WASHINGTON, D.C., May 6, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. has stated that he would not deny Holy Communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most notoriously pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians in the U.S., because he says historically “the Church just didn’t use Communion” as a “weapon.”
In an interview published in a Politics Daily article today, Bishop Wuerl said he disagreed with refraining from giving communion to manifestly pro-abortion politicians, which was equated with “Communion wielded as a weapon.” “That’s the new way now to make your point,” said Wuerl.
“We never – the Church just didn’t use Communion this way. It wasn’t a part of the way we do things, and it wasn’t a way we convinced Catholic politicians to appropriate the faith and live it and apply it; the challenge has always been to convince people.’’ On the other hand, sanctioning Catholics tends to alienate them, he said.
Wuerl said he will make no effort to keep Speaker Pelosi from receiving Communion, saying first “there’s a question about whether this canon  was ever intended to be used’’ to correct Catholics in grave error.
Canon 915 states: “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.”
“I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon was never intended to be used this way,” said Wuerl.
Wuerl also said that he thought “we’ve been making progress” in conveying the pro-life message to the Democratic Party, but “There was just a setback with the distraction of Communion.”
(Read Archbishop Wuerl’s interview for Politics Daily)
Wuerl’s statements appear to contradict a 2004 statement by the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger titled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,” in which Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, stated: “Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation 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, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, 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.”
With quotations from a 2002 declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Ratzinger continues: “When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,’ 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’.”
“This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty,” Ratzinger wrote. “Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.”
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) in February, Archbishop Raymond Burke, the head of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, agreed with Ratzinger’s assertion that bishops have no choice but to withhold communion from manifestly pro-abortion politicians.
Burke told LSN: “I don’t understand the continual debate that goes on about it [denying communion to pro-abortion politicians]. There’s not a question that a Catholic who publicly, and after admonition, supports pro-abortion legislation is not to receive Holy Communion and is not to be given Holy Communion.”
“The Church’s law is very clear,” said Burke. “The person who persists publicly in grave sin is to be denied Holy Communion, and it [canon law] doesn’t say that the bishop shall decide this. It’s an absolute.”
Burke also called “nonsense” the idea that the Church’s law “makes the Communion rail a battleground,” and said the opposite was true: not enforcing Canon 915 frequently results in using Communion unto political advantage.”
Failing to enforce Canon 915, said Burke, means pro-abortion politicians – such as Sen. John Kerry, who published several photographs of himself receiving Communion from Papal representatives – are able to send a message to Catholic voters that they are in good standing with the Church despite supporting abortion, which the Church considers an intrinsic evil.
“What are they doing? They’re using the Eucharist as a political tool,” said Burke.
Congregation for Bishops
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect
Palazzo della Congregazioni,
Piazza Pio XII, 10
See related LifeSiteNews.com articles:
* Vatican Official: Bishops Have no Choice But to Refuse Communion to Pro-Abort Politicians
* Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles