In October of last year veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister wrote of the new path that many believed the Church was embarking upon. Magister observed:
“In Italy, but not only there, it was the cardinal and Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini who represented this alternative orientation to John Paul II, to Benedict XVI…In the United States it was Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin who represented it…The followers and admirers of Martini and Bernardin today see in Francis the pope who is giving shape to their expectations of a comeback.” (Chiesa, 3 October, 2013)
In a homily this past June, Monsignor Henry Kriegel (pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania) referenced an evening spent dining with the well connected Catholic blogger Rocco Palma of Whispers in the Loggia. Regarding the impending episcopal appointment in Chicago, Msgr. Kriegel said at the time:
“…(Palma) told us who’s going to be the next archbishop of Chicago; a position which will be filled in September. And if he’s correct, it’s going to be the beginning of a whole new style of episcopal leadership in the American Catholic Church, away from these bombastic, confrontational, counter-cultural bishops to bishops who are much more conciliatory and overflowing, as Francis says, with mercy.
On Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation, recently installed Archbishop Blasé Cupich demonstrated that Chicago is indeed being introduced to a new style of episcopal leadership. This was nowhere more evident than the archbishop’s response to host Norah O’Donnell’s question regarding pro-abortion politicians and the reception of Communion:
O’DONNELL: So, when you say we cannot politicize the communion rail, you would give communion to politicians, for instance, who support abortion rights.
CUPICH: I would not use the Eucharist or as they call it the communion rail as the place to have those discussions or way in which people would be either excluded from the life of the church. The Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion. It’s also a time of forgiveness of sins. So my hope would be that that grace would be instrumental in bringing people to the truth.
In other words, those who persist in mortal sin and public scandal through their continued political support of abortion should still receive the Eucharist. This very topic has been thoroughly addressed by canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters when discussing the specific case of U.S. Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
“Canon 915, as I and others have explained many times, is not about impositions on individual conscience, it’s about public consequences for public behavior. It’s about taking people at their word and acknowledging the character of their actions. It’s about not pretending that people don’t really mean what they repeatedly say and what they repeatedly do.
“As a canon lawyer, my view is that Nancy Pelosi deserves to be deprived of holy Communion as the just consequence of her public actions; as her fellow Catholic, my view is that Nancy Pelosi deservesto be deprived of holy Communion to bring home to her and to the wider faith community the gravity of her conduct and the need to avoid such conduct altogether or, that failing, at least to repent of it. Quickly.”
This issue has also been addressed on numerous occasions by Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and the man who seemed to be the obvious choice for many to replace Cardinal Francis George in Chicago. As the Apostolic Signatura is the Vatican’s highest legal tribunal on matters of canon law, Cardinal Burke’s opinion of canon 915 cannot be ignored. As reported at EWTN News:
“There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins,”Cardinal Burke told the Irish newspaper Catholic Voice…once “a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion,” the cardinal added, “as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion.”
Cardinal Burke said that the local bishop and parish priests must ensure that Holy Communion is properly received to avoid “the grave sin of sacrilege” from those like Catholic politicians who receive Communion in spite of “grave moral evil.” The bishops and clergy must also prevent the “scandal” caused by this kind of reception because it “gives the impression that the Church’s teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is not firm.”
The cardinal said Catholic politicians have the duty to support all legislation that will “most reduce the evils which attack human life and the integrity of marriage.”
Cardinal Burke stressed that the Catholic Church’s rules on the need to receive communion worthily are based on Christians’ relationship with Jesus Christ.
Someone who persists in “manifest grave sin” should not receive Holy Communion “because of his love of our Lord and his sorrow for the grave sin which he is committing against our Lord and His Holy Church.”
Recognizing this “grave offense” against God will “most inspire a conversion of heart” in Catholic politicians who support abortion, the cardinal said. He cited St. Paul’s admonition in the First Letter to the Corinthians that those who receive communion unworthily “eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”
Let us hope and pray that Our Lord is not subjected to further sacrilege, and His Church to further scandal, by an outright refusal to enforce Canon 915 in Chicago. The Church loses credibility when she rightly advocates for protecting the unborn, but then gives Holy Communion to high profile, unrepentant, Catholic politicians who support the “right” to an abortion.
Archbishop Cupich, dialogue by all means with anyone who will meet with you in good faith, but please, first and foremost, protect Our Eucharistic Lord from profanation, and those in your flock from further scandal.
(Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/Pool/AP)
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.