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Pope to Pro-Choice Pols: No Communion

Did St. Louis Archbishop get it right in '04?

The headlines were so predictable I almost didn't read the stories: "Pope Opens Trip with Remarks Against Abortion" (New York Times) and "Pope Stresses Opposition to Abortion" (Associated Press).

Is the Pope Catholic?

But there seems to be some news here. On his flight to Brazil, the Pope made some remarks that seemed to condemn not only women who have abortions and the doctors who provide them, but also the polticians who vote for legalization of abortion–as they did recently in Mexico, providing for legal abortions up to 12 weeks gestation.

Papal spokesman (when it's the Vatican, you can use the gender-specific term) Federico Lombardi immediately tried to soften the possible implication of the Pope's words. But then, well, I'll let the New York Times tell the story:

The pope's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, quickly issued a clarification that played down his words, but then issued a statement approved by the pope that seemed to confirm a new gravity on politicians who allow abortion.

"Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist," the statement said, and politicians who vote that way should "exclude themselves from communion."

So, this turns the clock back to the 2004 election controversy over St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke telling pro-choice Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry that he should not receive communion when campaigning on Burke's turf. If memory serves, Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick tried to soften the potential impact of Burke's statements. But now that Benedict has spoken, it looks like Burke may have been right.

The automatic self-excommunication that applies to women who have abortions and their doctors also applies to legislators. This doesn't mean that priests are supposed to become the Communion police, but it does mean that the Church considers it a pretty grievous thing for a Catholic politician who has voted to legalize abortion to present him or herself to receive Communion.

Christianity Today's June 2004 editorial on the dispute between Burke and Kerry can be read in the CT Library (paid archive).

Related Topics:Abortion; Catholicism; Politics
Posted:May 10, 2007 at 7:14AM
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Pope to Pro-Choice Pols: No Communion