Catholic politicians’ “worthiness to receive Communion” scrutinised

A proposed paper about US Catholic politicians’ “worthiness to receive Communion” if they support legislation permitting abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils has had some advice from the Vatican.

US Catholic Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) president Archbishop José Gomez wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in March, explaining the USCCB was preparing to draft such a document.

Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria (pictured) replied last week, thanking the USCCB for offering him a preview of the document, when it is written.

However, Ladaria refused Gomez’s request to see a copy of a letter from then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2004. Ladaria explained it was “in the form of a private letter to the bishops” and Ratzinger had stipulated that “these principles were not intended for publication.”

Ladaria recalled the issue of a U.S.C.C.B. document on Catholic pro-choice politicians and worthiness for reception of Communion, had been raised during the USCCBs 2019-20 ad limina visits to Pope Francis.

He said the C.D.F. had then “advised that dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic.”

“The congregation notes that such a policy, given its possibly contentious nature, could have the opposite effect and become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria said the C.D.F. thought the policy could also advised the USCCB to engage in “extensive and serene dialogue” – first with the bishops, then with Catholic politicians about worthiness to receive communion.

The bishops would need to agree on the doctrinal issues “to maintain unity” in the conference and in the US church.

A similar dialogue would need to be held with Catholic politicians.

In addition, the policy would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholics, Ladaria said.

Despite the CDF and USCCBs cautious approach, San Fransisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is reiterating that Catholic public figures who support abortion rights be barred from Communion – while at the same time pleading with them to have a change of heart.

Cordileone says according to Canon law, the local bishop has the power to decide whether or not someone can receive the Eucharist.

San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy has has been vocal that denying Biden or other political leaders Communion would be “very destructive.”

“I do not see how depriving the President or other political leaders of Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than the weaponization of the Eucharist,” McElroy said in February.

McElroy reiterated his stance last week, telling America magazine that “the Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare.”

Cordileone rebuked the notion that he is being political.

“This is not a political motive for me. I intentionally waited until after the election to release [the pastoral letter].”


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