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Catholics and Political Responsibility
Created May 8, 2004 --
Updated June 27, 2012

Vatican Statements & Canon Law - Documents - Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum

US Bishops' Conference Statements

Diocesan Bishops' Statements

Selected articles, commentary

Bishop Statements on President Barack Obama and Notre Dame, May, 2009

Catholics & Religious Liberty

"To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom..." [Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 20]

In 2008, a presidential election year in the United States, an issue that surfaced early is the responsibility of Catholic politicians, Catholic voters, and bishops to support Church teaching.

This is hardly a new issue. It gained heightened attention in 2004, the last US presidential election year, when the Democratic party’s candidate for president was a practicing Catholic who had a "perfect" pro-abortion voting record as senator from Massachusetts.

In this election year the abortion issue is at least as significant as in the past. During the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States in April, 2008, the issue received much publicity when several high-profile “pro-choice” Catholic politicians — governors, congressmen, etc. —  were televised receiving Holy Communion at Papal Masses. This fundamental moral issue came into even sharper focus because the candidate for vice-president of the Democratic party is a Catholic senator from Delaware who is prominently “pro-choice”, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a “pro-choice” Democratic Catholic senator from California. Both have made highly public and misleading statements about Church teaching on abortion. (The Republican candidates for president and vice-president are firm on the life issues, though neither is Catholic.)

The dispute is not over what Catholic moral teaching on life-issues are — that all human life is sacred, that the right to life is fundamental to all other human rights, and that abortion, the deliberate killing of unborn children, the most vulnerable human beings, is an abominable evil.

Rather, the conflict is centered on the obligation of every Catholic not only to recognize what the Church teaches, but to actively preserve, protect and defend fundamental moral teachings, putting them into practice whenever possible.

Some Catholic politicians maintain that there is a "wall of separation" between Church and State, and that a person's beliefs are merely private matters of "conscience" that do not (and should not) affect legislators' decisions — not even on key moral issues.

One manifestation of the basic moral conflict is whether Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion may be admitted to Communion. This has become a matter of controversy, even among some prominent Catholic leaders, not excluding some bishops.

In this section, we have compiled important resources, including quotes from key Church documents, statements from individual US bishops, and other helpful links.

Our aim is to provide an informative aid for Catholics in discerning the issues involved, and in forming a basis for decisions to support candidates for office who work for legislation consistent with fundamental moral law consistent with Catholic teaching.

The items appear in chronological order, beginning with the earliest.  (An archive of past statements of bishops is also accessible.)

Helen Hull Hitchcock, WFF director

(Note: Where available, links are given to the complete documents that are quoted here, either on this site, or elsewhere.)


Vatican Documents, Statements

Deus Caritas Est On Politics and Justice

28. a) …Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God -- an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically. …

29 … The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation “in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.” [21] The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility. …


In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, dated February 22, 2007, Pope Benedict reaffirmed the “grave responsibility” of Catholic politicians and legislators, to concistently uphold Catholic moral teachings.

Eucharistic consistency
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (231). There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them (232). (Emhasis added.) 

Deus Caritas Est, Encyclical, December 25, 2005 -- Paragraphs on Justice and Charity.

Code of Canon Law - 1983

Recent press coverage of the problem of Catholic politicians who advocate abortion "rights" sometimes mention Church law. Some reporters have confused excommunication with not receiving Holy Communion at Mass. They are not the same. Excommunication is the exclusion from all Sacraments of the Church, whether this is incurred automatically or by formal juridical action. (Excommunication can be lifted by a formal process.) However, not receiving Holy Communion at Mass -- whether voluntary or imposed by a bishop as a disciplinary penalty -- is not "excommunication".

From The Code of Canon Law, Book IV, Part I, The Sacraments, Title III, The Most Holy Eucharist, Chapter I, The Eucharistic Celebration, Article 2, Participation in the Most Holy Eucharist (Canons 912-923).

C. 915. Those who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

C. 916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.

Abortion, like homicide, is a crime that incurs automatic excommunication, which does not require formal action by the Church. (Bk VI; Pt II - Penalties for Specific Offenses: Canons 1364-1399 - Title VI Offense Against Human Life and Freedom.)

C. 1398. A person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.


Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life

In this encyclical, dated March 25, 1995, Pope John Paul II gives a "pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!" This affirmation of the Gospel of Life, which is part of and inseparable from the entire Gospel of Christ, is fundamental to the Church's mission to the world, and part of the necessary witness of every Christian -- especially in our present culture where the very meaning and value of human life is under grave threat: "Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!" (EV 5)

The encyclical consists of four chapters, and begins by outlining the present grave situation where assaults against human life lead the pope to characterize society today as a "culture of death". Selections below are particularly relevant to the issue of obligations of Catholic politicians and voters to uphold the moral law. (Click title above for complete version on this site.)

Selected quotes on freedom, democracy and political action:
19 ... Freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.

20. This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another.... In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.

This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people -- even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism.... The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: "How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?" When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin". (Jn 8:34)

Further on, the Pope addresses squarely the grave moral consequences of cooperation in abortion and euthanasia

73. 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). ... 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".

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations - particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation - there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

74. The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions, which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive, can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.
(Emphasis added.)


Synod of Bishops, Paragraph 72 from Instrumentum Laboris, July 7, 2005.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life

Issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 24, 2002, the Solemnity of Christ the King, and expressly approved by Pope John Paul II, this is the most recent and concise statement on the subject from the Church's highest authority.

The Doctrinal Note summarizes Church teaching on issues of freedom of conscience, pluralism and political activity. It stresses that "that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

It states emphatically, "John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a "grave and clear obligation to oppose" any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."

The Doctrinal Note refers to existing Church teaching documents, notably the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium et spes, and Pope John Paul II's encyclical, Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life (March 25, 1995).
(Links are to documents on this web site.)


*posted 10/7/2005

SYNODUS EPISCOPORUM BULLETIN
[This Bulletin is only a working instrument for the press. Translations are not official.]
XI ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
October 2-23, 2005

English Edition -- #11 - October 7, 2005
Excerpt from the summaries of the interventions:

Summary quote from H. Em. Card. Alfonso LÓPEZ TRUJILLO, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (VATICAN CITY)

 "Can we allow access to Eucharistic communion to those who deny the human and Christian principles and values? The responsibility of the politicians and legislators is great. So called personal option cannot be separated from the socio-political duty. It is not a “private” problem, the acceptance of the Gospel, of the Magisterium and of right reasoning are needed! As for all, even for politicians and legislators the word of God holds true: “Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily... is eating and drinking his own condemnation” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

The Lord of the family and of life, of love, of the covenant that unites spouses is truly present in the Eucharist. God is the creator of human dignity. The question cannot be resolved in a circumstantial way, according to the various diverse attitudes in the different countries, because the Christian consciences and ecclesial communion would become vague and confused. All these problems need to be clarified and illuminated by the Word of God in the light of the Magisterium of the Church, in the splendor Veritatis. Politicians and legislators must know that, by proposing or defending projects for iniquitous laws, they have a serious responsibility for, and must find a remedy to the evil done and spread, to be allowed access to communion with the Lord who is the way, truth and life (cf. Jn 14:6)."

Complete Document: Eucharistic Coherence of Politicians and Legislators, Pontifical Council for the Family, Intervention of H.E. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo at the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, October 7, 2005


Pope John Paul II - Pastores Gregis - On the Bishop Servant of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World
Apostolic Exhortation October 16, 2003

71. ... Within his own Diocese each Bishop, with the help of qualified persons, is called to work for an integral proclamation of the ''Gospel of life''. When Christians try to humanize medicine and the care of the sick by showing personal concern and closeness to the suffering, they become for everyone a powerful image of Jesus Himself, the healer of bodies and souls. Among the instructions which He gave to His Apostles, the Lord included an exhortation to heal the sick (cf. Mt 10:8).290 The organization and promotion of adequate pastoral care for health-care workers should thus be a priority close to the heart of every Bishop.

In a special way, the Synod Fathers felt the need to give forceful expression to their concern for the promotion of an authentic ''culture of life'' in contemporary society: ''Perhaps what most upsets us as pastors is the contempt for human life, from conception to death, as well as the breakdown of the family. The Church's 'No' to abortion and euthanasia is a 'Yes' to life, a 'Yes' to the fundamental goodness of creation, a 'Yes' which can move every person in the depths of his conscience, a 'Yes' to the family, the most basic community of hope, which so pleases God that He calls it to become a domestic Church."
(emhasis added)


Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Redemptionis Sacramentum

On April 23, 2004 this Instruction on the Liturgy was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship (see related story on Diocesan Bishops section). Dated March 25, 2004, Redemptionis Sacramentum addresses abuses of the Liturgy in its 185 paragraphs. Three paragraphs in a section on "Disposition for Communion" referred to relevant existing laws and norms that apply to Catholic politicians, as to all Catholics. (Click title to go to complete Instruction on Adoremus web site.)

81. The Church's custom shows that it is necessary for each person to examine himself at depth, and that anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession, except for grave reason when the possibility of confession is lacking; in this case he will remember that he is bound by the obligation of making an act of perfect contrition, which includes the intention to confess as soon as possible". (Canon 915)

82. Moreover, "the Church has drawn up norms aimed at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which Communion may not be given". (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 42)

83. It is certainly best that all who are participating in the celebration of Holy Mass with the necessary dispositions should receive Communion. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that Christ's faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately. It pertains to the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse.


Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to US Bishops

After their "ad limina" visits in May and June, several bishops reported having conversations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the vexing problem of dissenting Catholic politicians. Some claimed that the CDF cautioned bishops against "politicizing" Communion with "sanctions" and "penalties".

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the CDF, wrote a memorandum for the American bishops, sent to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who heads the bishops' Task Force to implement the CDF's November 2002 Doctrinal Note on the matter. (See Cdl. McCarrick's remarks below.) The memorandum was intended to give guidance on the issue for the US bishops' June 15 deliberations. Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was not made public at the time, but Cardinal McCarrick, reported that the matter was left in the hands of the bishops.

On July 3, 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum was published by L'Espresso, an Italian news weekly, on its English-language web site, "www.chiesa.com", along with a story by editor Sandro Magister (http://www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=7055&eng=y)

Following is Cardinal Ratzinger's complete memorandum, written in English expressly for the bishops' conference of the United States, and which provides important context for the bishops' discussion and decisions.

-------------------------------------------

Cardinal Ratzinger's Memorandum
Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion - General Principles

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one's worthiness to do so, according to the Church's objective criteria, asking such questions as: "Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?" The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum ,nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] 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 propoganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individual's judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

5. 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.

6. 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" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment 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.

[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.] (Emphasis added)


EDITOR"S NOTE: For a useful explanation of "formal" and "remote material cooperation", see Archbishop John Myer's June 1990 Pastoral Statement on this site.

See below for Cardinal McCarrick's presentation of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to the bishops .


Update JULY 12, 2004 - The USCCB web site published Cardinal Ratzinger's July 9 letter to Cardinal McCarrick, in which the former prounounced the US bishops June statement "very much in harmony" with his memorandum. The publication of Cardinal Ratzinger's July 9 letter may have been intended to offset criticism, after the memorandum "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion" (above) was made public July 3, that Cardinal McCarrick had not fully presented its contents to the bishops at their June meeting. (News release on USCCB web site:http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2004/04-133.htm)

The text of Cardinal Ratzinger's July 9 letter follows:

Your Eminence:

With your letter of June 21, 2004, transmitted via fax, you kindly sent a copy of the Statement "Catholics in Political Life," approved by the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June meeting.

The Congregation is grateful for this courtesy. The statement is very much in harmony with the general principles "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion," sent as a fraternal service-to clarify the doctrine of the Church on this specific issue-in order to assist the American Bishops in their related discussion and determinations.

It is hoped that this dialogue can continue as the Task Force carries on its important work.

With fraternal regards and prayerful best wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger


Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of Region V

"While fully respecting the legitimate separation of Church and State in American life, such a catechesis must also make clear that for the faithful Christian there can be no separation between the faith which is to be believed and put into practice (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25) and a commitment to full and responsible participation in professional, political and cultural life."

Excerpt from the AD LIMINA Visit - Louisville, Mobile and New Orleans Provinces -- December 4, 2004, posted on the Adoremus website.


The Didache:

CHAPTER 2

2:1 But the second commandment of the teaching is this.

2:2 Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not corrupt youth; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use soothsaying; thou shalt not practise sorcery; thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born; thou shalt not covet the goods of thy neighbour.

# # #


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