What does the Church teach about “Catholic” pro-abortion politicians?

In advance of the presidential election, the following is the third of three questions and answers regarding what the Catholic Church teaches about elections. See the first question here and the second here.

Regarding the “catholic” pro-abortion politicians and the reception of Holy Communion, the teaching of the Church must be situated in the broader context of the denial of Communion to those who persist in committing “a manifest grave sin”. The term “manifest” pertains to the scandal that that sin can cause in the rest of the faithful. Canon 915 of the Code of Canonical Law says:

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or the declaration of a penalty as well as others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Communion. [13].

eucharistLet us observe that a person must not necessarily be excommunicated to not be admitted to Communion. Suffice it that his sin is so grave and manifest, this is to say, of public knowledge, (Of course, any Catholic in mortal sin must not go to Communion. But here we refer to the specific case of politicians who call themselves “Catholics”, and, yet, approach the altar to receive Communion, causing a public scandal.)

Regarding this matter and based on canon 915, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in a letter addressed to the United States Bishops sent in 2004, expressed the following:

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.

“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. [14].

The pro-abortion “Catholic” politician (or Catholic public figure) cannot complain, under any pretext, about this prohibition for him to receive Communion, nor complain that the Church is calling him/her to desist from that position. One of those pretexts is to say that he “personally opposes to abortion”, but represents a sector of the population most of which are not Catholics, and to which he cannot impose “his own moral or religious values”.

That pretext or excuse is a blatant fallacy. It is precisely why he serves all of the population represented in his tenure, that the politician must defend life and be anti-abortion. The children who are to be born, be they Catholics or not, are also part of his constituents whose fundamental rights this politician is called to defend and uphold.

[13]. Code of Canon Law, canon no. 915
[14]. Memorandum sent by Cardinal Ratzinger, cited in note 11 above.

Adolfo Castañeda, S.T.L., is the director of education for Hispanic outreach for Human Life International and HLI's Hispanic outreach arm Vida Humana Internacional. He has a Masters in Theology from St. Vincent de Paul Regional (Major) Seminary, in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he studied as a lay student. He also has a Licence in Moral Theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome. From 1989 to 1993 he taught moral theology at St. Vincent’s. Since 1993, he has been working for Human Life International’s Hispanic Division, Miami-based, Vida Humana Internacional (VHI), as Director of Hispanic Education and Research. In that capacity Adolfo is the host of two weekly Spanish radio programs: one live though Mother Angelica’s World Catholic Radio and the other one pre-recorded through Radio Peace of the Archdiocese of Miami. He is the editor of VHI’s email newsletter, and of VHI’s printed newsletter. Adolfo is also the author of books, articles,and reports.
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Dr. Felipe E. Vizcarrondo attended Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia, PA. He completed a residency in Pediatrics at University Hospital, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus and subspecialty training in Pediatric Cardiology at University Hospital, Puerto Rico and Kings County Medical Center, New York University. An active duty US Air Force officer, he held the positions of Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Program Director, Pediatric Residency, and Chief of the Medical Staff at major medical centers of the Department of Defense and was on the faculty at the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Vizcarrondo was Affiliated Scholar, Georgetown University Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, DC. He is Associate Professor (voluntary), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and member of the UM Ethics Programs. He completed a Masters Degree in Bioethics and has written on a variety of issues ranging from freedom of conscience of healthcare workers to the doctor patient relationship.
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