Canon Law Prof Confronts DC Archbishop Wuerl on Refusal to Deny Communion to Pro-Abortion Politician

Fri May 8, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

DETROIT, Michigan, May 8, 2009 ( - American canon lawyer Edward Peters has challenged the reasoning behind Washington D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s recent assertion that he would not deny Communion to the heavily pro-abortion House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

In an interview with Politics Daily published Wednesday, Archbishop Wuerl said he would not deny Pelosi Communion, which was equated with using the sacrament as a "weapon", and maintained that "there’s a question about whether this canon [915] was ever intended to be used’’ in such a manner. 

"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.

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."

Commenting on Wuerl’s position in his blog "In the Light of the Law," Peters, a professor of canon law at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit,  said he thought the archbishop’s claims were based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of canon law.

"No canon in the Code was written with the intention of bringing politicians to heel. That’s a disingenuous way to frame this issue," wrote Peters. 

As canon law is "designed to advance the salvific mission of the Church", said Peters: "To hold, therefore, that any canon is intended to bring a particular secular grouping of people ‘to heel’ is to misunderstand what canon law is for."

"The mistake is compounded," he said, "when one goes on to use that mischaracterization of canon law to avoid the correct application of canon law.

"If Wuerl wants to argue that Pelosi has not acted in a way as to make herself liable to consequences under Canon 915, he’s free to make his case. (I think he’d lose that argument, but he’s free to make it.)

"But he cannot gratuitously assert that Canon 915 was never ‘intended’ to apply to the Pelosis of this world and leave the matter thus," Peters affirmed.  "Canon 915 unquestionably applies to all Roman Catholics regardless of their civil status or secular profession."

In lieu of Speaker Pelosi ceasing her abortion advocacy or voluntarily refraining from Communion, Peters said, "I see no choice for Abp. Wuerl but to order enforcement of Canon 915 against her."

However, the canon lawyer noted: "nothing gives the forces of darkness greater pleasure than to see those committed following Christ at serious odds with one another.

"Such disputes must, in a fallen world, arise, but we should strive to resolve them correctly as quickly as possible and, once settled, to go on more united than ever toward the next struggle," wrote Peters.

See previous coverage:

Archbishop Wuerl Refuses to Deny Communion to Pro-Abortion Speaker Pelosi

Keep this news available to you and millions more

Your gift will spread truth, defeat lies, and save lives

Share this article