Perhaps it was a bad omen when at the installation Mass for the new Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl last June, pro-abortion Democratic Senator John Kerry was given Holy Communion and caught on camera in the act. During the entrance procession, Archbishop Wuerl shook hands with Kerry and Senator Ted Kennedy. (see coverage)When California Catholic Daily reporter Allyson Smith inquired during an interview as to whether Wuerl planned to "discipline her at all for being persistent and obstinate about supporting abortion and same-sex marriage," Wuerl responded, "I will not be using the faculty in that, in the manner you have described."
Now, Archbishop Wuerl, who replaced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has said publicly that he would not discipline or direct priests to deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politician Nancy Pelosi who was just made speaker of the House of Representatives.
See also Amy Welborn's extensive coverage of the Pelosi / Wuerl scandal, in which she comments:
I think what Archbishop Wuerl and others fail to understand is the impact of things like this on the lay Catholic who is struggling to be a faithful disciple in the world. The message that is sent by silence is strong, in terms of the lay apostolate in the world, in terms of the unity of faith and life.
Nancy Pelosi is not "struggling" with the Church's teaching on abortion, trying to work for the protection of unborn human beings within the constraints of the current U.S. law. As we noted before, she is unapologetically, strongly supportive of abortion-rights and unborn children don't even enter into her radar (publicly, at least) as human beings. . . .
But resting on Archbishop Wuerl's statements alone, which do not indicate that there's anything problematic about Nancy Pelosi's way of living a Catholic life, and which, I admit, simply might be an expression of a reticent style that only answers the questions posed, I'll just say this again.
If this woman, engaged in a public role, very publicly works against the teachings of the Church to which she professes a very public tie isn't publicly challenged by even one of the primary teachers of the Church - the bishops - the rest of us - lay Catholics, living and working in the world, every day facing decisions on how to be faithful disciples of Jesus in the midst of the complexities of our professions, some of us who really suffer because of the things they refuse to do because of their fidelity to Christ - we get a message.
And the message we get is that - it doesn't matter. Do whatever you want.
Note to Archbishop Wuerl -- here's an excerpt from a noteworthy memo from then-Cardinal Ratzinger to your predecessor ("Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles" L'espresso, June 2004):
. . . 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.Earlier this month, The National Abortion Rights Action League commended self-styled "Catholic grandmother" Nancy Pelosi for championing "pro-choice values" for nearly 20 years -- a pretty consistent -- or obstinant -- record on abortion, wouldn't you agree?
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” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” , nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement 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.
People being what they are, there must be a measure of "organization"—buildings, offices, procedures, finances, programs, and the like—if the Church is to do her work. But after a certain point, the instinct for institutional self-preservation outweighs the desire for evangelical credibility.
Beneath all the legalistic mumbo-jumbo about bishops' rights to differing "pastoral styles," this is why learned, doctrinally orthodox bishops such as Wuerl allow Catholics in public life who facilitate abortion, gay marriage, and embryonic-stem-cell research to remain in ostensibly "full communion" with the Church. Beneath the facile and fallacious clichés about "conscience," this is why most bishops would discipline a priest under them who started denying the Eucharist to parishioners aware of, but staunchly unwilling to abide by, the Church's teaching on contraception. Some of those bishops are ones who for too long failed to discipline child molesters and remained in denial about that problem; the reasons for each policy are closely related. Beneath the apparently flexibility and sophistication of "the internal forum," this is why many so many priests incorporate, as a matter of course, divorced people who have remarried without annulment into parish life on the same level as other Catholics who have adhered, at great cost to themselves, to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. For the most part, the hierarchy are terrified that schisms, be they de facto or de jure, would reduce the Church to institutional rubble. And let's be clear: such rubble is exactly what would we'd get if they got serious about challenging people to follow Christ in the pelvic area.
If these "Catholic" politicians keep persisting in walking up the communion aisle, why can't the communicants in their seats stand up and stop them by merely standing in their way much like that young man in Tiannamen Square before the tanks?
Nancy Pelosi and Company have run over innocent life long enough.
Lastly, Fr. Neuhaus on "ambivalence and resolve about Roe (First Things' "On the Square" - January 19th, 2006):
When the aforementioned Nancy Pelosi orchestrated a four-day gala in Washington celebrating her familial, ethnic, and—very explicitly—Catholic identity, people were alert to what would be said by the new archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. He said nothing. Part of the festivities was a Mass at Trinity College, a Catholic institution in Washington. The celebrant of the Mass was Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit who, more than any other single figure, has been influential in tutoring Catholic politicians on the acceptability of rejecting the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human life. Asked by a reporter, Archbishop Wuerl responded that Fr. Drinan has “faculties” in Washington, meaning he is authorized to celebrate the sacraments. That was it.Related "Must Read" Posts:
Also recently, Edward Cardinal Egan of New York gave a rare television interview in which he was persistently asked whether the pro-abortion position of Catholic politicians, notably Rudolph Giuliani and outgoing governor George Pataki, posed a problem for him. He just as persistently said he refused to be drawn into politics and answered, 'They are my friends.' But of course he was making a statement of momentous political consequence, in that he seemed to be saying, as far as he is concerned, that the Church has no problem with pro-abortion politicians. It is understandable that Catholics and others have drawn the conclusion that, for both Wuerl and Egan, bishops of the two most prominent sees in the country, rejecting the Church’s teaching on the human dignity of the unborn child is not a big deal.