Cardinal McCarrick and America’s Bishops Do Not Follow Card. Ratzinger
Sept 14, 2004
America’s bishops have chosen not to follow Vatican guidelines over the distribution of Communion to pro-abortion politicians, it emerged this week.
(The Tablet, 10 July 2004) A leaked memorandum sent by the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to American bishops takes a significantly different line from the one adopted by the bishops meeting recently in Denver, Colorado.
“Catholics in Political Life”, a document agreed by 183 bishops with only six dissenters at last month’s meeting of the US bishops’ conference (USCCB), made clear that the decision to refuse Communion to politicians who consistently defy Catholic teaching in their voting records rested “with the individual bishop in accord with established canonical and pastoral principles”.
During the Denver meeting, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who heads a committee of bishops set up to look into the issue, read the confidential Ratzinger memorandum to fellow bishops. “It is up to us as bishops in the United States to discern and act on our responsibilities as teachers, pastors and leaders in our nation”, he told them. He said Cardinal Ratzinger “clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders whether to pursue this path” of denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians.
But Ratzinger’s memorandum, entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles”, appears to make no mention of this. Instead, he advises American bishops to speak privately with prominent Catholics who defy church teachings on key issues involving the sanctity of life, alert them to the gravity of their offences, and warn them that they should not receive Communion. If these warnings are not heeded, Ratzinger’s memorandum continues, “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”.
Sandro Magister, the veteran vaticanista who obtained the memorandum and published it in the Italian weekly, L’Espresso, described it as “what Ratzinger wanted, but didn’t get”.
On Tuesday, Cardinal McCarrick said that the leaked text of Ratzinger’s letter was “incomplete and partial” and did not reflect “the full message I received”.
The US bishops’ resistance to Rome shows their determination not to allow the question of Communion bars on politicians to become an issue in November’s presidential elections. The Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, is a practising Catholic who receives weekly Communion, but consistently votes against church teaching in favour of abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and same-sex unions.