Remember when several American Catholic Bishops said they would refuse John Kerry communion because he was pro-choice and Bishop Henry of Calgary threatened Prime Minister Paul Martin with the same penalty.

       Well the drums are beating again.  Rudy Guiliani is a Catholic who supports the pro-choice side.  Presumably Guiliani will stay well away from the Archdiocese of St. Louis where Archbishop Raymond Burke is again threatening to use the Eucharist as a political sledgehammer.

         In Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien recently told Catholic politicians that support for abortion was incompatible with the reception of Holy Communion.  In Australia, Cardinal George Pell warned Catholic MPs they faced excommunication if they voted to allow embryonic stem-cell research.   The Cardinal’s warnings were described by a Catholic cabinet minister as « a clear and arguably contemptuous incursion into the deliberations of of the elected members of this parliament. »

        Does a Catholic prelate have the right to threatent democractically elected members of  legislatures with severe penalties if they do not follow the Church’s moral teachings on such  issues as abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research?

        The principle behind the above position seems to be that on certain issues Catholic politicians have a duty to be the voice of the Church in the lawmaking process, and to repeat what the Church tells them to.  But that is not the politician’s duty as contained  in the theory of parliamentary democracy as outlined by Edmund Burke.  Poliiticians, in that theory, stand for election making clear what moral principles they embrace e.g. Catholics can vote against Guiliani if they disagree with his pro-choice position. 

        But in the legislature the elected Catholic member takes part in the debate and makes an honest judgement.   That has to include the possibility, in such issues as abortion and gay marriage, that the politician might see reasons why the application of Catholic teaching might be ill advised in the circumstances.   For example, the politician might conclude that to press for an extension of the criminal law, in a way that the great majority in the country might object to, risks undermining the consent of the public on which the legitimacy of the criminal law ultimately rests.  The movement from « sin » to « crime » must involve judgements of practicality, expediecy and the common good.

      Put another way, if a Catholic MP fails to oppose legislation that permits abortion or samesex marriage, then the MP will have been persuaded that there are perfectly good reasons, such as the wish to reflect the views of their constituents, their judgement of what serves the common good, or their fears of reviving back-street abortions.  In all these cases, if the Catholic members are in good faith, they should not be denied Communion.

      In other words, an MP,  in Edmund Burke’s terms, is not, and can never be, simply a delegate of the Pope or a Cardinal Archbishop.

      No clearer answer on this issue has ever been given than the one John Kennedy gave to the Protestant ministers in Huston in the 1960 campaign.

      « I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President – should he be a Catholic – how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners how to vote .. I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me. »

Finally, wherever we come down on the above issue, I presume no one thinks the Eucharist should be tossed around like a political football.



  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    Neil, if the Catholic politician had said something close to that, WHILE working for greater respect for the rights of unborn children, the scandal would not have been as great. Personally, I think Canada is ready for some kind of fetal rights policy, although for the moment a ban is not feasible. I wouldn’t vote against one, but I wouldn’t introduce one, either.

    But a politician who says flat out « I do not think unborn children should have any rights, EVER »– he deserves to be denied communion.

    The Eucharist should be denied to any manifest, public hardened sinner who has shown no desire to repent or move closer to Church teaching, whether it’s a politician or average citizen.

  2. 2

    I agree, Suzanne. I would have no truck or trade with a politician who said an unborn baby has no rights ever. I still have a problem, though, using the threat of withholding the Eucharist as a penalty.

  3. 3
    jim Says:

    The Catholic church has a habit of throwing out red herrings, when the church itself is in trouble i.e. paedophile priests and the down payment of 600,000.000 million dollars to victims. I notice the Pope hasn’t addressed the problem of what is he going to do about the paedophile priests who are still listening to the confessions of young boys and then arranging liasons. Jim

  4. 4
    SUZANNE Says:

    But the body of Christ is symbolic of theological communion as well as communion in charity. The notion that unborn children are equal human beings is an essential part of the Catholic Faith. That’s why they should be denied. If the Church didn’t sanction politicians, it would be showing preference for the rich and powerful.

    Jim: the Church issuing a doctrinal statement isn’t a « red herring ». The Church doesn’t stop issuing doctrinal statements because of something else going on in the world. If you read on a regular basis, you would see that the Vatican is busy with tons of things at the same time.

    The pope is trying to do something: he’s trying to exclude the homosexuals who are the primary perpetrators of such acts.

  5. 5

    Suzanne: Is there a shred of evidence showing that gay priests are more likely to molest children than heterosexual priests?

  6. 6
    jim Says:

    I am not particularily interested in reading zenit. Zenit was funded by the sodomite Marcial Maciel. When MM was being investigated about his paedophilia, Pope B16 called a halt to the inquiry when he was Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and stalled MM’s ousting for 6 years with the expected consequences to children. B16’s answer to the problem was to put MM out to pasture. When MM died there wasn »t a peep from the Pope. Also, why is it when Zenit reported the ousting they didn’t report the reason why? If I want info about Rome I do as the Romans do, I punch up or
    You say the Pope is trying to do something about eliminating homosexual priests. The inoperative word is « trying ». Lets stop trying, and do it.By the way lets get rid of the paedophiles as well.

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