For its upcoming June 2021 meeting, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had scheduled a discussion on whether Catholic politicians who persistently support pro-abortion positions should be denied receiving Holy Communion. However, in a letter dated May 13 obtained by the Catholic News Service, over sixty-seven left-wing and/or weak-willed Catholic cardinals and bishops, led by notoriously radical Cardinals Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, Blaise Cupich of Chicago, and Joseph Tobin of Newark, wrote the head of the USCCB urging him to suspend discussion of this topic.
According to Catholic doctrine, when a person receives the Holy Eucharist (at Holy Communion), such person is truly being given the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Importantly, in order to partake of Holy Communion, a Catholic must not be in a state of mortal sin; indeed, this has been the position of the Catholic Church since Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament (one of Seven). As St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “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.” (1 Cor 11:27) The question then arises: What is “mortal sin”? According to the Catholic Catechism: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’” (1857) And what constitutes “grave matter”? Again according to the Catholic Catechism: “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “’Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.’” (1858, quoting Mk 10:19) If a person has committed a mortal sin and wants to receive Holy Communion, the person must confess his sin to a priest, repent of it, and make a resolution not to commit the sin again. (Catechism, 1450, et seq.)
In the case of abortion, the Catholic Church has always held it to be a grave sin: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law….” (Catechism, 2271) Since abortion is a grave sin, openly supporting policies that promote abortion is likewise a grave sin. Thus, politicians who openly support pro-abortion policies are not permitted to partake of Holy Communion unless they first confess this sin to a priest, repent of it, and make a resolution not to support abortion policies again.
Significantly, the Vatican specifically opined on this issue back in 2004 when U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, self-identifying Catholic John Kerry, openly supported pro-abortion policies. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and the future Pope Benedict XVI, issued a memorandum entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, DC, and President of the USCCB’s Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, and USCCB Chairman Bishop Wilton Gregory, prior to the USCCB’s meeting in June 2004. In this memorandum, Ratzinger left no doubt about the Vatican’s position on the issue. First, Ratzinger wrote that if a pastor becomes aware of a Catholic politician publicly supporting abortion, he should meet with the politician to discuss the Church’s teaching on abortion and Holy Communion: “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.” Second, if this effort does not succeed in getting the politician to change his position on abortion, Ratzinger wrote that the politician is to be denied communion: “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 Declaration ‘Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics’ , nos. 3-4)” The position of the Vatican (and the future pope) could not have been clearer.
However, Cardinal McCarrick, a left-wing prelate who was later defrocked for sexually abusing young men and boys, worked with left-wing Bishop Gregory to distort the contents of the memorandum. In his interim Task Force report given to the bishops at their June meeting, McCarrick fraudulently misrepresented the position of the Vatican in the memorandum by saying that the Vatican had left the decision on whether to deny Holy Communion to politicians supporting abortion to the prudential judgment of individual bishops. In his report, McCarrick wrote: “Cardinal Ratzinger outlines HOW a bishop might deal with these matters [giving Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion or euthanasia]…I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path. The Holy See has repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors. The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent. It is not surprising that difficult and differing circumstances on these matters can lead to different practices. Every bishop is acting in accord with his own understanding of his duties and the law.” (All caps in original.) McCarrick then stated that the Task Force “does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians…in these circumstances.” As a result of this Task Force report, the USCCB adopted a statement leaving the decision on whether to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians to the judgment of individual bishops.
Now in 2021, the United States have an allegedly Catholic President and an allegedly Catholic Speaker of the House who, like most “Catholic” Democratic politicians, are ardent supporters of abortion. So ardent, in fact, they believe in abortion not just across the land, but across every land as both President Biden and Speaker Pelosi openly support the public funding of elective abortions in the United States and abroad.
With many orthodox Catholic bishops (including Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the bishop of Speaker Pelosi’s home diocese) urging the USCCB to adopt a policy prohibiting the giving of Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who openly support abortion, the USCCB had scheduled the issue on the agenda for its June 2021 meeting. As Archbishop Naumann stated in regard to Biden: “It can create confusion…How can he say he’s a devout Catholic when he’s doing these things that are contrary to the Church’s teaching?”
Even though the June meeting was not going to adopt a position on the denial of the Eucharist to pro-choice politicians but rather only consider whether the USCCB should draft a document on the topic, this was too much for the left-wing and/or milquetoast prelates who are determined to make the Church conform to the world and the dictates of the sexual revolution rather than have Her stand true to the Faith and be a sign of contradiction to the culture. If the USCCB were to ultimately vote to deny communion to politicians supporting abortion, these left-wing and weak-willed bishops know they would have to deny communion to all their pro-choice Democratic friends in government and could lose access to all the worldly benefits the Democratic political machines provide them. Likewise, if the Church started the process of becoming more orthodox on the abortion issue, it could become more orthodox on other issues, including LGBT ones.
Fortunately, in his May 22nd response to the sixty-seven bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, explained that the proper procedure had been followed in putting the Holy Communion issue on the USCCB meeting agenda. Thus, the issue was still on for the upcoming meeting.
As G.K Chesterton famously said: “I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong when I know I’m wrong; I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I am right.” All too many Democratic Catholic politicians think they are right when they persistently support pro-abortion policies; however, the Church needs to tell them they are wrong in the strongest possible terms. Denying these Catholic politicians Holy Communion, “‘the source and summit of the Christian life’” (Catechism 1324, quoting Lumen Gentium), would send a strong message to them to amend their ways. With left-wing and weak-willed bishops doing all they can to oppose orthodox Church teaching on life and other issues, we faithful Catholics must do all we can to support the majority of bishops who want to stay true to the Deposit of Faith and act like the Church at her best—speaking Truth to power.