OTTAWA, March 9, 2005 ( – With the same-sex ‘marriage’ issue coming to the fore in Canada and the United States, the issue of Catholic politicians receiving communion while supporting such measures is increasingly being seen as a scandal that needs to be addressed by church leaders. 

To clarify the issue, spoke with Ottawa-based canon lawyer Pete Vere, JCL. 

LSN: What is a priest to do in a parish where one of his parishioners is a politician who supports gay ‘marriage’? 

Vere: The parish priest has an obligation to correct Catholic politicians who support so-called same-sex marriage.  The first paragraph of canon 528 stipulates: “The parish priest has the obligation of ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish.  He is therefore to […] make every effort to bring the gospel message to those also who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith.” 

LSN: So Catholic politicians, if they wish to remain Catholic must abide by Church teaching on protecting marriage? 

Vere: Especially when it comes to an issue like marriage, this obligation towards the true faith binds the Catholic politician in his or her public life as well as private life.  Read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons”. This document clearly expresses where Catholic politicians ought to stand with regards to this issue.  With regards to the Church’s true teaching, Cardinal Ratzinger states: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts ‘close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved’.” 

LSN:  What about a Catholic politician who says they are personally opposed to gay ‘marriage’ but will support such legislation since he doesn’t want to force his religion on others? 

Vere:  That same document obliges every Catholic politician to withstand any legislation that would corrupt the natural definition of marriage.  “When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly,” the CDF document states, “the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” 

LSN: So then is a Catholic priest able to deny communion to a Catholic politician based on support for same-sex ‘marriage’? 

Vere: A politician who supports same-sex marriage acts in a manner that is scandalous to the faithful, harmful to society, and gravely immoral. In keeping with canon 223, “Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ’s faithful.” This includes the right to Holy Communion. For as canon 915 states: “Those […] who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Pete Vere, JCL is a canon lawyer and a social and religious commentator.  Along with his colleague Michael Trueman, he recently co-authored Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law (Servant Books/Saint Anthony Messenger Press).