By John-Henry Westen

  WASHINGTON, July 5, 2004 ( – In April, the Vatican’s leading prelate on the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, declared unequivocally that unambiguously pro-abortion politicians should be denied Holy Communion. Over the weekend it was revealed that Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the most important congregation in the Vatican, told U.S. bishops in a letter that pro-abortion politicians, who will not alter their stand or abstain from communion after being instructed by church leaders, “must” be refused communion.

  In April Cardinal Arinze said such a politician “is not fit” to receive Communion. “If they should not receive, then they should not be given,” he said. In the letter sent to Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 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.”

  He continued, “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’.”

  Cardinal McCarrick, who heads the U.S. Bishops task-force, looking into the issue of Catholics in political life, has recently, on two separate occasions, defended statements which seem to contradict or at least confuse what Vatican authorities have actually said on the issue of communion and Catholics who publicly support abortion. McCarrick who has acknowledged that he is personally “uncomfortable” with denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, reacted to Cardinal Arinze’s statements in April by suggesting that the Vatican Cardinal did not really mean what he said.

  Speaking with the National Catholic Reporter, McCarrick said of Cardinal Arinze, “I don’t think it was his eminence’s official opinion . . . The cardinal’s position . . . was that . . . the United States should figure out what they ought to do.” The odd contradiction caused some Catholic pro-life leaders to wonder, “since when did Cardinal McCarrick become Cardinal Arinze’s press spokesman?”

  With Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter now publicly available, Cardinal McCarrick is left defending a questionable interpretation of yet another high Vatican Cardinal.

  At the Denver meeting of U.S. Bishops on June 15 McCarrick commented on Ratzinger’s letter. While Cardinal Ratzinger makes it clear in his letter that pro-abortion politicians “must” be denied communion, Cardinal McCarrick made statements which led many Catholics to assume Rome was ambiguous upon denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. Speaking of Ratzinger’s letter, Cardinal McCarrick said, “the Cardinal recognizes that there are circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied.”

  Cardinal McCarrick added, “I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path. The Holy See has repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors.”

  See Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter:

  See Cardinal McCarrick’s June 15 statements on Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter:

  See coverage of Cardinal McCarrick commenting on Cardinal Arinze:


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