Hilary White

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Irish bishops have not considered refusing Communion to pro-abortion politicians: cardinal

Hilary White
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DUBLIN, May 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an interview with the state broadcaster RTE Radio, Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish Catholic bishops’ conference has said that the Irish bishops have not considered barring politicians from receiving Communion who vote to legalize abortion.

On April 30th, the Irish coalition government introduced the “Protection of Life during Pregnancy” bill that proposes to allow direct abortion in Ireland for the first time in the country’s history.

The bill will allow doctors to act directly to end the life of the child in cases where the mother's life is threatened, including if she threatens suicide. Under the current law, it is possible for a doctor to induce early labor if it is medically warranted to save the mother’s life, but they are required to give equal consideration to the life of both mother and child. 

The bishops issued a statement saying that the bill will “make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland” and must be defeated.

“The bill as outlined represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law and is unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy,” the statement continued. The bishops also expressed a concern that the bill will attempt to force Catholic hospitals to participate in abortion.

While the statement urged Catholics to contact TDs to oppose the bill, Cardinal Brady assured politicians that there would likely be no consequences for them as Catholics if they support it with their votes, saying that among the bishops, “there would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist.” 

“I say that they have an obligation to oppose the laws that are attacking something so fundamental as the right to life and they would have to follow their own conscience.”

Asked again whether TDs voting for the bill ought to refrain from presenting themselves for Communion, Brady replied, “That is down the line at the moment, as far as we are concerned.”

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The reluctance of the contemporary episcopate throughout the world to enforce the prohibition against politicians supporting willful murder of unborn children has frustrated pro-life Catholics for many years. So prominent has the problem become of openly pro-abortion politicians and the inaction of their pastors that in 2004 then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the US bishops, through the intermediary of Washington’s Cardinal McCarrick, clarifying that they “must” refuse Communion to such “manifest grave sinners.” 

In his letter, on the ‘Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion’, Cardinal Ratzinger said that when a politician who continues to have “formal cooperation” with abortion “with obstinate persistence,” still presents himself to receive Communion after having received instruction from his pastor, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.” 

Fr. Raymond Blake, a popular UK clerical blogger, has responded to Brady’s comments, decrying the “the hypocrisy and kant of many ecclesiastics.” With a hierarchy unwilling to robustly defend their faith, Fr. Blake wrote, it is no wonder that people have turned away from the Church and naturally are starting to look to other sources, like the environmentalist or gay or feminist movements, for moral guidance. 

Fr. Blake expressed his frustration with this commonly held opinion of Catholic bishops against “politicizing the Eucharist,” saying, “Instead [Cardinal Brady] wishes to strip the Eucharist of any meaning of Communion, or morality and render it a meaningless ‘symbol’.” 

“What Brady seems to be suggesting is that there should be no connection with morality and belief,” Fr. Blake added. 

At the same time, the cardinal’s public reluctance over refusing Communion has not stopped the strongly pro-abortion Irish secular media from attempting to create a furore. The Irish Independent carried the headline the next day, “Cardinal keeps excommunication threat hanging over abortion TDs.” This was followed by Irish Central with the headline, “Cardinal Brady says threat to excommunicate politicians who vote in favor of abortion remains.” 

Brady is not alone in his position however. So far, only a handful of US bishops have said they would refuse Communion to pro-abortion Catholics, with most repeating the opinion that the Eucharist should not be “politicized.” In Britain and Europe, the issue is rarely addressed. 

At the time of Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 instruction, the US was in the midst of a divisive Presidential campaign that featured Senator John Kerry, running for the Democrat party, actively pursuing photo-ops and speaking engagements at Catholic venues while strongly supporting abortion and the goals of Planned Parenthood. However, US bishops meeting to discuss the problem formally were not given the full text of the cardinal's letter, and its full content was only revealed after it was published by LifeSiteNews.com

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