Courier July 2004
are called to be "Pro-Life"!
Most Rev. Bernard Harrington
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.