Worthy to Receive the Lamb:
Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy
August 4, 2004
As bishops, we have the obligation to teach and guide the Catholic Faithful
whom we shepherd in the Body of Christ. A fundamental teaching of our Church is
respect for the sacred gift of life. This teaching flows from the Natural Law
and from Divine Revelation.
Life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, a truth underscored by the
commandment: "You shall not kill" (Deut 5: 17 ). The Old Testament also teaches
us that human life in the womb is precious to God: "...I formed you in the
womb..." (Jer 1: 5). The right to life is a value "which no individual, no
majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only
acknowledge, respect and promote" (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 71a). A
law, therefore, which legitimizes the direct killing of innocent human beings
through abortion is intrinsically unjust, since it is directly opposed to the
natural law, to God's revealed commandments, and to the consequent right of
every individual to possess life, from the moment of conception to the moment of
Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their
public service this teaching of the Church, and to work for the protection of
all innocent life. There can be no contradiction between the values bestowed by
Baptism and the Catholic Faith, and the public expression of those values.
Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are
cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation
they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from
admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance
(cf. Canon 915).
Holy Communion is where Catholics meet as a family in Christ, united by a
common faith. Every Catholic is responsible for being properly prepared for this
profound union with Christ. Participation in Holy Communion requires certain
dispositions on the part of the communicant, namely, perseverance in the life of
grace, and communion in the faith of the Church, in the sacraments, and in the
hierarchical order of the Church (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia,
The Church also recognizes that there is a manifest lack of a proper
disposition for Holy Communion in those whose outward conduct is "seriously,
clearly, and steadfastly contrary" to the Church's moral teaching (Ecclesia de
Eucharistia, 37b). A manifest lack of proper disposition for Holy Communion is
found to be present in those who consistently support pro-abortion legislation.
Because support for pro-abortion legislation is gravely sinful, such persons
should not be admitted to Holy Communion.
We also take this opportunity to address all Catholics whose beliefs and
conduct do not correspond to the Gospel and to Church teaching. To receive the
great gift of God - the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ
- we must approach Holy Communion free from mortal sin. Those who are conscious
of being in a state of grave sin should avail themselves of the Sacrament of
Reconciliation before coming to Holy Communion. To partake of the Eucharist is
to partake of Christ Himself, and to enter into sacramental communion with our
Lord we must all be properly disposed.
Because of the influence that Catholics in public life have on the conduct of
our daily lives and on the formation of our nation's future, we declare that
Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of
the Church on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, especially those
running for or elected to public office, are not to be admitted to Holy
Communion in any Catholic church within our jurisdictions: the Archdiocese of
Atlanta, the Dioceses of Charleston and Charlotte. Only after reconciliation
with the Church has occurred, with the knowledge and consent of the local
bishop, and public disavowal of former support for procured abortion, will the
individual be permitted to approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
We undertake this action to safeguard the sacred dignity of the Most Holy
Sacrament of the Altar, to reassure the faithful, and to save sinners.
Most Reverend John F. Donoghue
Archbishop of Atlanta
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Charleston
Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis
Bishop of Charlotte