Cardinal McCarrick and the Concealing of Rome's Position on Denying Communion
Oct 24, 2006
Whether intentional or not, the concealing of the Ratzinger document and the downplaying of seemingly clear statements from the Vatican has produced an atmosphere of controversy.
CORNWALL, October 24, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Faithful Catholics voiced their concerns over what they saw as outright deception. And from his remarks to the Canadian bishops, it seems Cardinal McCarrick is still smarting from the responses he received to this day.
The "Communion issue," Cardinal McCarrick told the Canadian bishops last Tuesday, "became ground zero in the struggle to identify 'the real Catholic Church' in the United States." A significant portion of his speech was devoted to the "attacks" bishops on either side of the debate received.
Without mentioning its name, Cardinal McCarrick singled out the largest Catholic pro-life group in the US, American Life League (ALL). "I was a target of some of this criticism. At first, it disturbed me when a full-page ad was taken out in a local newspaper attacking me," he said of an ALL ad campaign. He added: "A short time later, however, at the time of one of the USCCB general meetings, a full-page ad appeared attacking all of the Bishops of the United States for not uniformly denying Holy Communion. At that point I felt that I was in good company. Finally, the same groups publicly attacked me together with the then Cardinal Ratzinger, which made me even more convinced I was in good company!" (see the full address: http://www.cccb.ca/MediaReleases.htm?CD=542&ID=1881 )
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com ALL President Judie Brown responded to Cardinal McCarrick's allegations. "His spin is very interesting because none of our ads have attacked him or any other bishop," said Brown. "We simply asked them and continue to repeatedly ask them to enforce canon law 915. That isn't an attack, that's their job, and asking a bishop or a cardinal to do their job is not an attack." Speaking of the ad which included Cardinal Ratzinger, Brown explained, "The ad that put him in the 'company' of Cardinal Ratzinger, simply asked a question of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, which of these men is presenting the truth."
The document which the US Bishops task force headed by Cardinal McCarrick finally put out called Catholics in Political Life had some very good points and received praise from the pro-life community. (see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2004/jun/04062102.html ) The document also was acceptable to the Vatican and then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the US Bishops Conference to note that the document was "very much in harmony" with his general principles.
The USCCB document never contravened Ratzinger's insistence that obstinately pro-abortion politicians after being duly instructed and warned "must" be denied communion.
On the question of Holy Communion, the USCCB document stated: "The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times."
Of critical importance in that passage is the stipulation that actions are undertaken by bishops "in accord with the established canonical" principles. The Catholic Church in its code of canon law sets out in canon 915 that "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
Thus, with that stipulation in the USCCB document, it was "very much in harmony" with Cardinal Ratzinger's guidelines on 'Worthiness to Receive Communion'.
Cardinal McCarrick in his speech to the CCCB seems to have another interpretation.
"What was essential to me," he explained of the USCCB document, "was that whereas the Conference was clearly willing to respect the right of individual Bishops to make decisions in their areas, it also made clear - and the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger reinforced this - that a Bishop could not be accused of being unfaithful to his pastoral responsibility if he did not enforce a more restrictive policy."
In saying this, Cardinal McCarrick was referencing this specific line in the USCCB document: "Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action."
One interpretation of the USCCB document would see it as natural that Catholic bishops may legitimately take different judgements since they are dealing with different Catholic politicians. However, Cardinal McCarrick seems to suggest that bishops may take different actions dealing with the same cases, which would preclude criticizing a bishop who would opt not to deny communion even to the likes of John Kerry.
However, the latter interpretation is at odds with St. Louis Archbishop Burke who in an interview with Catholic writer Barbara Kralis was asked about that very question. Asked, "Does this mean that one Bishop can deny Senator John Kerry Holy Communion and another Bishop can give Kerry Communion and both Bishops are correct?," Archbishop Burke replied, "No, in fact, Canon 915 must be applied. It does not give an option. Canon 915 says that those persons who obstinately persist in grave manifest sin must be denied the Eucharist. I strongly believe that if a bishop has spoken to someone who obstinately persists in grave manifest sin and he still presents himself for Holy Communion, he should be refused."
Kralis persisted in questioning, "Can one bishop admit and another bishop not admit? Is this teaching clear? Is it not a contradiction of Canon 915, for one bishop to refuse John Kerry the Eucharist in one diocese and for another bishop to give John Kerry the Eucharist in another diocese?"
Burke answered, "Yes, it would be a source of confusion. I have refused to talk about individual candidates, but when a 'Catholic' pro-abortion politician knows the actions he has taken are gravely sinful in a public matter like supporting abortion, the only way to uphold church teaching is to withhold Holy Communion. It is not right for one 'minister of Holy Communion' to give the Eucharist and another not to." (see the full interview: http://www.catholic.org/printer_friendly.php?id=1210&sec... )
Despite the fact that he never mentioned it in his speech, much of the Canadian media reported that Cardinal McCarrick encouraged Bishops to deny communion to Canadian Catholic politicians who defy church teaching on vital issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. (see the press report: http://www.canada.com/topics/news/politics/story.html?id=758... )
The reason for the discrepancy comes thanks to Canadian Bishop Fred Henry, the fearless Bishop of Calgary in Alberta. Bishop Henry, who has stated publicly that he would deny communion even to the (former) Prime Minister because of his obstinate support for abortion and homosexual marriage, pressed Cardinal McCarrick on the issue during a question period following the Cardinal's address.
In a very pointed question, Bishop Henry asked "What do you do when you have politicians who refuse to the invitation to dialogue, and act rather contemptuously with regard to Catholic teaching?" It was at that point that Cardinal McCarrick, for the first time, publicly seemed to indicate Rome's constant direction on the matter.
"You have no choice in the matter. That person should not partake of communion. Sometimes you just have to do it," he replied, according to press reports.
However, there is some notable ambiguity in McCarrick's answer in that he still did not explicitly respond that communion must be denied. It could be taken that he was indicating that the person must be told that he should not receive communion which leaves it up to the individual, rather than the particular pastor, to determine the outcome of the situation.