By Kathleen Gilbert

Bishop Joseph J. MartinoSCRANTON, Pennsylvania, February 27, 2009 ( – Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton issued yet another rebuke this week against “pro-life” Catholic Senator Bob Casey, who persisted in his decision to vote against restoring the abortion-reducing Mexico City Policy.  The bishop simultaneously reminded ministers in the Scranton diocese that public figures in a persistent and objective denial of the Church’s teaching on life must be denied Communion.

Bishop Martino had condemned Casey on February 5 for the vote, which permitted taxpayer funds to abortion providers overseas, saying that in so doing Casey “persist(s) formally in cooperating with the evil.”  Casey, who bills himself as pro-life, issued a statement suggesting that the Hyde amendment suffices by forbidding the direct funding of overseas abortion procedures – a notion the bishop firmly rejected.

“It is a matter of deep concern that your recent vote against the Mexico City Policy is continually misrepresented by your staff as a pro-life vote intended to promote ‘contraception and other family planning that avoid unintended pregnancies,’” said the Bishop in a an open letter to the senator dated February 26.

Martino pointed out that the Policy did not forbid funding for other family planning services, but ensured funds would not benefit major abortion organizations that work aggressively to promote abortion and tear down legal protections for the unborn. 

“Contrary to the claims of your staff, the absence of ‘Mexico City’ regulations insures (1) that money is taken away from family planning, (2) that abortion is promoted as a method of family planning, and (3) that countries that have moral and cultural objections to abortion are encouraged to abandon their policies against it,” he wrote.

Finally, Martino added: “it is never permissible to use immoral means such as artificial contraception to achieve a good end, namely, the reduction of unplanned pregnancies.

“In fact, the mistaken view that artificial contraception may be used to regulate population growth and the size of families has led to countless evils in America and abroad, including the attitude that having and raising children is a burden to be avoided. This attitude has contributed mightily to the acceptability of abortion as a means of contraception both at home and abroad.”

In closing, the bishop warned Casey: “It is also imperative that there be utter clarity when it comes to the teaching of the Church on matters that pertain to the taking of innocent life and the special responsibilities that fall to you, Senator, as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils.”

At the same time the letter was publsihed, Bishop Martino issued a detailed reminder to Eucharistic ministers that, when faced with a person’s “public and persistent actions in opposition to the moral law as taught by the Church,” Communion must be forbidden.

“The Holy See has declared that those who are unworthy to receive Holy Communion … include persons directly involved in lawmaking bodies,” wrote Martino.  “These have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.”   

The bishop quoted Joseph Ratzinger who, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2004 confirmed that “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, “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.” 

Ratzinger continued that this denial “is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy of Communion passing judgment 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.”

Therefore, Martino formally ordered all ministers of Holy Communion: “Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception.”

See related coverage:

Bishop Martino Warns “Pro-Life” Sen. Casey to Rescind Abortion Vote or Else be Complicit in “Hideous Evil”

Scranton Bishop Says He will Refuse Communion to Joseph Biden