Michael J. Gaynor
Communion Must Be Denied To Senator Kerry and Other Unrepentant, Nominally
Catholic Pro-Abortion Politicians Until They Repent
April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments,
explained at a press conference in Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion
“Catholic” politicians should be denied Communion.
Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: "If they should not
receive, then they should not be given."
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and many other priests in the United States
have continued to give Communion to such persons.
Cardinal McCarrick said that he has “not gotten to the stage
where I’m comfortable in denying the Eucharist.”
that the priests of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States might
actually follow the canon law that mandated them to prevent the
sacrilegious receipt of Communion, 48 members of the House of
Representatives who identify themselves as Catholic wrote to Cardinal
McCarrick, ominously warning that refusing them Communion “would be
counter-productive and would bring great harm to the Church.”
authority is derived from upholding principle, even when principle is
unpopular or upholding it is costly.
It is diminished when principle is compromised, because it seems
expedient to do so.
Catholic Church’s moral authority suffered greatly because the problem
of sexual abuse of altar boys by priests was handled as secretly as
possible for decades instead of acknowledged and dealt with openly.
the Catholic Church’s moral authority suffer further because priests
find it easier to give Communion to whomever asks for it rather than
follow canon law and refuse persons “who obstinately persist in manifest
1971, John Kerry's Massachusetts Senate colleague and fellow nominal
Catholic, Ted Kennedy, wrote, “Human life, even at its earliest stages,
has a certain right which must be recognized—the right to be born, the
right to love, the right to grow old.”
Roe v. Wade was decided and
political expediency prevailed over Catholic principle for many ambitious
politicians who publicly support abortion as a legitimate choice that they
personally would not make. At
the same time, they claim to be practicing Catholics and line up to
receive Communion as though they are fit to receive.
and bishops are obligated to uphold the tenets of their faith, to identify
sin, and to rebuke sinners. St.
Augustine wrote: “Medicinal rebuke must
be applied to all who sin, lest they should either themselves perish, or
be the ruin of others…. Let no one, therefore, say that a man must not
be rebuked when he deviates from the right way, or that his return and
perseverance must only be asked from the Lord for him.”
William K. Weigand of Sacramento led the call on pro-choice Catholic
politicians to refrain from taking Holy Communion. He stated:
“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,” he said.
year, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, then Bishop of La Crosse,
Wisconsin, went further. He
publicly decreed that Catholic legislators in his diocese who “support
procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive Holy
Communion” and are to be denied Holy Communion if they nevertheless
present themselves “until…they publicly renounce their support of
these most unjust practices.” His
prior private efforts to persuade had been rudely rebuffed.
Burke emphasized that he did what a bishop is required to do.
He explained that “[t]he duty of Catholic legislators to respect
human life is….God’s law,” and that
a bishop who “remain[s] silent while the faith, in one of its
most fundamental tenets, is…openly disobeyed by those who present
themselves as sincere adherents of the faith, [has] failed most seriously
and should be removed from office.”
John Paul II explained in his 1988 Apostolic Exhortation:
all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of
human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work,
to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the
most basic and fundamental right and condition to all other personal
rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
what has become a scandalously long time, the Roman Catholic Church has
neglected to bar from Holy Communion many prominent nominal Catholics who
publicly and proudly support abortion, in blatant violation of the
fundamental Church teaching that human life is sacred and begins at
Kerry, a nominal Catholic, is the presumptive presidential candidate of
the Democrat Party. He is supporting partial-birth abortion, calling
abortion a woman's right instead of a wrong and vowing to appoint
only pro-abortion justices. At the dinner hosted by NARAL
Pro-Choice America (formerly, the National Abortion and Reproductive
Rights Action League) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Supreme
Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Kerry proclaimed,
“We are not going to turn back the clock. There is no overturning of Roe
v. Wade. There is no packing of courts with judges who will be hostile to
created a public scandal by receiving Holy Communion while flagrantly
rejecting fundamental Church teaching. Therefore, the sanctioning of
Kerry and his kind is necessary. Like racism, abortion is a
grave sin. Its tolerance is intolerable.
Like covering up child abuse, tolerating the receipt of Holy
Communion by pro-abortion politicians is an abomination.
1975, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) described the
right to life as “among basic human rights.” In 1998, the USCCB
issued a pastoral letter chastising Catholic politicians for
supporting abortion and euthanasia. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, its
president, welcomed a Vatican doctrinal note denouncing
Catholic politicians who support abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage,
and human cloning. Bishop Gregory explained that “Catholic
politicians cannot subscribe to any notion which equates freedom or democracy
with a moral relativism that denies these moral principles.”
2003, the Vatican decreed that Catholic politicians “who are directly
involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose
any law that attacks human life” and “[f]or them, as for every
Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them….”
March 25, 2004, the Vatican issued a statement specifying that “anyone
who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of
the Lord without prior sacramental confession” when possible and that it
is for “the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse”
when “Christ’s faithful approach the altar as a group
authoritative Vatican opposition to the receipt of Holy Communion by
persons professing to be both Catholics in a state of grace and abortion
supporters, ardent pro-abortion “Catholics” like House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi have said they “fully intend to receive communion, one way
or another.” Ms. Pelosi
said that receiving Holy Communion is “very important” to her. That makes good sense politically, since a Catholic who
presents herself or himself for Communion thereby represents that she or
he is in a state of grace, and being in a state of grace (or at least
appearing to be) is still a political plus.
America’s Catholic bishops cooperate with secular opinion, or will
they cooperate with the Vatican, and chastise nominal Catholics such as
Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, and Mario Cuomo?
bishops should act without fear that the Church's tax exemption will be
lost. The First Amendment was
adopted to protect freedom of religion.
Thomas Jefferson explained in his second inaugural address that
“free exercise [of religion] is placed by the Constitution independent
of the powers of the general government.”
a mixed message is being sent, when complete clarity is needed.
For example, Archbishop O’Malley of Boston proclaimed that “[a]
Catholic politician who holds a public, pro-choice position should not be
receiving Communion and should refrain from doing so.”
But the Archbishop then abdicated his responsibility for protecting
the Holy Eucharist by adopting a policy of leaving it “up to the
individual” to decide whether or not to receive instead of denying
Communion. However, Pope John
Paul II’s Holy Thursday 2003 encyclical stated:
“In cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly, and
steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, those who ‘obstinately persist
in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharist Communion.”
Roman Catholic Church’s Canon 915 specifies that “[t]hose… who
obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy
915 protects the Holy Eucharist and prevents the public scandal that would
result from ineligible persons receiving Holy Communion.
is for those who dispense Holy Communion to follow the mandate of Canon
915. Bishops who are
reluctant to embarrass prominent politicians need to recall that Jesus had
no patience for the moneychangers in the Temple. Protecting the
sanctity of the Temple was His paramount consideration then.
The protection of the Holy Eucharist must be the bishops’
paramount consideration today.
public scandal is vital. St.
Thomas Aquinas explained that a distinction “must be made” between
secret and open sinners, and “Holy Communion ought not to be given to
open sinners when they ask for it,” because “[h]oly things are
forbidden to be given to…notorious sinners….”
priest who knowingly gives Communion to a pro-abortion politician commits
the grave sin of sacrilege, as does the unfit recipient. Neither political correctness nor political expediency
consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other
liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to
God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the
Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made
substantially present for us." Catechism of the Catholic
Church, Section 2120.
Paul was unambiguous: "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. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of
the bread and drink of the cup." 1 Corinthians 11:27-28.
who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must
be in a state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must
not receive communion without having received absolution in the
sacrament of penance." Catechism 1415. (Emphasis added.)
Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full
communion with the Church." Catechism 1395 (Emphasis added.)
Communion was not intended to provide a photo opportunity.
case of Louisiana racist Leander Perez illustrates why Communion must be
denied to those who are publicly rejecting fundamental church teaching. In 1962, an exasperated Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New
Orleans finally excommunicated Leander Perez for opposing desegregation in
Catholic schools. Perez eventually repented (as did others of his
ilk), and the school integration succeeded.
a state judge and political boss of Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish,
Perez made the lives of African-Americans miserable.
But Perez could not intimidate Archbishop Rummel, who not only knew
that racial segregation was sinful, but that it needed to be ended.
The Archbishop noted that "enforced racial discrimination
inflicts incalculable mental and emotional cruelty and pain, physical and
social privations, educational and economic restrictions upon 16 millions
of our fellow citizens, and that these discriminations are unjustifiable
violations of the Christian way of life and the principles of our American
1953, the Archbishop's pastoral letter, “Blessed Are the
Peacemakers,” was read aloud in the archdiocese’s churches. It
declared "the unacceptability of racial discrimination."
Perez and his allies were unmoved. The Archbishop threatened in 1956 to
excommunicate them, but they held protest rallies and withheld church
contributions instead of repenting.
segregationist Catholics formed the Association of Catholic Laymen of New
Orleans and it "asked the Pope (Pius XII) to stop Rummel
from taking further steps to integrate white and Negro Catholics and to
decree that racial segregation is not 'morally wrong and sinful'"
("Morals" 36). The Vatican's response was a reminder that that
"the Pope had condemned racism as a major evil, asserting 'that those
who enter the Church... have rights as children in the House of the
the Archbishop at last acted decisively. He announced that in the
fall, the city’s Catholic schools would admit black students. Perez and
his allies persisted in their opposition, so the archbishop excommunicated
them for continuing "to hinder his orders or provoke the devoted
people of this venerable archdiocese to disobedience or rebellion in the
matter of opening our schools to all Catholic children." They were
barred from the Mass and sacraments as well as Catholic burial.
the fall, 104 black children were admitted to the city’s Catholic
schools. By 1968, Perez repented and, after his death in 1969, was given a
barring of John Kerry and other pro-abortion nominally Catholic
politicians has been too long delayed. The sooner the ban is
imposed, the better. Perhaps they too will repent before death and
receive a Catholic burial. Jesus
did not pander to politicians, much less put monetary considerations (such
as tax exemption) before principle. America's Catholic bishops should
follow His example.
J. Gaynor can be reached at