Patrick Craine

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Cameroon cardinal: Ministers are ‘bound not to’ give Communion to pro-abortion politicians

Patrick Craine
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ROME, April 28, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A cardinal from Cameroon told LifeSiteNews Sunday that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

“Abortion is a crime. Yes, a crime. It’s murder, really. So there’s no doubt about it,” Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews in an interview just outside the Vatican walls after the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. 

Asked how the Church should handle Catholic politicians who support evils such as abortion, the cardinal said, “Treat evil as evil.”

“If somebody’s in [mortal] sin, he should be denied Communion,” he said. 

Tumi rejected the notion that denying a politician Communion turns the Eucharist into a political weapon, as some U.S. cardinals have argued. 

“It’s not a weapon. You are free to come or not to come. If you do not fulfill the conditions, it is not the Church that refuses,” he explained. “It is the person himself who refuses by not fulfilling the conditions required to go to Communion.” 

He said if he knows the person is in mortal sin, and “if it is public,” then “I cannot do that in conscience.” 

“But if I do not know, and the person knows and goes to Communion, that’s his or her problem,” he said.

“If it is not public, I will not say anything,” he added. “But if it is public, no, I am bound not to [give them Communion].” 

Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

Though some bishops and cardinals have opposed the use of the canon, the Vatican has been clear in upholding it. In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-head of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter to the U.S. bishops exhorting them to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians after attempting to reach out to them. 

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

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.

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” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. 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.

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U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke has been the most prominent defender of canon 915. In an interview published exclusively in English last month by LifeSiteNews, Burke insisted denying Communion when required is not about punishment but charity.

“The priest’s refusal to give Holy Communion is a prime act of pastoral charity, helping the person in question to avoid sacrilege and safeguarding the other faithful from scandal,” he explained.

“The exclusion of those who persist in manifest and grave sin, after having been duly admonished, from receiving Holy Communion is not a question of a punishment but of a discipline which respects the objective state of a person in the Church,” he added.

As prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Burke is considered the Church’s highest-ranking canonist.

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