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Bishop Joseph Strickland addresses the USCCB meeting Nov. 13, 2018. YouTube screen grab
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Bishop: Pro-abortion Andrew Cuomo excommunicated himself, should not receive Communion

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March 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic politicians such as New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo who support abortion have removed themselves from communion with the Catholic Church, Bishop Joseph Strickland said recently, and they should not present themselves to receive the Eucharist.

Excommunication is a formal declaration by the Church of something that’s already happened, the bishop of Tyler, Texas, said. It’s a technical term, Bishop Strickland explained, but the reality is Cuomo and others like him have expelled themselves.

They’re choosing to be out of communion

“Andrew Cuomo makes it clear that he doesn’t believe Catholic teaching and therefore he’s ex-communion. He’s out of communion,” Bishop Strickland said. “I think to make it clear, and thankfully some of the bishops in other places have taken steps to basically say that, that a politician or anyone who says, ‘I don’t agree with the Catholic Church on basic critical issues,’ they’re choosing to be out of communion.”

“That’s what the Protestant Reformation did 500 years ago,” he said. “People stepped away from agreeing with what the Church proclaims is divinely revealed truth.”

“When you do that, you’re out of communion,” continued Bishop Strickland, “and I think we need to be clear that people like Andrew Cuomo are not in communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore should not be receiving the Body of Christ.”

Catholics call it communion because it’s Christ himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity Whom they’re receiving, and none of us is worthy, the bishop said on a recent episode of the Love Will End Abortion radio program out of Rochester, New York, “but we are challenged to seek the most worthiness that we can to avoid sin and to live lives of virtue so that we’re as worthy as possible.”

Out of communion with the Church

Asked his thoughts about the confusion many Catholics feel over the fact that Cuomo has not been excommunicated for vigorously supporting New York’s radical abortion expansion in January, Strickland said he shares the frustration.

The bishop had posted a tweet later in the month saying the video showing New York State legislators cheering at the passage of the extreme abortion law was a “scene from Hell.”

Stepping away from the technical aspect of excommunication, the bishop said, “I think we need to just say that Andrew Cuomo and, sadly, too many other so-called Catholic politicians have stepped out of communion with the Church.”

I would hope every bishop agrees with what he said

Asked about the statement released in the last few weeks by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, explaining that Catholic politicians who vote for and persist in supporting intrinsically evil acts like abortion should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion, Strickland said he was pleased with the declaration.

Naumann issued the statement February 19 via the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website in response to New York’s Reproductive Health Act” and similar legislative efforts in other states.

“I made it clear that I fully support what he said,” added Strickland, “and I would hope every bishop agrees with what he said as chair of the Pro-Life Committee for the USCCB.”

We all have to wake up before it’s too late

One good thing about the whole episode with the New York legislature and other states following, he said, is that people are waking up to the reality of abortion.

“I think people are saying and giving more thought to what abortion really is,” said Strickland. “It’s amazing how the Lord works. Even in the midst of evil, His light and grace is always there, and thankfully, I think more people are waking up, but we all have to wake up before it’s too late.”

He went on to say ultrasound and other technologies would be instrumental in helping to end abortion, because they make it impossible to deny the humanity of preborn children.

A woman absolutely has a right to her body, the bishop said, but that child has a right to his body as well.

He believes that the Church and society have made a lot of progress in helping the woman who makes the right choice. Acknowledging that there are a lot of challenges that come with embracing life, he thinks fathers need to be brought into the picture more.

“That’s a lot of what’s broken in our world, is that there had to be a father there, even in the circumstances where in vitro is used,” said Strickland.

To deny that or ignore this reality is part of the whole problem, he said, because if men are not being responsible with the children they’ve helped bring into the world, then the entire responsibility is put on the women’s shoulders.

“I think that’s another way that we can promote the sanctity of life, is really calling men to step up and be responsible for the child that they’ve helped to conceive,” he added.

I’m getting out there as much as I can

The Texas bishop is hands-on when it comes to being present on the sidewalk outside abortion centers in his area, taking part in the current 40 Days for Life vigil locally. 

“We have one Planned Parenthood center here in Tyler, and we’ve been peacefully praying there with people from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Bishop Strickland. “We started Ash Wednesday, and we’re continuing. I’m getting out there as much as I can because I live just a few blocks from where they’re gathering, so I try to stop each day and pray a rosary with the people that are there.”

The noted and successful pro-life outreach is another effective way to battle abortion, he said.

“In that witness, in many ways it’s changing, converting one heart at a time,” the bishop said, “and we’ve already seen people that have had their eyes opened to some of the issues that are anti-life just by the prayerful, peaceful witness of the people involved in this 40 Days for Life.”

Sex has become everything except what God intended it to be

Ultimately, he continued, the hearts of the people of God must be changed to recognize that life is sacred.

“I think it has to go deeper than that into the issue of chastity and all the brokenness of sexuality in our world today, which is rampant and obviously in the life of the Church herself,” Strickland said. “Sex has become everything except what God intended it to be, and abortion is caught up in that. One of the reasons for abortion is that too many people are conceiving children without ever having a thought of marriage or any of God’s plan for how children should come into the world.”

We’ve come to a moment where we’ve got to be very clear

Things were different when he was ordained back in 1985, he remarked, with much more of a go-along-to-get-along kind of culture that did not encourage speaking boldly about what the Church teaches.

“But I think we’ve come to a moment in the life of the world, of human society, and of this nation, and of the Church in this nation, where we’ve got to be very clear,” the bishop said, “because the ambiguity that’s been in place for many decades, is we’re seeing, we’re reaping that whirlwind now of not really speaking clearly. That lack of clarity has prompted people to adopt a lifestyle that is diametrically opposed to what the Christian life calls us to.”

The rampant immorality of today makes the task before the Church’s bishops all the greater, he told the pro-life radio program.

“I think as bishops we have a greater responsibility than ever to speak the truth with love, with compassion, and seeking always Divine Mercy,” said Strickland, “but not letting it be diluted to simply being human mercy that kind of leaves out the issue of turning from sin, repenting, and following the light of Christ.” 

He sees pro-life efforts as part of the very foundation of evangelizing the world.

“I think we’ve got to go back to that foundation of the sanctity of life and listening to God’s plan for sexuality and for the procreation of children,” said Strickland, “for bringing a man and a woman together in that unitive aspect, that really brings them a glorious life, with all the challenges of marriage — but it’s God’s plan that they complete each other, that they truly live a complementarity that is beautiful.”

Catholics have got to “be” His Church more effectively, he said, and go back to the foundation and rebuild.

“So much of that has been lost,” Strickland said, “but I think we are full of hope. We have Christ with us; He promised that He would continue to be with His Church.”

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