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Our readers asked:

Abortion: Should Catholics who vote for pro-choice politicians receive communion?

Fr. Joe Answers:

This is a question that many Catholics are asking after hearing the recent statement of Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs that he would refuse to give commununion to a political candidate whose views are not in line with church teaching against abortion. Archbishop Burke of St. Louis has established a similiar policy, as have two bishops in New Jersey, but these seem to be a minority among the American bishops.

Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston said last summer that Catholic politicians who support legal abortion should stop receiving communion by their own choice. But Archbishop O’Malley added that the church does not deny communion to people who come to receive it, presuming that they do so in good faith. Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C. declared that he is personally uncomfortable with the idea of priests or bishops barring public officials from communion.

Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, in the May 14 issue of The Tidings, commented that “the church has always been quite cautious about denying anyone the sacraments. And in fact, with respect to the Eucharist, it really is not possible for a priest or bishop to deny someone communion…the presumption is that if someone presents himself for communion, they are doing so with the belief that they are in the state of grace and receiving in good faith the Eucharist. That is the decision the communicant makes, not the person giving communion.”

The Cardinal noted that John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” encourages Catholics to defend all threats to life, including abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. “If one were to begin cataloguing who should or should not go to communion, according to the Holy Father’s list,” bishops would also have to consider political figures who support the death penalty and other threats to life. Cardinal Mahony finally expressed his belief that the only way to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion is to convince people that it is wrong, and that the most effective means to do this is through education, not sanctions.

So much for communion and the pro-choice candidate. But what of the Catholic who votes for a candidate espousing a pro-choice position?

Archbishop Vlazny of Oregon offered these thoughts in the Portland Catholic Sentinel: “If they vote for pro-choice politicians precisely because they are pro-choice, I believe they, too, should refrain from the reception of Holy Communion because they are not in communion with the church on a serious matter. But if they are voting for that particular politician because, in their judgment, other candidates fail significantly in some matters of great importance, for example, war and peace, human rights and economic justice, then there is no evident stance of opposition to church teaching and reception of Holy Communion seems both appropriate and beneficial. Catholics who support pro-choice politicians still have serious responsibilities with regard to their stance on this matter. They must make it very clear to these politicians and governmental leaders that their support is in no way based on the pro-choice advocacy of these political leaders.”

In conclusion, I want to cite Cardinal Mahony’s words regarding the responsibility of bishops in an election year: “We cannot be giving the impression that we are tellng people to vote for this candidate or that candidate. That has never been our role, and if we give the impression that that is what we are doing, then we have failed our people.”

The Author : Fr. Joe
Fr. Joe Scott, CSP, has been a campus minister, pastor and editor as a Paulist priest.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Factory_Hag

    This is one reason why people get confused. I read recently that a couple of women who are out shopping and see a table set up in the Mall with a palm or card reader, and decide to indulge are committing a sin. One lady I know blames her grandmother’s tea leaf readings for letting the Devil inflict alcoholism into the family and says doing Yoga is also a “portal” for the Devil. I don’t believe that. But politicians who for years support abortion get a pass. Some of the most religious ladies I’ve known in the old days went to fortune tellers or read tea leaves. It was just entertainment. They were harming no one and were good people. They loved the Lord, went to Mass, and had a Faith which puts ours now-a-days to shame. They considered themselves poor sinners, but compared to us they were saints. These politicians aren’t just “pro-choice”–they are abortion procurers, because they are the ones who make sure it continues, openly bragging about it. They don’t leave much doubt about what’s in their hearts.

  • jim

    Since nearly all elected officials who have a say on abortion are pro-choice-the Democrats are honest about it, the Republicans talk the talk, but when it comes to doing something…well, the Bush record speaks for itself-a big fat zero-no constitutional ban, abortion rates unchanged.
    The question I have is, can a faithful Catholic vote Republican? The Republican religion is focused on the individual-hurray for me and the heck with everyone else. This is in direct contrast to Christianity and what the Catholic Church professes to be true.

  • mike

    Thanks moose I will check it out !!!

  • moose

    Mike, no shame here! Please read on (www.catholicsforchoice.org/) if you are interested in a discussion of the issues or are you only interested in name calling?

  • mike

    is it any wonder well over 50% of Catholics voted for Obama the abortionist with this gibberish!!!! Do you people have any shame???

  • moose

    Although I disagree with certain aspects of both the pro-life and pro-choice positions on abortion I find nothing wrong with a pro-choice Catholic stating his/her view provided they make it clear that this is not the position of the R.C. Church on the issue of abortion.
    The pro-life position of the Church has not been proclaimed ex-cathedra.
    We all have a God given conscience, let’s use it in connection with serious consideration, reflection and prayer.

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