Blogs Mon May 13, 2013 - 9:24 am EST
Pope’s guidance to bishops on abortion has serious implications for Ireland’s Catholic politicians
Pope Francis has written to the Argentine Assembly of Bishops expressing the desire that they use the Aparecida document as their frame of reference for the government of the Church. As John-Henry Weston, editor-in-chief of LifeSite, puts it: "the [Aparacieda] document made a very clear statement regarding the consequences of supporting abortion - disallowing holy communion for anyone who facilitates an abortion, including politicians".
Pope Francis's thinking has serious implications for Ireland’s Catholic TDs (members of the Irish Parliament) and Ireland’s "Catholic" Taoiseach [prime minister] Enda Kenny, who has just introduced draft abortion legislation for Ireland - draft legislation which if enacted will be worse than the British Abortion Act.
Pope Francis's letter, of 25th March 2013, the solemnity of the Annunciation, was sent to the Argentine bishops and posted on their website. In the letter, Pope Francis writes that the Aparecida document is the “guideline we need for this point in history”.
This document opens with an address by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the general assembly of Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal conferences, in which he says the family is currently suffering a degree of adversity caused by:
“secularism and by ethical relativism, by movements of population internally and externally, by poverty, by social instability and by civil legislation opposed to marriage which, by supporting contraception and abortion, is threatening the future of peoples.”
The document also includes a message from the bishops to the people of Latin America and the Caribbean:
“Faithfulness to Jesus demands from us to fight against the evils that harm or destroy life, such as abortion ...We invite all the leaders of our nations to defend the truth and to watch over the inviolable and sacred right to life and dignity of the human person, from conception until natural death.”
Pro-lifers around the world are now drawing attention to the significance of this document and Pope Francis’s letter. The following sections of the Aparecida document are of particular significance to the pro-life movement:
436: We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility. Hence, in response to government laws and provisions that are unjust in the light of faith and reason, conscientious objection should be encouraged. We must adhere to “eucharistic coherence,” that is, be conscious that they cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.
467: Today we stand before new challenges that call us to be the voice of the voiceless. The child growing in its mother’s womb and people who are in their declining years are a claim for dignified life that cries out to heaven and that cannot but make us shudder. The liberalization and routinization of abortion practices are abominable crimes, just as are euthanasia, genetic and embryonic manipulation, unethical medical testing, capital punishment, and so many other ways of assaulting the dignity and life of the human being. If we want to maintain a solid and inviolable basis for human rights, we absolutely must recognize that human life must always be defended from the very moment of conception. Otherwise, the circumstances and conveniences of the powerful will always find excuses for abusing persons.
The paragraphs quoted above cite the 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.
Evangelium Vitae, an encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is also cited, which is very appropriate in light of the argument of Enda Kenny (the Irish Prime Minister) that he has a duty to legislate for abortion:
74: Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. 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.
Earlier this year, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, gave an interview with Irish newspaper Catholic Voice. In this interview Cardinal Burke stated:
“With regard to Canon 915, it states that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should not be admitted to receive Holy Communion. There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins and therefore once a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion, as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion.”
Similar comments were made by the former head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, by the late Cardinal Trujillo, in an address to the eleventh ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops meeting at the Vatican in 2007, saying:
Can we allow access to Eucharistic communion to those who deny human and Christian principles and values? The responsibility of politicians and legislators is great. A so-called personal option cannot be separated from the socio-political duty. This is not a “private” problem: acceptance of the Gospel, the Magisterium and right reasoning is needed!
As for everyone else, the Word of God holds true also for politicians and legislators: "Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily...is eating and drinking his own condemnation" (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Politicians and legislators must know that by proposing or defending projects for iniquitous laws, they have a serious responsibility and must find a remedy for the evil done and spread in order to be allowed access to communion with the Lord who is the way, truth and life (Cfr. John 14:6).
The Catholic teaching on abortion legislation and Catholic politicians is clear, as seen in the literature itself and the comments of the Catholic hierarchy together now with the wishes of Pope Francis in his letter to the Argentinian bishops. It is important that the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland present this teaching in a clear way to all people, especially to the TDs and to Enda Kenny.
This article is re-published with permission from the blog of John Smeaton, Director, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children,