Our Indefensible,

Unsustainable Status Quo

Stephen P. White: The reason for Eucharistic discipline is not to punish wayward Catholic politicians but to defend the innocent and to bring souls closer to God’s mercy.

It has been thirty-seven years since Mario Cuomo’s infamous Notre Dame speech – the Magna Carta for pro-choice Catholics – in which the former governor of New York laid out the argument that personal opposition to abortion might be compatible with a refusal to “impose” those personal beliefs in law. It was never a very good argument, effectively reducing the divine law and natural law to a kind of private piety. But for more than a generation, it has provided sufficient cover for pro-choice Catholic politicians (of both parties, for what it’s worth) looking to obfuscate the inconsistency of professing the Catholic faith while refusing to uphold the basic demands of justice.
          It has been seventeen years since Cardinal Ratzinger, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to then-Cardinal McCarrick, clarifying the Church’s teaching regarding worthiness to receive Communion: pro-choice politicians should not present themselves for Communion and those who obstinately persevere in opposition to Church teaching must be denied Communion.
          John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, was the Democratic nominee for president that year and suggestions that he be denied Communion were being denounced as (what else?) a politicization of the Eucharist. McCarrick misrepresented Ratzinger’s letter to his brother bishops to maintain the political peace. The result: interminable dialogue without discipline.
          Now, questions about “Eucharistic consistency” and Communion for politicians who oppose Church teaching are once again in the news. As the USCCB doctrine committee begins drafting its document on the Eucharist, it’s worth asking: has the dominant pastoral strategy of the last several decades, a strategy of perpetual dialogue unmatched by meaningful pastoral discipline, produced the hoped-for good fruits? Have things improved since 1984? Or since 2004? Or has the pastoral approach taken by most of our bishops, however well-intentioned, enabled the ever-worsening divisions we see around us?
Click here to read the rest of Mr. White’s column . . .

Image: The Mocking of Christ by Matthias Grünewald, c. 1503-05 [Alte Pinakothek, Munich]

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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