Catholic Bishops End Abortion-Communion Debate Saying Local Leaders Decide

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 16, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops End Abortion-Communion Debate Saying Local Leaders Decide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 16, 2006

Los Angles, CA ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops ended a long debate about whether pro-abortion politicians who attend a Catholic church should be allowed to receive communion. Referring back to a policy statement it adopted in 2004, the bishops said local bishops will make the decisions in their own diocese about how to handle each case.

The decision concludes the work of a special task force Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick whose panel met with Catholics in both political parties privately last year.

McCarrick told the bishops at the conference that he worried the politics of abortion was clouding the spiritual and Biblical issues surrounding communion and the church reaching out to others.

"My concern is the fear that the intense polarization and bitter battles of partisan politics may be seeping into the broader ecclesial life of our Catholic people and maybe even of our Conference," he said, according to a Reuters report.

Still, McCarrick said his committee was chagrined by the "frustrating reality" of Catholic politicians who reject the church’s teachings on abortion.

"Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation. These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls," Reuters reported him saying.

McCarrick told the nation’s bishops that they had they best ability to make any decision to prohibit a pro-abortion elected official from receiving communion because they know local officials better.

Reuters said he indicated there was "no substitute for the local bishop’s pastoral judgment and his vital relationships with Catholic public officials in his own diocese."

McCarrick’s task force did write a booklet entitled "Readings on Catholics and Political Life" that it distributed to every Catholic politician in Congress, which also spells out the church’s position on abortion and other pro-life issues.

The task force also plans to arrange some educational and informative teaching sessions on Capitol Hill for Catholic elected officials and staff and will shut down its work.

The issue of abortion and communion became a controversial one during the 2004 elections when a St. Louis bishop said he would not offer pro-abortion Democratic candidate John Kerry communion because of his pro-abortion position. Kerry was the first Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket in 44 years.

After that, other bishops stepped forward asking pro-abortion lawmakers to refrain on their own form taking communion.

During the summer of 2004, the Catholic bishops adopted a statement that called on pro-abortion Catholics to refrain on their own from taking communion. It was adopted by a vote of 183-6.

In July 2005, the Vatican produced a new document saying Catholics who support legalized abortion should refrain from taking communion because they are out of step with church teachings.

The Vatican said pro-abortion Catholics are not taking their faith seriously and those who take communion and support abortion are behaving in a scandalous manner.

"Some receive communion while denying the teachings of the Church or publicly supporting immoral choices in life, such as abortion, without thinking that they are committing an act of grave personal dishonesty and causing scandal," the document says.

Related web sites:
Catholic Bishop’s statement on withholding communion and pro-abortion speakers –
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops –