Archbishop Wuerl: Pro-Abortion Pols Taking Communion Need Local Discipline
by Steven Ertelt
May 6, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl has responded to the recent controversy involving pro-abortion politicians taking communion during the Pope’s visit. He says Catholic politicians should oppose abortion and not take communion if they do, but said local enforcement is necessary.
During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and former mayor Rudy Giuliani came under criticism for taking communion.
Cardinal Edward Egan issued a statement condemning Giuliani and saying he wanted to meet with the former presidential candidate; and pro-life advocates called on Wuerl to issue a condemnation as well.
In a new column in the archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Standard, Archbishop Wuerl said both Catholic politicians and Catholic citizens have an obligation to adhere to the Church’s pro-life teachings.
Just as Catholic voters are not asked to leave aside the most deeply held moral convictions of our faith when they enter a voting booth, so Catholic elected officials are not asked to deposit the moral and ethical convictions of the Church at the door of Congress or at the State Assembly where they serve, he wrote.
He said abortion teaching is "clear" for Catholics and that "no one should be led to believe, because of someone else’s voting record, that this teaching about abortion is uncertain.
About politicians taking communion, he said that is an altogether different yet related issue."
Wuerl pointed to the 2004 statement from the Catholic bishops saying that the matter is one for the local diocese to monitor and that local Catholic leaders are the ones best able to hold pro-abortion politicians accountable. He noted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger signified his approval for the document before becoming the pope.
Bishops may arrive at different conclusions based on their local situations, Archbishop Wuerl said.
While he would ensure the Washington archdiocese will continued educating about the truth on abortion, he said political figures should be persuaded to abstain from communion by local Catholic officials.
He maintained he can’t have the responsibility for disciplining or encouraging pro-abortion Catholic elected officials outside of his purview.
A decision regarding the refusal of Holy Communion to an individual is one that should be made only after clear efforts to persuade and convince the person that their actions are wrong and bear moral consequences, Wuerl said.
Presumably this is done in the home diocese where the bishops and priests, the pastors of souls, engage the members of their flock in this type of discussion," he explained.
"In the case of public figures who serve in Washington as representatives of other parts of the nation, this dialogue and any decisions would take place within their home diocese," he concluded.
He said he respected the role of the local church and didn’t want to overstep the bounds of local bishops and priests.