Communion for Abortion Advocates: Finding Common Ground

As the 2010 midterm elections heat up, we will once again encounter the controversy surrounding (a) who should or shouldn”t receive Communion, and (b) what candidates may a Catholic in good conscience support, given their positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.

Catholics have been told that it”s immoral to vote for a candidate because of their permissive views on abortion. If we want to vote for a pro-abortion despite their permissive views on abortion, we must have “proportionate reasons.” I”ve written on this in the past (see the posts linked to here), and there have been some very good explanations from Catholic bishops, including this pastoral letter by the Kansas City bishops.

I”ll take up the issue of “proportionate reasons” again at some point but, like the canon 915 issue, it”s unreasonable to expect the bishops to speak in a unified, meaningful way on those issues right now. While pro-life advocates need to keep “going there,” I think it”s also important to identify three things all bishops can and should stress right now with a unified voice, to help overcome rampant confusion on these issues. Here are the three items I propose: [more]

First, I think there needs to be a clear presentation on mortal sin as it relates to the reception of Communion. I realize that many people don’2012-04-24 18:34:32′t want to hear about it, and that a coherent presentation of the Gospel has to emphasize grace, not sin. Yet, both St. Paul and official Church teaching are clear that anyone who is aware of having committed a serious sin should refrain from receiving Communion until he or she has been reconciled with the Church through sacramental Confession. It”s all right there in Catechism, no. 1385, and all bishops should be able to sign off on that as a general principle.

Second, the fact that our lawmakers and judges say there is a right to abortion does not make it so. The fact that it is legal does not make it moral, nor does it give Catholics the right to wash their hands of the matter (a la Prof. Kmiec) as though we simply have to take this abomination as a “given” in our society. So, I think the second point would be to communicate to the faithful their obligation to oppose permissive abortion laws (and certainly not defend and champion them, like some of our Catholic lawmakers). On this point, we need more teaching on Pope John Paul II”s Evangelium Vitae, which leaves little doubt on the subject:

“Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that ”we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. ”They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: ”the midwives feared God” (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for ”the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10).

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ”take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”” (paragraph 73)

Third, bishops don”t agree on the application of canon 915, which calls for the withholding of Communion from notorious sinners. Some bishops have the intestinal fortitude of St. John Chrysostom, but others don”t. But many of those who won”t withhold Communion at least agree that the politician, judge, or celebrity who takes sides against the Church on key moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage shouldn”t receive Communion. They just don”t want to be in the position of withholding it. But that”s still an important point: Couldn”t the bishops collectively and forcefully say that those who advocate for “rights” such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, etc. should not receive Holy Communion until they”re reconciled with the Church? Then when people like VP Biden go up and receive Communion, the faithful know that this is something he really shouldn”t be doing. 

I offer these three points not to try to tilt an election in favor of a given political party or to criticize anyone, but so that Catholics can really know the score. We”re told that it”s a serious sin to support a pro-abortion Catholic politician, that we need to have some other “proportionate reason” for it to be morally acceptable. Pope John Paul II as quoted above couldn”t have been more clear. Yet then the Church seems to wink at the very politicians whom we”re not supposed to support under pain of sin. It”s not right.

But even more, it”s a matter of salvation–not just for those who may be led astray by all the mixed messages with the heavy overlay of media spin, but even more for the Catholic public officials themselves, whose manifestly unworthy reception of Holy Communion only compounds their sin and spiritual blindness (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

I don”t know what the bishops actually will do, but I don”t think strong statements by some bishops neutralized by the indecisive silence of the national body (coupled with the obfuscating “Faithful Citizenship” document) is the best recipe. I think their emphasizing catechetical points of agreement that even the “non-Chrysostom-like” bishops can stomach may be the right incremental step to take at this time. 

18 Responses to “Communion for Abortion Advocates: Finding Common Ground”

  1. Zach says:

    Excellent suggestions, Leon. Number 3, especially, would be an excellent first step toward reaching that point at which all the bishops have the conviction that St. John Chrysostom expressed so perfectly in the selection you quoted.

    I would quibble a bit with your statement that "a coherent presentation of the Gospel has to emphasize grace, not sin." It seems to me that it has to emphasize both, for without the latter, there”s not much (or at least as much) need for the former.

  2. leon says:

    Thanks, Zach. In the second paragraph I was thinking about verses like "Where sin increased, grace abounds even more" from Romans 5. Obviously both are needed. I wanted to assure the unconvinced that I wasn”t proposing a harsh, one-sided presentation.

  3. petebrown says:

    Leon

    One of these days I”m coming out with a Catholic Thing piece basically arguing that the prolife movement has achieved all it can by emphasizing single issue voting and that its time to start working both sides of the aisle on matters on which there is common ground (i.e abortion funding). This is what effective lobbies like the NRA have done.

    Beyond that…I think we don”t want to confuse the issue of voting for candidates (which is done for lots of reasons and wherein judgments of proportionality have to be made by the voter) and what the candidates themselves do in office (where there are cut and dried moral issues i.e voting for or against abortion funding.)

    And with all respect, I don”t think its a matter of intestinal fortitude on the part of the USCCB but common sense. There”s alot of practical problems with the canon 915 argument as a means of dealing with wayward Catholic pols. Most even "pro-life" Catholic pols have morally ambiguous voting records esp. when you consider other life issues like stem cell research and refusal to ban IV fertilization or artificial insemination and support for any kind of funding for contraceptives or support for gay rights that goes beyond what the USCCB would tolerate. And that”s even ignoring 2nd or 3rd tier issues such as capital punishment. I just don”t think its workable to make a standard that”s based only on the abortion question. That would be arbitrary. And moreover unrealistic.

    One day when I get time, I”m going to evaluate just how "pro-life" even anti-abortion Catholic lawmakers are when you consider the gamut of reproductive issues. I think the results would be pretty sobering. If you were to apply 915 across the board you”d create a situation where most Catholic lawmakers would be forbidden from receiving communion. And that would look very silly.

    I think 30-40 years ago something like applying Canon 915 across the board might have worked. But not in the world we live in now.

  4. leon says:

    Pro-life leaders certainly need to employ pragmatic short-term strategies. How someone who is on board with the Church should advance the cause of the true, good, and beautiful is a separate question, and one that surely can result in a range of legitimate, pragmatic approaches.

    Catholics are flat out told that it”s immoral to vote for a pro-abortion candidate (let”s leave aside for now the "proportionate reasons" sidebar). I assume we”re supposed to take that seriously. Yet, the very person it”s sinful to support too often is a self-styled Catholic with the audacity to receive Communion in a very public context. So, while the politicians” responsibility and our responsibility are distinct issues, we can”t effectively deal with one without dealing with the other, imho.

    I didn”t really go into canon 915 in this piece. It is what it is. Men of the Church (the ones with chests, to move my analogy to a higher part of the body, a la C.S. Lewis) like Archbishop Burke have given the authentic interpretation. I understand the resistance, and it is a complicated scene, but if Church leaders don”t like the canon they should change it, not ignore it. As long as it”s part of canon law, I think pastors do a grave disservice in not applying it (analogous to immigration laws, I suppose).

    Lastly, abortion is an intrinsic evil which, as JPII set forth with great clarity in EV, has always been condemned by the Church. It”s an excommunicable offense, and it denies the most basic human right to the most vulnerable segment of our population. Surely a Catholic who publicly champions the cause of abortion has distanced himself or herself from the faith and their advocacy leads others astray, too. You know all that. It”s not about being "single issue," but it is about being focused.

    I think advocates of "gay marriage" and surely euthanasia would fall into the same boat (but surely not capital punishment supporters), but that”s getting beyond the scope of this post.

  5. Pete says:

    Brown – in attempting to evaluate Pro-life politicians on a number of secondary life issues, it sounds like you are moving dangerously close to the "seamless garment" approach a la Cardinal Bernardine. Btw, you forgot to include an important life issue (at least according to 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry) in your list: expanding cable tv to rural areas.

  6. petebrown says:

    Right…with regard to voting, in the abstract I would have preferred a stronger statement than Faithful Citizenship..on the other hand I asked myself what more concretely could the bishops have said short of actually forbidding the faithful from from voting for any pro-abortion candidates period–or forbidding the faithful from supporting particular candidates whose support for abortion was so vocal as to cause scandal. I couldn”t really come up with anything. Maybe you can. What would Bishop Suprenant do were he charged with drafting the tougher version of "faithful citizenship." Bishop Brown is out of ideas. I assume the USCCB does not want to get in the business of endorsing or opposing particular candidates, which seems to me practically speaking what a tougher version of faithful citizenship would mean. I haven”t seen the blanket statement by the Church that voting for pro-abortion candidates is immoral in all circumstances.

    I think the real problem is not only Catholic support of abortion. The real problem is the existence of a significant block of the Church (including many members of the clergy) who oppose abortion but refuse to base their vote solely on that issue. That”s not your or my prudential judgment but it is theirs. Maybe it”s just easier for me b/c I”m a pretty conservative person anyway! We can vent frustration about it but venting frustration is not going to change things.

    I think there are more people in this block than either of us is happy with. Heck, Bishop Chaput no less admitted voting for Carter and Mondale against Reagan–two elections where there was a clear pro-life//pro-choice alternative. He”s since changed his mind of course, but many others haven”t.

    What can be done about that??

  7. M. Forrest says:

    I think the enforcement of canon 915 as a remedy to the problems you outlined is logical course of action, Leon. I don”t find it particularly problematic or confusing in terms of practical application. While he obviously doesn”t intend it in this way (and I genuinely don”t mean to insult him), petebrown”s points – at least as they appear to me – remind me a bit of discussions I”ve had on abortion with those who refuse to draw lines in the sand. Some people focus heavily (or almost exclusively) on the "hard cases. The net effect is to make the moral law seem to be grey and confusing to the average person. And by making the real-world application of the moral law seem impractical, it”s ability to influence and form consciences is severely compromised.

    That”s why I bring people back to the fact that while there are certainly "harder" cases that might seem more confusing, that doesn”t change the fact that there are plenty of perfectly "easy and clear" cases. In the case of abortion, of course, the "easy and clear cases" (i.e. not rape, incest or life of the mother) account for about 94% of all abortions. So, let”s at least deal with the "easy and clear" cases.

    I think it makes sense to look at the "targeting" verbiage within the canon itself. How workable is it, really? IMO, the canon specifies pretty clearly who is in view and gives reasonable guidance for practical application.

    1) Those who have been "excommunicated"
    2) Those who have been "interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty."

    Clearly, with the possible exception of the issue of Latae Sententiae excommunication, these criteria are sufficiently clear.

    The last category are those who are "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin."

    While reasonable people may different somewhat as to who is being "obstinate", certainly there are those Catholics in public life who have been well informed about Catholic teaching – sometimes personally by their own bishop – but they nonetheless choose to directly oppose that teaching. As you noted, Leon, some of these people go so far as to actively take up the banner of the opposition. These are the sort of people to whom canon 915 should first be applied. They”re the "easy and clear" cases.

    As we have seen over the past 40 years in the Church, when the law is not enforced, people come to disrespect it. Now, many seem completely oblivious to it. IMO, the best way to turn that around is not unlike what my local police department does when people begin to ignore speed limits. They put up those automated radar guns that show you how fast you”re going as compared to the speed limit. Then, they start issuing warnings. And then, they follow through with speed traps and actual speeding tickets. Anyone caught speeding at that point has no justification for complaining.

    I think that”s basically what many of the bishops have been doing. Very few people can sincerely claim to be ignorant of the Church”s teaching on abortion. The Church has clearly and repeatedly stated that abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our day and it has done so for a very long time. It makes sense that this would be the issue in which the Church begins to actually draw real-life lines in the sand. It would strain credibility for a Catholic in this country to claim ignorance of that teaching now – especially with our bishops contacting such people personally to make absolutely sure that they understand. For the sake of the unborn children and for the sake of all the immortal souls who are in danger, it”s past time to draw that line, imo.

    However, on other issues like contraception and IVF, I think it would still be prudent for the Church to be a bit more patient before coming full out with 915 enforcement. Unfortunately, too many in the hierarchy have been either silent or apparently confused themselves. And so, it would make sense for the Church to spend more time dispelling any doubt and confusion about the teaching among the laity before issuing actual "speeding tickets".

    Just my $0.02

  8. leon says:

    Thanks for your comments, Michael. We”ll definitely have to reopen the Canon 915 issue soon.

    My idea of the "warning" for speeders would be to clearly lay the foundation: when one commits a grave sin, one should not present himself or herself for Communion until he or she is reconciled to the Church. Full-blown, public dissent from the Church on the issue of abortion (and surely there are plenty of other grave sins) requires reconciliation with the Church before going to Communion.

    My point is that if the USCCB can just go that far, and make it clear that they”re in agreement that (a) those in mortal sin should not receive Communion and (b) promoting abortion is very grave matter (without throwing in immigration, health care, capital punishment, which involve different criteria and would again obfuscate rather than clarify), then at least more of the dots would be connected for the general public even if canon 915 continues to be applied inconsistently from diocese to diocese.

    Pete, I really wasn”t getting into proportionate reasons, canon 915, or even Faithful Citizenship, as I know those topics by their nature are more controversial. Rather, I was looking at what catechetical points could be stressed so that Catholics may better understand these other issues. Somebody like Kerry gets denied Communion and even many Catholics don”t understand the underlying principles and so the default mechanism was whether they like Kerry or not. So I”m not being ambitious or going after those who pooh pooh the need for "proportionate reasons" for voting for pro-abortion candidates . . .

  9. M. Forrest says:

    Leon,

    You wrote, "My idea of the "warning" for speeders would be to clearly lay the foundation: when one commits a grave sin, one should not present himself or herself for Communion until he or she is reconciled to the Church. Full-blown, public dissent from the Church on the issue of abortion (and surely there are plenty of other grave sins) requires reconciliation with the Church before going to Communion. "

    I think Catholics have been given quite a lot of warning already, but I think you may be right that this is a logical, intermediate step, short of the full implementation of canon 915 – especially in light of obvious reluctance of many bishops to enforce it. And your course would certainly have a stronger catechetical "warning" effect than the status quo. Who knows, perhaps more bishops will eventually have had enough as some people inevitably continue to ignore such a teaching and choose draw a line in the sand.

    I hope at least some of our bishops take your idea and run with it.

  10. leon says:

    In one sense you”re right, Michael, but the fact that there has been inconsistency on the 915 issue (played up by the media, of course) has made the denial of Communion issue seem arbitrary or politically charged. If the bishops could as a body (I know that dozens have done this individually, but a joint statement would be huge) affirm that people who are in a state of serious sin should not go up to receive, this would change the point of emphasis to something where there”s more consensus. I realize that 915 often applies, but making that the focal point in the first instance only solidifies the divisions among bishops and faithful alike on the issue, often along political rather than religious lines.

  11. M. Forrest says:

    I don”t think we disagree on anything there. I”m basically giving a little more voice to some of the concerns you mentioned re: can 915 in a previous comment. One hopes that the bishops could at least take this step "together." That would be best. But if they can”t manage that, I hope that more individual bishops will step forward to exercise their full, autonomous pastoral authority over their flocks.

    I think some people today are shocked when they read what Vatican II actually had to say about that authority.

    Lumen Gentium, Vatican II:

    "Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishop’s decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.” #25

    “The bishops, as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Churches assigned to them…by the authority and sacred power which indeed they exercise exclusively for the spiritual development of their flock…This power, which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary and immediate…In virtue of this power bishops have a sacred right and a duty for the Lord of legislating for and of passing judgment on their subjects…

    The pastoral charge, that is, the permanent and daily care of their sheep, is entrusted to them fully…for they exercise the power which they possess in their own right and are called in the truest sense of the term prelates of the people whom they govern.” #27

  12. Pete says:

    Leon and Michael –

    What do you think is keeping the bishops, as a body, from actively proclaiming the truth on this topic?

    While I don”t believe it is a legitimate excuse, I think Petebrown is onto something in that the implications would be to point away from almost any democratic candidate in almost any election. From what I”ve read, I understand that a significant number of US bishops are lifelong Democrats. I also know that many parishes and RCIA programs are filled with pro-choice people, and it has been the practice of pastors to emphasize "conscience," in a distorted manner, with respect to the moral law. So, there is also a "sense" among the [perhaps un]faithful (NOT the [i]sensus fidelium[/i])that is is okay for Catholics to determine their own moral principles, even if they conflict with the faith that has been handed down.

    You both make good points in your emphasis of a progressive approach; however, the statements of bishops have very little impact unless they are actualized at the parish level. Regular Catholics will likely view the communion controversy as a personal war between the bishop and the politician – and the bishop is often be seen as a bully.

    The more I think about this, the more I see it as a systemic problem that requires a systemic solution. I can”t help but think back to Cardinal Ratzinger”s homily, just prior to the conclave, in which he suggested that the Church may need to become smaller.

  13. leon says:

    Hey Pete number 2,

    No doubt canon 915 (politicians) and "proportionate reasons" (everybody else) is something I will continue to emphasize so long as there is rampant confusion on these issues.

    But what is "the truth on this topic"? It”s the fact that to receive Communion, one must (a) be in visible communion with the Church (simply put, they must be Catholic), and (b) be in invisible communion with the Church (i.e., what we call the "state of grace"). If either of those two elements are missing, the person has compounded the problem by committing the grave sin of sacrilege, and if the person happens to be a public figure, there”s also an element of scandal. In order to avoid this problem, one must not go to Communion until (a) (RCIA?) or (b) (repentance and sacramental Confession) is cleaned up.

    Canonical penalties are necessary, but they”re secondary to people "getting" the above point.

    And because (b) poses a problem for a lot of people, we can say the Church is de facto much smaller, because a significant percentage of the faithful have separated themselves from communion with the Church. I suppose if we push the point, a number of those people would outright leave the Church so that it would be de jure smaller, but as painful as that would be it would be better than having the boatload of sacriligious Communions that are going on out there on a weekly basis.

    Of course the reason the bishops don”t want to take a stronger position nationally is based on the above factors you mention. And there”s some disagreement, I suppose to some extent legitimate, as to the most prudent discliplinary approach, so there is a lack of true consensus on the point. Really, disciplinary issues such as the enforcement of canon 915 are really up to the local Church. The reason why a statement from the national body would help on that (and why it”s not going to happen anytime soon) is because it would counter the misapplication of canon 915 in some dioceses. But the bishops don”t want to air their internal differences publicly, especially when most people and especially the media do not appreciate the underlying teaching and principles.

    And disciplining politicians has necessary political overtones, and as you note many bishops have Democratic sympathies (though election by election that number decreases, imho). Plus there”s the USCCB office itself, which has on staff people (e.g., the CCHD crew) who are in bed with the liberal Democratic establishment.

    So while that "beast" is still there, I just thought another more incremental remedy would be to focus on some teaching points so that the baseline understanding of all Catholics (and the culture at large) is increased. I think that would be "systemic" and would prepare a better soil for understanding any and all "Communion controversies" that no doubt will arise.

  14. petebrown says:

    To M Forrest….I”m really not straining to come up with "hard case" contingencies that justify perpetual inaction by the USCCB. I”m simply trying to explain to myself and others why I think the USCCB hasn”t done more besides the actions of individual bishops. And again I think the short answer is that its a big Church and a big country and there”s lots of individual cases to make judgments about individual pols and the sin of "supporting abortion" very hard to make uniformly. For instance everyone thinks of relatively "easy" cases like Pelosi, John Kerry, Biden or Sebelius. So I suppose that the US bishops agreeing together–each in his own diocese–to invoke canon 915, could name specific names of Catholics deemed to have persisted obstinately in the sin of supporting abortion.

    So on the "speeding ticket" analogy we start disciplining the worst offenders. Then what?? We wait and hope this has a chilling effect on other lesser known pro-abortion pols across the country?? But this is not what would happen. Many others both for sincere and cynical reasons would try to determine the precise criteria by which the fearsome four were banned from communion and try to pressure for their application to lesser known "speeders" as well as lesser "speeders".

    The Bishops would foresee this. To implement the new discipline fairly the USCCB would have to define carefully what the speed limit is and how it could be applied uniformly. And this would be harder than the hardliners realize. Let me throw a practical example at you. Silvestre Reyes is a congressman from TX 16….a heavily democratic border district encompassing El Paso. He”s Catholic and presents himself as pro-life..been in office since 96.

    Here”s his "prolife" record

    he supported the partial abortion ban, ban on transporting minors for abortion, the Hyde amendment, for conscience protections for nurses and pharmacists, to prevent the US govt. from discriminating against organizations that are opposed to abortion and for a human cloning ban. He supported Stupak.

    This is way better than Pelosi.

    on the other had he supported embryonic stem cell research, international family planning funding, emergency contraception at military bases and against a proposal that would have criminalized harming a fetus in the commission of a crime. He voted against banning abortions in military hospitals and for Obama care.

    His NARAL rating in 30 out of a 100 which is classified by them as "prolife" while NRLC call his record "mixed prolife." This is at best a pretty weak prolife member, we can agree. His record strongly suggests support for abortion restrictions but refusal to ban the procedure outright. When push comes to shove on the question of whether abortion should remain legal, he”s functionally pro-choice. He”s been in Congress since 96. Does this constitute perseverance in grave sin, assuming he”s been admonished by his bishop or that he”s aware of the Church
    s teaching?? This guy doesn”t show up on Sunday shows to try to challenge the USCCB like Pelosi but he”s not exactly a reliable member where prolifers are concerned. On the other hand this is a useful member as far as pro-lifers are concerned since votes of members like him have ensured support for things like tthe Hyde amemdment when Dems are in the majority. But would the USCCB really want to discipline such a member???

    The question is not academic. There”s about two-3 dozen Catholics like him in Congress give or take a few votes and hundreds if not thousands of Catholics in local offices across the country whose views are pretty well known in their communities? Most Democrats though I”m sure there are some Repubs as well.

    In fact coming up with uniform standards on this would be a disaster,so that, regardless of how fair the bishops tried to make it, it would seem arbitrary. Plus it would involve the USCCB in too much minutiae of weighing specific votes!!!
    I just read this "speeding" analogy as understood by M Forrest and I can”t help but think the practical aspects of this..namely how it would work and how far it would go have not been very carefully thought through.

  15. Jeff says:

    In discussions of Canon 915, it”s good to recall the 2000 document of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which exhorts parish priests to implement the canon in the context of remarriage outside the Church.

    A renewed attention to this document by parish priests could help create a climate in which a more nationwide implementation is conceivable.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20000706_declaration_en.html

  16. M. Forrest says:

    Petebrown,

    There are two primary reasons to enforce canon 915 in this context. First, people who persist in promoting manifest grave sin commit a mortal sin when they receive Holy Communion. Therefore, enforcing 915 is an act of mercy. Second, it most certainly send a message to sincerely confused Catholics who have gotten the impression that the Church doesn”t really consider abortion all that serious of an issue because even notoriously pro-abort pols can receive Holy Communion. This should play a role in positively influencing voting behavior.

    Of course, those citizens and pols who are "die hard" pro-abortionists aren”t likely to be reached, I agree. The "target", as always, must be those who can be influenced…and they *do exist* – I know this from considerable experience in the pro-life movement working along with the priests at Priests for Life.

    Regarding the impact on pro-abort pols, I disagree. Pols are no different that other people (well, for the most part!). On moral issues like this, I”ve found that there are always three groups in the Church: 1) Those who actively desire to know and follow what the Church teaches, the docile. These are for the most part already doing what they should be doing. 2) Those who don”t want to know what the Church teaches or don”t care when it conflicts with their personal agenda. And 3) Those Catholics who may be honestly confused, conflicted or who at least aren”t totally committed to the "good" or the "evil" so to speak for various reasons. These kinds of individuals most certainly can be and are influenced by strong disciplinary action, such as the enforcement of canon 915.

    Group 1 will only be further confirmed in their fidelity by something like witnessing the enforcement of canon law against egregious cases. Group 2 can only be helped by prayer. Group 3 is of most interest because they can be influenced in a positive direction.

    The reason for the "speeding ticket" is to give those in "group 2" a period of grace, so that they have an opportunity to come along in a gentle way. As a father, I use the same principle in my discipline. It”s unjust and more likely to engender rebellion when those in authority begin enforcement of the rules without first duly informing and warning those affected.

    Also, it”s important to remember that the USCCB is there in support of individual bishops. It has no real authority in an of itself over them. If seeking its approval for a consistent response to such cases (abortion/Communion) unduly hinders or undermines individual bishops from teaching and disciplining those under his pastoral care, then it should be ignored, imo. I don”t think that point has been reached, and I would like to see Leon”s approach given a try. But if that fails, then I would much rather see individual bishops correctly teaching and disciplining their flocks than see them all fall to a lowest common denominator of non-enforcement, no warning simply for the sake unity.

    IMO, the argument you”re making muddies the waters by getting into too many unnecessary "what ifs" and fine details, which in turn have the effect of rendering the law impotent. The law is there for the sake of the salvation of souls. It becomes ineffective and held in contempt when it is ignored and unenforced.

    God bless.

  17. M. Forrest says:

    Correction:

    "The reason for the ”speeding ticket” is to give those in ”group 2” a period of grace, so that they have an opportunity to come along in a gentle way."

    Should have been:

    "The reason for the ”speeding ticket” is to give those in ”groups 2/3” a period of grace, so that they have an opportunity to come along in a gentle way."

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