Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Cardinal Ratzinger on Pro-Abortion "Catholic" Politicians Receiving Holy Communion

[Note by my friend Jared Olar, who sent me this]

Here is the note sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to the U.S. bishops to make
sure what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had to say about
pro-abortion politicians and Communion would agree with the doctrine and
canon law of the Church. Compare his observations to the recent
statement of the USCCB:

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles

by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious
decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one's worthiness to do
so, according to the Church's objective criteria, asking such questions
as: "Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of
grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict)
that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by
fasting for at least an hour?" The practice of indiscriminately
presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The
Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions
or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states
that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by
conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust
law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore
never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propoganda campaign in
favour of such a law or vote for it'" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave
obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which,
even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law.
Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate
formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by
invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact
that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and
euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy
Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to
wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present
himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil
authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy
in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take
up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.
There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about
waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to
abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individuals' judgment about his worthiness to present
himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may
find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy
Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a
declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin
(cf. can. 915).

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's
formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a
Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for
permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with
him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he
is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end
the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be
denied the Eucharist.

6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in
which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate
persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the
minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical
Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced,
Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly
speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy
Communion passing judgment on the person's subjective guilt, but rather
is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion
due to an objective situation of sin.

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