal voices often argue
1. that in rebelling against Church teaching on abortion and homosexuality they are following the dictates of conscience. However, conscience is not the source of morality. The objective norm of morality is God’s law known to us through our rational nature (natural law) and by divine revelation (divine positive law). Therefore, although our conscience perceives the natural moral law and makes it present to us in order to guide our action, it does not create this law.
2. that proclaiming Church teaching is imprudent and divisive. However, what divides is not the truth but our position in face of it. Hence the prophet Simeon said of Our Lord that He had come “for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted.” Thus, it is from truth that “out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34). The basis of pastoral action can only be the truth presented in its entirety.
3. that strict fidelity to Church discipline will lead to increased bigotry and persecution against the Church. However, the Divine Master warned that persecution would befall the faithful: “The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). And Saint Paul wrote, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
4. that denying Holy Communion to ostensibly pro-abortion and pro-homosexual Catholics will drive them from the Church. However, we do well to remember that the Savior faced an analogous situation when some disciples were scandalized with His words about the Eucharist and abandoned Him. He turned to the Apostles and asked, “Will you also go away?” To which Saint Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:69).
5. that denying Holy Communion to government officials who systematically vote in favor of abortion and homosexuality is to “politicize” the Eucharist and turn the Blessed Sacrament into a weapon. However, it is “manifest, persistent, and obstinate sinners” insisting on their “right” to receive Holy Communion who are politicizing the Eucharist, not the shepherds who remind them of the conditions for the proper reception of the sacrament. Bishops who deny Holy Communion to “manifest, persistent, and obstinate sinners” not only defend the honor of the Blessed Sacrament; they give an example of charity. It is charitable to prevent a public sinner from profaning the Eucharist and being condemned accordingly (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27). It is likewise charitable to the faithful in general, whose faith can be shaken by the scandal of “manifest, persistent, and obstinate sinners” receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
6. that it is unfair to deny Holy Communion to Catholics in favor of abortion and homosexuality, and not to Catholics in favor of the death penalty or the war on terror. However, this is not a valid comparison. The Church has always and everywhere taught that abortion, homosexuality and euthanasia are intrinsically evil. It does not teach the same regarding the death penalty or just war.
Statements of Courageous Bishops Spur Catholics to Action
Pope John Paul II recently exhorted American bishops to “respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world.”2
Several Catholic bishops have done so in recent declarations. The bishops have reminded Catholics that they cannot serve two masters, receiving Holy Communion and at the same time favoring abortion, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage” (see below). Their statements encourage us to legally and peacefully oppose all the more the evil of abortion, which has killed more Americans than all our wars combined. They encourage us to oppose homosexuality and same-sex “marriage,” as well as a whole range of anti-Commandments being imposed on us.
Catholics Must Stand Up for the Faith
Our Lord expects us to confess our faith publicly: “He that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). “He that shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when he shall come in his majesty and that of his Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
As Archbishop Chaput of Denver stated, in any situation Catholics must “act like it–without caveats, all the way, all the time, with all our heart.”
The bishops who have come to the defense of the Blessed Sacrament and reminded Catholics of their public duties at this crossroad for America represent two thousand years of Church tradition. The voice of the Good Shepherd resounds in the words of these bishops, and it is a voice the faithful recognize (cf. John 10:27).
Ensuring the Freedom of the Church
The valor of these bishops has another important aspect: it safeguards the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.
Indeed, if bishops refrain from upholding Catholic moral teaching in the public square for fear of controversy or sanction, the laity will likely do the same. Secularists will thus be emboldened and attempt to silence the Church definitively.
We pray that this will never happen, but, if one day the Church is deprived of its freedom to preach the full truth of the Gospel in America, the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution will be dead letter.
This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Let us ask the Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of the United States, to protect America and help all Catholics to proclaim their faith in her Divine Son, and to do this boldly in the public square.
June 13, 2004 – Feast of Corpus Christi
The American TFP
Our Bishops Speak
(This is not a complete list of the bishops who have spoken out. Nor does it include all the pronouncements of the bishops quoted.)
• Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento – The Salvation of Pro-Abortion Catholics Is at Risk
On January 22, 2003, Bishop Weigand warned the faithful in his diocese:
“As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone–politician or otherwise–who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error, puts his or her soul at risk, and is not in good standing with the Church. Such a person should have the integrity to acknowledge this and choose of his own volition to abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he has a change of heart.
“Just last week, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed a statement directly to politicians. In part, it stated: Catholic politicians ‘have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard. Those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.’
“Issues of the sacredness of human life and other questions of basic morality are matters of natural moral law, not simply of Church teaching. The Vatican statement states: ‘No Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements.’ There can be no division between public and private morality. It is untenable to say, ‘I am personally opposed to abortion,’ but support someone else’s right to kill their unborn baby. Catholic moral doctrine respects the ‘rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church – but not from morality.’”3
• Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis – Pro-Abortion or Pro-Euthanasia Legislators Should Not Receive Holy Communion
In November, 2003, Archbishop Burke, then Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, warned his flock in a canonical notification:
“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion or euthanasia, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others. Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion’ (Code of Canon Law, can. 915).…
“They are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, should they present themselves, until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices.”4
• Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans – Those Who Openly Support Abortion, Euthanasia or the Destruction of Human Embryos Are Not Faithful Members in the Church
On January 14, 2004, Archbishop Hughes stated:
“When Catholic officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the Church and should not partake of Holy Communion.”5
• Bishop John Smith of Trenton – Public Officials Who Support Legislation Contrary to Church Doctrine May Not Claim They Are Devout Catholics
Speaking at the annual diocesan Respect Life Mass on March 27, 2004, Bishop Smith expressed annoyance at the response of public officials who portray themselves as devout Catholics and publicly ignore the teachings of the Church:
“When he refers to himself as a devout Catholic and supports legislation and programs that are contrary to the teaching of the Holy Father and the bishops, he is not a devout Catholic. He cannot compromise what it means to be a Catholic.”6
• Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls, S.D. – Catholic Politicians May Not Vote for Abortion
At his diocesan Respect Life Mass on October 5, 2003, Bishop Carlson said:
“Regardless of your political party, you cannot be a Catholic legislator at the state level or congressman or senator at the national level and vote for abortion.”7
• Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln – Complete Agreement with Archbishop Burke
The Wanderer reports Bishop Bruskewitz saying:
“We agree completely with Archbishop Raymond Burke in the action he has taken and we would take the same action in the diocese of Lincoln with regard to manifest, persistent, obstinate sinners, including politicians, regardless of which diocese they are from.”8
• Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon – Pro-Abortion Politicians Exclude Themselves From the Eucharist
In his column of June 3, Bishop Vasa wrote:
“Unfortunately there are some Catholic politicians whose statements, positions, voting records and stances, particularly on life issues, are so far from ‘communion with the Church’ that it is impossible to see how they can qualify for the ‘full communion’ required for admission to full Eucharistic Communion. What they do screams so loudly about what they believe that it drowns out the tininess of the voice with which they affirm what they claim to believe. Their manner of acting excludes them. Where their manner of acting is so clearly in opposition to ‘full communion’ then that lack of communion needs to be first privately and then, if necessary, publicly declared.”9
• Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver – Beware of Profanation
In his May 26, 2004 column, Archbishop Chaput reminded Catholics:
“None of us ‘deserves’ the Eucharist…..
“We need to take the words of St. Paul very seriously: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord’ (1 Cor 11:27).
“Likewise, if we ignore or deny what the Church teaches, or refuse to follow what she teaches, we are not ‘in communion’ with the Catholic faith. We separate ourselves from the community of the believers. If we receive communion anyway, we engage in a lie.”10
• Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, N.D. – Catholics Who Separate Their Faith from Their Professional and Social Activities Risk Hell
In a homily delivered April 2004, Bishop Aquila recalls the much forgotten dogma on the existence of hell:
“Jesus Christ has warned clearly within the Gospel that hell is a reality and that we are free to choose it. Catholics who separate their faith life from their professional and social activities are putting the salvation of their souls in jeopardy. They risk the possibility of hell. Any Catholic who stands for a law of man, most especially one which is objectively evil, before a law of God, puts his or her soul in jeopardy of salvation, for they cooperate with a real evil.”11
• Bishop Thomas Wenski, Coadjutor of Orlando – Pilate Did Not Demand to Receive Communion
In his May 3, 2004 column, Bishop Wenski suggests that if Catholic public officials wish to imitate Pontius Pilate, they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion:
“We can explain, for example, why Pontius Pilate, though he personally was convinced of Jesus’ innocence, could not bring himself to ‘impose’ his views on the mob. Yet, he did not demand to participate with the Apostles in ‘breaking of the bread’ as the Mass was first called.…
“Bishops as teachers of the faith have no special competencies in the world of business or politics – and in those worlds we have no regulatory or legal powers. We don’t want such power – nor should we. But precisely as teachers of the Catholic faith we do have competence to tell businessmen or politicians or anyone else for that matter what is required to be a Catholic. It is totally within our competence to say that one cannot be complicit in the injustice of denying the right to life of an unborn child or an invalid elder and still consider oneself a good Catholic.”12
Bishop Wenski finished by saying that “pro-choice” politicians may only receive Holy Communion after ceasing to support abortion.
• Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs – Conscience Must Be Rooted in Truth, Not Personal Preference
On May 1, 2004, Bishop Sheridan wrote in a pastoral letter to the faithful in his diocese:
“The right judgment of conscience is not a matter of personal preference nor has it anything to do with feelings. It has only to do with objective truth.… A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.…
“All people have a grave obligation to form their consciences by adhering to the truth, precisely as that truth is found in the natural law and in the revelation of God. As Catholics we have the further obligation to give assent to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church.”
Promoters of Same-Sex “Marriage” Are Not to Receive Holy Communion
“In recent months another issue has reached the level of our legislatures. It is so-called ‘same-sex marriage.’ Those who now promote this deviancy often present it as a human right denied homosexual persons and thus illegally discriminating against them. But, in fact, no one has a right to that which flies in the face of God’s own design. Marriage is not an invention of individuals or even of societies. Rather it is an element of God’s creation….
“As in the matter of abortion…Catholic politician[s] who would promote so-called ‘same-sex marriage’…place themselves outside the full communion of the Church and may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled by the Sacrament of Penance.”13
• Archbishop John Myers of Newark – A Perennial Catholic Teaching: Only Those Who Live According to Christian Principles May Receive Communion
In his May 5, 2004 pastoral letter “A Time for Honesty,” after saying that it is dishonest to dissent from Church doctrine and receive Communion, Archbishop Myers points out:
“This is not a new teaching of the Church.… In the second century St. Justin Martyr described the Eucharist in this way: ‘No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.’”14
• Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden, N.J. – Dichotomy Between Private Life and Professional Life Does Not Make Sense
In a May 5, 2004 press conference, Bishop Galante likened the separation between faith and public life to schizophrenia:
“This dichotomy between ‘my private life’ and ‘my professional life’ from a human point of view doesn’t make sense. We’re not schizophrenic. I don’t know how a Catholic politician can say my faith life doesn’t interfere with my political life.”15
- The indiscriminate use of the word homosexual has generated much confusion in the public. Many times it is unclear whether the word refers to someone with same-sex attraction only or whether it refers to someone who practices homosexual acts. This confusion favors the homosexual agenda. We cannot equate people with same-sex attraction who resist it and are chaste with those who engage in homosexual behavior. These are two distinct and essentially different moral realities. Therefore, we use homosexual to refer only to those who practice homosexual acts and thereby deserve moral reprobation.
- Address of John Paul II to the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee, May 28, 2004, www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2004/may/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20040528_ad-limina-usa-reg-vii_en.html.
- Barbara Kralis, “Bishop Bruskewitz Would Deny Pro-Abort Pols the Eucharist,” The Wanderer, www.thewandererpress.com/a4-15-2004.htm.
- “It’s a Matter of Honesty: To Receive Communion, We Need to Be in Communion,” www.archden.org/dcr/news.php?e=81&s=2&a=1976.