Abortion, Bishops, Eucharist, and Politicians: A Question of Communion
34 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2004
Our primary purpose is to enable the general reader to better appreciate the nature of the controversy regarding abortion, politicians, and admission to the Eucharist, to provide scriptural, historical, and canon law context on the Church's solicitude for innocent human life, on the duty of bishops to instruct and protect their flocks, on the obligations of Catholic lay faithful in public life and particularly of those with political power, on the preparation for and proper attitude of those who present themselves for communion, and on the meaning of communion including the appropriate circumstances in which the Eucharistic sacrament may or should be withheld. We conclude that those bishops who determine in light of pastoral circumstances in their dioceses that the Eucharist should be withheld from a particular person or that political leaders with certain attitudes should be directed to voluntarily refrain from approaching the altar have acted comfortably within church tradition and ecclesial authority. At the same time, we acknowledge that other bishops may determine that withholding of this sacrament is not the appropriate pastoral or prudential response to different circumstances and people in their dioceses, instead being committed to other affirmative actions or expressions as better-suited to promote the Church's witness to life. Passive silence, in the face of contemptuous and public disregard by those exercising political power for Church teaching on the fundamental matter of innocent human life, is not a moral or pastoral option. First, each of us need once again to undertake, as we did at the time of our Confirmation, that rigorous examination of our own consciences toward the end of being drawn ever more deeply into full communion with the Church through Reconciliation as appropriate and then our due reception of the Body and Blood of Christ at the Lord's Supper. Second, the Church and its leaders in the United States must candidly acknowledge the painful truth that too many of those sitting in the pews, including those congregants who hold public office, have not been adequately catechized and have not developed a fully formed conscience on fundamental matters of human life. Third, by preaching from the pulpit, by counseling in the pastoral office, by building stronger relationships with public officials, by provocation through prophetic messages in the public arena, or, yes, by appropriate exercise of ecclesial discipline, the bishops need to more productively engage with those who exercise political power and influence in our society, lest another generation, of the born and the unborn, be lost.
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