LA Cardinal Wrong About Denying Communion
by Mark Brumley
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony is wrong when he claims that a bishop or priest can't deny Holy Communion to a pro-abortion Catholic politican unless the politician has been excommunicated, placed under interdict, or put under a formal sanction, according to a noted canon lawyer.
Edward Peters, writing on the website www.canonlaw.info, challenges some statements Cardinal Mahony made in an recent interview with Catholic News Service.
A week after a meeting with pro-abortion presidential candidate John Kerry, a meeting characterized by Cardinal Mahony as "very cordial, very friendly," the cardinal declared himself "slightly mystified" about the controversy over pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion. He observed that there have been "pro-choice Catholic politicians" receiving the Eucharist since Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
It's not possible, the cardinal went on to say, for a bishop or priest to deny the Eucharist to someone who isn't excommunicated, interdicted or put under formal sanction.
"Thatís wrong," writes canon lawyer Edward Peters. "Canon 915 plainly says that those who 'are excommunicated, interdicted, orÖobstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.' It is patent that one need not be under a formal sanction to fall within the purview of Canon 915. Politicians who chronically support abortionism are persisting in grave sin."
According to Cardinal Mahony, when someone presents himself to receive the Eucharist, he is presumed to be in the state of grace and receiving Holy Communion in good faith. Peters says that statement is incomplete because, like the presumption of innocence, "the presumption of one's eligibility to receive the Eucharist" can be undercut by contrary evidence.
Peters also takes issue with the cardinal's claim that the decision to receive the Eucharist belongs to the communicant, not the minister of the Eucharist. The cardinal confuses Canon 916, which warns individuals conscious of being in grave sin to refrain from receiving the Eucharist, with Canon 915, which directs a minister aware of an individualís obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin not to admit such person to Holy Communion, contends Peters.
Bishops such as Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, who has threatened to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion Catholic John Kerry, are completely justified, writes the canon lawyer.
Peters agrees with Cardinal Mahony that pro-abortion Catholic politicians have been receiving the Eucharist since 1973. "What's changed," observes Peters, " is that we now have bishops who are saying enough is enough."