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November 23, 2008
Catholics, Politics and Holy Communion
As if the 2008 presidential campaign did not drag on long enough, the post election discussion continues to plague us. The sad part of this reality is that it is now affecting our faith life. Catholics are now hearing and reading reports that they should not be presenting themselves to receive communion if they voted for the Barack Obama. Many Catholics will shrug this “news” off as ridiculous but many will question their act of voting and second guess their original logic.
A very specific case in point refers to the controversy in South Carolina which has found its way into the Associated Press. The entire article can be found on line under the title of Facing South “Controversy over Catholic support for pro-choice Obama heats up in So. Carolina". This controversy has led many Catholics to understand that a Catholic Bishop has said that Catholics who voted for Obama should not receive communion. This report needs serious clarification.
The more exact story is that a parish priest in the diocese of So.Carolina sent a letter to his parishioners stating that “voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of the church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
In a statement released Friday, the present diocesan administrator, Monsignor Martin Laughlin said that the Church’s teaching on the evil of abortion “has been pulled into the partisan political arena”. He continues by stating, . . “let me state with clarity that the priest’s statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings.. . The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. . .In the formation of conscience the Word of god is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.
All of the above being said, as mature Catholics, we must understand that we have the responsibility to form our conscience in every possible manner. This includes reading Scripture, praying over difficult situations and seeking advice when necessary. We also must remember that morality is not a matter of convenience nor is it arbitrary.
A second factor to consider is that Catholics would indeed be complicit in evil if and only if they vote for a pro-choice candidate specifically because they are pro-choice. If that is the issue that dominates your view of the candidate and you are in full agreement with that issue, then yes, you are complicit and you are not in communion with the Church. Consequently you should consider staying away from Communion because you are not in full Communion. This issue would be even more serious if you are a public figure and everyone knows your views. Then, an element of scandal ensues. This is especially significant for Catholic politicians who make their views known through the media. Speaking to your spouse probably does not meet the criteria of public speaking or of public knowledge. Hopefully this clarifies the issue somewhat.
Lorette P. Nault