RATZINGER: Pro-Abort Politicians Should Be Denied Communion

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgy

ratzThe following is reported by journalist Sandro Magister to be the complete text of Cardinal Ratzinger’s recent memorandum that was confidentally circulated among U. S. bishops. Note the portions I have highlighted. The bracketed ellipses in #2 and the bracketed nota bene at the end are Ratzinger’s, not mine.

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles

by Joseph Ratzinger

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 individuals’s judgement 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 judgement 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 favour 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.]

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beng July 3, 2004 at 9:00 am

If most US Bishops (*cough* ex: +Mahoney, +Todd Brown *couch*) do not even try to obey what Pope say why would a mere head of CDF should be listened to?

Billy July 3, 2004 at 11:56 am

Finally some clarity! I especially appreciate the much needed clarity in point #3! I think sometimes they like to leave things intentionally ambiguous.
But why just distribute this to the Bishops instead of directly to the faithful as well? I guess it got published anyway, so I shouldn’t complain.
This is a very good document.
The only confusing part: “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour 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.”
Hey Jimmy you understand Vaticanese, what is “remote material cooperation”?
What qualifies as “proportionate reasons”?
Does that mean I can vote for a pro-abort I like on other issues if there are no pro-life candidates available? Does that mean I can vote for a semi-pro-lifer (i.e. except for rape) instead of a full pro-lifer (i.e. no exceptions) if the full pro-lifer has no chance of winning and the semi-pro-lifer has a chance of winning vs. a pro-abort?
What if it just that I prefer a pro-abort’s foreign policy or economic policy over a pro-lifer…is that a proportionate reason? Can I vote for the pro-abort in such a circumstance? I’m pretty sure that’s not what Ratzinger was getting at…but he has unfortunately left it a little bit ambiguous. There are a lot of people who will convince themselves that their “reason” for voting for a pro-abort over a pro-lifer are “proportionate”. (eg. the Bush = Hitler crowd).

David Ancell July 3, 2004 at 12:46 pm

I am grateful for Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter. However, I, too, wish that the good cardinal would clarify the proportionate reasons for voting for someone who happens to be a pro-abort. I am afraid that this would be used as a loophole by our bishops and laity. I suspect that he is talking primarily about a situation in which two candidates are pro-aborts or perhaps a situation in which one is a pro-abort and another is pro-euthanasia. I know that this letter wasn’t intended to be public, but now that it’s out I hope this point will be clarified before evildoers “interpret” it.

Billy July 3, 2004 at 2:31 pm

Oh no! I just surfed around the web and it appears the liberals are already jumping all over the last line. They’ve found their excuse to vote for the baby-killers.
And what the heck is up with this?!!!:
What a disaster. This makes me want to cry :_(

Andrew July 3, 2004 at 5:41 pm

Interesting article… though I doubt many U.S. bishops will heed the warning of Cardinal Ratzinger. :***(

Eric Giunta July 3, 2004 at 8:43 pm

Nice document and all, but as far as I’m oncerned, it’s just another blow of hot air. We can keep reading these documents, but until these teachings and policies are actually enforced with disciplinary punishments, nothing will change, and the faithful will continually be led astray by Modernism posing as Catholicism.
There’s a part of me that cannot wait for the current Vicar of Christ to pass to his reward, that we may finally get a Pope who has the guts to preach AND ENFORCE the truth of Christ within his own Church.
Another part of me worries about the Holy Father, though. He will have to give an account to God for his inactions, and the scandals resulting from them. Maybe he will find a sudden, dramatic way of redeeming himself before he dies (i.e. large-scale threats of excommunication, that are actually followed up). Then, and only then, would I consider him “John Paul the Great.”
Meanwhile, I can admire his talents as an actor, a theologian, a writer, and even a preacher of Truth. But as a pope he has failed miserably, and Catholics will undoubtedly see this pontificate, along with Paul VI’s, as one of the Church’s worst.
Then again, Celestine V was also a horrible Pope, and he’s now a canonized Saint! So anything’s possible . . .

A. Long July 4, 2004 at 5:43 pm

Take that Archbishop Pilarczyk (who’s unfortunately my Bishop).

herry July 5, 2004 at 9:56 am

Well, there is nothing wrong with denying communion to people who are in opposion to Church teachings. I just wish the Church gave a [EDIT] about torture too (and the death penalty).
It would be nice if Catholocism ACTUALLY decided that torture is a “real” sin and would deny communion to objectively pro-torture politicians and pro-torture pundits. Confused who fits this description? Then you haven’t been watching FOX news recently.
[NOTE: herry, watch your language–Jimmy Akin]

Rich Leonardi July 5, 2004 at 10:05 am

Name one “pro-torture” politician. Then provide proof to substantiate your charge.

Mike E. July 5, 2004 at 12:03 pm

Rich –
Herry isn’t going to do it. He can’t. And he doesn’t care.
Leftists care about one thing…POWER. And will do ANYTHING, say ANYTHING, believe ANYTHING to get it.
Herry is a weak-minded power worshipper…he HAS to believe that Bush is at least as bad as Kerry, probably worse, or the world he has created, where he is the center, crashes down.
Or at least that’s my take from the five lines he wrote above…

Billy July 5, 2004 at 1:32 pm

George W. Bush: “We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.”
“Our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment.”
“Our nation has been and will continue to be a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles.”

JohnH July 6, 2004 at 10:28 am

I can name a pro-torture politician: Saddam Hussein. I can name more.

Billy July 6, 2004 at 7:17 pm

On third thought, I think Cardinal Ratzinger got it pretty much exactly right.

Bill April 19, 2005 at 8:01 pm

It’s interesting to note that those who have divorced and remarried should also be denied the eucharist. I guess this makes sense since Christ himself spoke out against adultery committed in such a manner, but is probably hard for many Catholics to swallow. At least Cardinal Ratzinger is consistent and got it exactly right according to Jesus’ teachings.

Bible Geneva January 13, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Bible Geneva

The New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, Conferred diligently with t

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