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Catholic Politicians are called to be "Pro-Life"!

At the Spring meeting in Denver, the Catholic Bishops of the United States took a strong stand that Catholic politicians who have the responsibility to formulate law are obliged "to work toward correcting morally defective laws". The often used excuses that "abortion is the law of the land" or "that I am personally opposed to abortion but I can’t thrust my opinion on others" does not free the politician "from moral guilt of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good"

The Bishops in their teaching were emphatic regarding the moral evil of abortion. Catholics in all walks of life are called to have an "unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural birth." In the light of this teaching of the U. S. Bishops no Catholic can support abortion rights and believe that he or she has a correctly formed conscience. Any Catholic who would believe that they are morally justified in supporting abortion has to know that they are in opposition to natural law and the official teachings of their Catholic faith. To do so, places them in bad faith and with a mal-formed conscience.

As a chairperson of the Committee on Education, one of the seven public policy committees of the Conference, I was a member of the Ad Hoc committee on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington D.C, headed the committee. The committee met an additional four times during the week to craft the final statement. The position paper offers sound teaching and it puts the obligations upon the individual Catholics to profess and live their faith.

Awards, Honors and Platforms should be Denied

The Bishops call upon Catholic communities and Catholic institutions not to honor those "who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" with awards, honors, or "platforms which would suggest support for their actions". As a matter of fact, the Bishops call upon such a person to change their immoral positions and work toward supporting life. All Catholics are called upon to challenge our national political parties and to oppose any policies that demand a pro-abortion stance.

With regards to denying Holy Communion to individual Catholic politicians who support abortion, a survey of the bishops indicated that the majority of bishops (3 to 1) do not favor denying Holy Communion to an individual. The bishops' statement acknowledges that such an action is within the right of an individual bishop to do so. However, due to differing and varied circumstances, such a decision has to be left to the individual bishop. It was interesting to note that in the discussion of this item, a good number of bishops called for communal regional decision-making rather than just individual bishops acting outside of the provincial voice.

Catholics who support abortion should not receive Communion

Respect for the Eucharist "demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world". The citation from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians puts the obligation squarely upon the Catholic politician. "Whoever 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". In light of this statement, any Catholic who steadfastly holds forth in support of abortion should not approach the communion rail. The teaching is very clear; they should judge themselves unworthy to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. I believe that the Eucharist should not be politicized. It is a question about "worthiness" to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is the responsibility of both the individual politician to take the steps necessary to form a correct conscience as well as it is the responsibility of both the bishop or individual pastor of the person to counsel, to assist and if necessary to confront the individual who errs in this way. There is no question that those who are in serious sin should not receive the Eucharist until they have turned away from sin and been reconciled within the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Catholic are Called to Participate in Political Life

It is important to state that Catholics are called to and encouraged to participate in the political life of our Country. As Catholics and as Americans, we have every right to do so. Previous to any presidential election year, the American bishops re-issue an updated document entitled. "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility". This document outlines clearly our responsibilities and demands as Catholic American citizens. This text can be found at hppt/www.usccb.org

I believe that the document on Catholic Politicians states clearly the teaching of our Catholic Church and puts responsibility on the Catholic politician to be faithful to the teachings of natural law and the Church. It is time that we recognize that morality and ethics determines what we believe and not our political party. Are we Catholic first or are we adherents to a political party and then Catholic?

Published in The Courier, July 2004, © Diocese of Winona.

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