By Hilary White

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2008 ( – At the same time as praise and gratitude pours into the office of New York’s Cardinal Egan from the pro-life community for his firm statements on the necessity of denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, all eyes are now turning to Washington’s Archbishop Donald Wuerl who remains evasive after Senator John Kerry and other prominently pro-abortion Catholic politicians were photographed receiving the Eucharist at the Pope’s Mass.

Wuerl has issued a statement saying, “How to respond to those in public office who support abortion legislation is open to various legitimate pastoral approaches.” This is in sharp contrast to a letter sent four years ago by then-Cardinal Ratzinger saying unequivocally that such public figures “must” be refused Holy Communion.

The New York archdiocese issued a statement saying that the former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani had agreed to refrain from reception of Communion at Mass “because of his well-known support of abortion” and Cardinal Egan said he will be seeking a meeting with Giuliani over the issue. The archdiocese informed that the issue was being brought forward publicly at this time “because it has become a public issue and a public question.”

But, Giuliani was far from the only notoriously pro-abortion politician who not only received Communion at the Papal Masses, but issued statements ahead of time saying they would do so. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Edward M. Kennedy all attended the Mass in Nationals Park in Washington at the personal invitation of Archbishop Wuerl, and were photographed receiving Holy Communion. Although the news was widespread, along with photos, no statement of correction has been forthcoming from the Washington archdiocese, even while Pope Benedict remained in the US.

Robert Novak, the political commentator and convert to Catholicism, wrote yesterday in the New York Post that the failure to address the situation with a public correction “reflected disobedience to Benedict by the archbishops of New York and Washington.” Now that the Cardinal Archbishop of New York has stepped up to the plate, others are wondering where Archbishop Wuerl’s response is.

But the question of why Archbishop Wuerl has not issued any statement is easy to answer, Novak says. “Wuerl is averse,” he said, “to colliding with powerful laymen”.

“He could have avoided any confrontation at Nationals Park by simply not inviting the pro-choice politicians to a mass where there was no room for the vast majority of Catholics who wanted to attend.”

In the past, Archbishop Wuerl has refused to address the issue of publicly pro-abortion politicians who continue to receive Communion on his episcopal doorstep. Today, in a statement quoted in the New York Times, Wuerl repeated his contradiction of the Pope, saying that there is no absolute ground for refusing Communion.

The statement claimed that Archbishop Wuerl had “consistently and persistently presented the Church’s clear teaching on the evil of abortion and the need for those in public office to recognize that the support of abortion is wrong.”

It then attempted to pass the responsibility on: “The decision concerning the refusal of holy communion to an individual can best be made by the bishop in the person’s home diocese with whom he or she presumably is in conversation.”

But such evasions are not holding water with Catholics who have watched the scandal for years. Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World News wrote in an editorial that Cardinal Egan’s statement “corrects the record and prevents the further dissemination of a very misleading and damaging perception about Catholic Church teaching and pastoral practice”.

Lawler writes, “It came a bit late, but the public statement by Cardinal Egan chastising Rudy Giuliani is a major step forward for Church leadership in the US. The follow-up question is unavoidable: Why hasn’t Archbishop Wuerl made a similar statement?”

The most prominent Catholic pro-life organization in the US, American Life League, has issued statements of gratitude to Cardinal Egan that even more firmly underscore the dereliction of duty in Washington.

Judie Brown, American Life League’s president, said, “Those who are in public life -claim to be Catholic- and support abortion are indeed persisting in a grave sin.”

“American Life League’s Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church has been asking American Bishops to enforce Canon 915 since our campaign began in 2003.  We are indeed gratified that Cardinal Egan has seen this as a priority as well.  Protecting Christ from sacrilege is an honor and we applaud Cardinal Egan for making this clear.”

To contact Archbishop Wuerl
 P.O. Box 29260
  Washington, DC 20017-0260
  Phone: 301-853-4500

Archdiocesan Director of Communications
  Susan Gibbs
[email protected]
  Phone: 301-853-4517

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