by Steven Ertelt
May 14, 2007
The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — Comments Pope Benedict XVI made last week about abortion and Catholic politicians are continuing to cause a stir around the globe. The pontiff told reporters during his plane ride to Brazil that Catholic politicians who back abortion have excommunicated themselves and shouldn’t receive communion.
The pope followed up those comments during his speeches in Brazil, his first trip to Latin America, with more comments condemning abortion.
He continued to express the church’s pro-life views in an address to Latin American bishops on Sunday, though he didn’t reference the excommunication and communion comments.
He said laws that permit abortion and contraception are "threatening the future of peoples."
In reacting to the excommunication and communion remarks from last week, John Allen, author of several books on the Catholic Church, said the pope appears to have a personal view that is stronger than the official Catholic position.
"What seems to be clear is that the pope personally thinks that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive communion," he told Reuters.
"This clearly emboldens bishops who have taken a hard line against Catholic pro-choice politicians, but it remains to be seen if there will be a disciplinary follow-through or whether individual bishops still decide who can receive communion," Allen added.
George Weigel — senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and leading U.S. Catholic theologian — seemed to agree.
"Catholic politicians who think they can remain part of the church after supporting abortion are putting a lie on top of the original offense against justice," he said.
Meanwhile, Fidelis President Joseph Cella, a leading pro-life advocate, says his group is pleased with Pope Benedict’s comments.
“We are deeply grateful to Pope Benedict for his comments on the Catholic legislators in Mexico City who voted to legalize abortion," Cella told LifeNews.com.
"The Holy Father’s message serves as a powerful teaching moment for all pro-abortion politicians, including those in the United States, especially those who are Catholic and running for President in 2008," he added.
He said those pro-abortion Catholic candidates — including Senator Joe Biden, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Chris Dodd, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Rudy Giuliani — should "consider the larger message of Pope Benedict, and their obligation as Catholics to defend the sanctity of all human life."