Vatican Memo Showed How to Deny Communion to Pro-Abortion Politicians

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vatican Memo Showed How to Deny Communion to Pro-Abortion Politicians

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
July 7, 2004

Vatican City ( — In a recent memorandum that has been leaked to the public, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, detailed the principles under which ministers can deny communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

The Italian magazine L’Espresso printed the memorandum on the Internet on July 3. According to Catholic News Service, a Vatican official has confirmed that the text is authentic, though it is incomplete. A cover page, at least, is known to be absent from the published document.

However, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said the published memorandum appeared to be "an incomplete and partial leak" not reflecting "the full message I received." He refused to disclose any written communication from Cardinal Ratzinger, stating that Ratzinger had asked him not to reveal it.

Cardinal Ratzinger begins the memorandum by reminding bishops that receiving Holy Communion should be a “conscious decision” based on one’s worthiness, and not “merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, … an abuse that must be corrected.”

Recalling the Catholic Church’s teachings that abortion and euthanasia are matters of “grave sin,” Ratzinger cites the Encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, which states that supporting pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia laws or legislation “can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it.”

Cardinal Ratzinger explains that there are moral teachings of the Catholic Church that do not bear the weight of abortion, such as teachings on the death penalty or waging war, and those that disagree with the Pope on such issues can receive Communion, as can Catholic voters who vote for a pro-abortion candidate for reasons other than their pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia stance.

“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,” states Cardinal Ratzinger.

Citing the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ declaration, “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics,” Cardinal Ratzinger explains that persistent politicians must be refused Communion, if they ignore their pastor’s council.

“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,’” says the memo. “This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.”

Last month, a council of U.S. Bishops voted to leave the decision of whether or not to deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians up to the individual bishops in each diocese.

Related Sites:

L’Espresso reprint of Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum:,2400,42196,00.html

Catholic Bishop’s statement on withholding communion –