Kissling Dares Catholic Hierarchy to Excommunicate Her for Abortion Advocacy

Says claim that pro-abortion politicians have "excommunicated themselves," makes it easier for bishops to disclaim responsibility for taking action


By Hilary White

  WASHINGTON, May 23 ( - Abortion advocate Frances Kissling, recently retired head of Catholics for a Free Choice, is all but begging the US bishops to excommunicate her in a column this week while claiming that her “right” to support abortion is enshrined in Canon law.

  She declares, after decades of public repudiation of the basic tenets of Catholicism, that she cannot be excommunicated formally because Canon law itself is equivocal and open to interpretation. Kissling has made her fame by being the “Catholic” voice of abortion claiming for decades that it is possible to repudiate the sanctity of human life and remain a “good Catholic.”

“No one who could actually excommunicate me has ever done so.” Kissling taunts the hierarchy saying if she were excommunicated, “I could get a book contract, go on a speaking tour and have a couple years of celebrity.”

  But it is true that after 25 years of public advocacy for abortion and as the abortion movement’s favourite weapon to bash and ridicule Catholic teaching, Kissling remains, officially, in good standing as a Catholic and claims to receive Communion regularly.

  Kissling writes, “Every so often some Roman Catholic hierarch gets a bee in his beanie and makes noises about excommunicating some pro-choice policy maker. Ultra-orthodox Catholics are ecstatic, and even mainstream newspapers turn into tabloids rushing to report the imminence of something that never happens.”

  She remarks on the Pope’s concerns about the spread of abortion in Latin America and his recent comments to reporters that Mexican politicians who support abortion must be excommunicated, an opinion he expressed more forthrightly as Cardinal Ratzinger during the last US presidential election.

  Kissling, however, points out that with all the official expressions of concern for abortion, nothing happens to the makers of the liberalized laws. “The pope—and it seems most Catholic bishops—do not excommunicate; they equivocate.”

  Most frequently cited is the claim that pro-abortion politicians have “excommunicated themselves,” a claim, she points out, that makes it easier for bishops to disclaim responsibility for taking action.

  Kissling says, “In the absence of any willingness from the hierarchy to issue an actual, formal ‘bull of excommunication,’ which requires due process, warnings and canonical justification, conservative church leaders prefer ambiguity.”

  Indeed, bishops who are willing to say as much are a rarity. During the 2004 presidential election, while John Kerry was receiving accolades for his abortion advocacy, then-Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick, said simply that he was “not comfortable” with the idea of even refusing him Communion. His successor recently stated that he too would not be willing to refuse Communion even to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is as militant in her abortion support as Kissling.

  Kissling’s interpretation of the episcopal inaction is unique, however. She claims the reason is that Canon law allows Catholics to repudiate any or all of the teaching of the Church while continuing to consider themselves good Catholics.

  She says, “The fact that there were no firm canonical grounds for excommunication did not mean some overzealous bishop wouldn’t do the wrong thing.”

  After decades of militant abortion advocacy, Kissling points in detail to the sections in Canon law which, she claims allow her to continue opposing the Catholic Faith.

“Canon law 1323 sets out the exceptions for excommunication. If one is under 17, ignorant of the penalty for one’s deed, acts out of fear or coercion, or believes one’s action is moral, the penalty does not apply. Many canon lawyers have said that it is unlikely that any woman who has an abortion does not meet one of those exculpatory conditions. Even economic stress could be considered to be coercive.”

  Pro-life Catholics have pointed out numerous times, however, that while Church law may require her expulsion from the Catholic Church, such action depends upon the will of the men in charge and so far, for whatever reasons, none have been willing to follow through.

  Read related coverage:
  Ad Campaign Questions Cardinal McCarrick’s ‘Discomfort’ With Denying Communion to Pro-Abort Politicians

  Read Kissling’s column:

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