Thursday, February 06, 2014

Canada’s Catholic Bishops Debated The Denial Of Holy Communion To Renegade Politicians

This is a FLASHBACK and an important reminder, for the record.

When did that debate take place? Back in October 2006.

U.S. Cardinal, Canadian Bishops Discuss Politicians, Communion

CORNWALL, Ontario (CNS) -- U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick told Canadian bishops that the subject of dissenting Catholic politicians receiving Communion was a "ground zero" issue for the church in America.

Cardinal McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington who led a task force examining Catholics in public life for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the politicians and Communion issue prior to the 2004 U.S. presidential election was the crux of a "struggle to identify the real Catholic Church in the United States."

"In a sense, I fear it diverted us from the fundamental concern for the life and dignity of the human person that are so central in the teaching of the Holy Fathers," he said. Instead, the debate devolved into charges that those who denied Communion were outside the practice of the church or that those who refused to deny Communion were "cowards or sycophants."

Cardinal McCarrick spoke to Canadian bishops Oct. 17 when they discussed Catholic politicians, church teaching and public life as part of their Oct. 16-20 annual plenary meeting in Cornwall.

"Some bishops were criticized for a failure of nerve or a failure to adhere to church teaching because they chose not to deny holy Communion," the cardinal said. "Others were accused of manipulating the sacrament for partisan purposes because they indicated they would deny holy Communion."

The U.S. bishops concluded that "you could not be accused of being less than Catholic if you did not deny Communion, nor should you be accused of being lacking in pastoral judgment if you did," he said.

In 2004, the U.S. bishops adopted the statement "Catholics in Public Life," developed by Cardinal McCarrick's task force. The statement urged the bishops to use courage in clearly laying out church teaching, but it also urged prudence regarding their own local circumstances and indicated they could "legitimately make different judgments" when it came to eucharistic discipline.

Cardinal McCarrick said the church has a threefold role with politicians: to "teach fearlessly," to "dialogue honestly" and to "act lovingly."

Honest dialogue is meant to keep the door open, he said, pointing out the need to work with politicians and other public officials rather than alienate them. For example, money is needed for Catholic hospitals, charities and education, he said.

"We are not just another constituent or community leader, we are their pastors and teachers," said Cardinal McCarrick. "Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation.

"These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls," he said.

The cardinal said dialogue has often helped Catholic politicians move to more centrist positions. For example, some who were initially in favor of partial birth abortion changed their minds, he said.

Canadian bishops raised concerns about party platforms and party discipline that enforce an anti-Catholic agenda.

Bishop Paul Marchand of Timmins, Ontario, pointed out that some Canadian parties will "kick out" politicians that do not support same-sex marriage.

Cardinal McCarrick said the Democratic Party has lost much of its traditional Catholic support because of its pro-abortion platform. He said Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee, was "terrible on the question of life."

Bishop James Wingle of St. Catharines, Ontario, said some people were perceived as doctrinaire even when providing reasonable arguments.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, Alberta, said that simply wearing a Roman collar makes a "barrier go up." He asked about how bishops should deal with Catholic politicians who openly show contempt for church teaching.

Cardinal McCarrick said that if, after dialogue, he had reached an impasse with a Catholic politician who continues to publicly defy church teaching, then that politician should not receive Communion.

"Sometimes you have to do it," he said, but first one must clearly, courageously and with love lay out the teaching.

Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall, Ontario, pointed out that not only are Catholic politicians dissenting from church teaching, but so is the Catholic electorate. The bishops may be standing up for church teaching but not representing what Catholics actually believe, and the politicians know that, he said.

Cardinal McCarrick said the church has lost control of the teaching instruments of society: Fewer children go to Catholic schools than used to; preachers such as the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen are gone. The Catholic teaching that had mass appeal is gone, the cardinal said. He said Catholics must develop ways to reach people through the media.

Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton, Alberta, said confrontations with politicians "going astray" over moral teaching might "scare away anyone who might want to be a Catholic politician."

He asked if there were ways of "celebrating the mission of the vocation of politician." They lead difficult lives, working very hard, spending lots of time away from home, he said, noting "they have massive pastoral needs."

"The political life is as tough as the life of a priest," said Bishop Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough, Ontario.

Cardinal McCarrick suggested regular meetings with politicians, Catholic Bible studies for legislators, prayer groups and similar activities to show politicians that "we are with them" and to let them know "we think it is an important way of life."



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