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In a secret memo to American Catholic bishops, papal doctrinal advisor Cardinal John Ratzinger has firmly stated that pro-choice politicians are to be refused Communion, even at the altar rail if necessary. The strongly-worded instructions appear to be aimed at renegade Catholic John Kerry, who last weekend attempted to head off this controversy by claiming to believe that life begins at conception -- a stance that may hav worsened his position with the Church hierarchy:
The memo was sent to the US Catholic Bishops' conference last month. With formidable clarity and force, it states that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be warned by priests that they are not eligible for Communion. If the politician then "shows an obstinate persistence in grave sin", writes Cardinal Ratzinger, he or she should be turned away at the altar rail. Mr Kerry has consistently voted in favour of maintaining abortion rights during his 30-year senatorial career.
The tone and content of Cardinal Ratzinger's memo, which was leaked to an Italian magazine last week, leave little room for misunderstanding. Some passages appear to have been drafted specifically with Sen Kerry in mind.
"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia," writes the Cardinal, "when a person's formal co-operation 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, 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."
Pro-choice Catholic politicians have long presented a problem for the Catholic Church, which has always believed that since life begins at conception, abortions amount to murder. Such politicians have argued that Vatican II allow them to pursue their own consciences in following the doctrines of the church, but that is patently false. Vatican II does allow for more personal choice in following the traditions of the church, but doctrine is absolute. The Church presents its doctrine within its Catechism, and while some issues such as the death penalty are nuanced, opposition to abortion and its status as a mortal sin are crystal clear.
Finally, the Church has moved to make its position clear and to provide consequences to those who claim membership but campaign against its doctrine. For those who truly believe that life does not begin at conception, they need to decide whether Catholocism represents their faith and either leave, change their position, or simply stop participating in the Eucharist, which amounts to the former. Politicians who use Church membership to attract voters but fail to support Church doctrine are somewhat hypocritical.
However, in Kerry's case and where he stirred up the hornet's nest, he actually claims to believe in the doctrine but consistently acts to thwart it. That goes into apostasy and requires a strong response from the Vatican in order to make clear that such an approach is unacceptable. If the Church makes no effort to rein in public figures who trade on their Catholicism while openly campaigning against one of its core beliefs, it underscores the myth that Vatican II allows anyone to believe whatever they want and still partipate in the Eucharist, which will lead to the Church's irrelevance and destruction.
Ratzinger and the Pope have sent a message: you can be pro-choice, or you can participate in the Eucharist. You can no longer do both.Sphere It View blog reactions
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