BAKER, July 21, 2004 ( – Robert Vasa, the bishop of Baker Oregon, has given a lengthy interview to Catholic Online’s Barbara Kralis, in which he agreed with Cardinal Ratzinger who said that pro-abortion politicians must be refused communion. When asked, point blank if he would refuse John Kerry should he present himself for communion in the Baker City diocese, he said, “Absolutely.” Since the US bishops decided in their Denver meeting to throw the question back onto the individual bishops in their dioceses, the landscape of the US Catholic scene has become clearer. The decision has shone a light on the positions of individual bishops who have been unable to retreat behind the USCCB’s skirts.  Answering that he agreed with bishops Burke and Bruskewitz who have made some of the strongest statements thus far, Bishop Vasa said, “I literally could not give Holy Communion to a professed and actively committed pro-choice politician.”  The bishops however, had not been given the whole story at their Denver retreat according to Bishop Vasa. Cardinal McCarrick withheld the text of a definitive memorandum from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith not only from the public, but also from the bishops themselves. In that document Cardinal Ratzinger said that pro-abortion politicians, after appropriate warnings, “must” be refused communion. Bishop Vasa confirmed that the crucial instruction from Rome, which had been written expressly for the Denver meeting, was not given to the bishops.  Vasa said, “As I recall, Cardinal McCarrick made reference to some letter, but I did not see a copy of the letter at the meeting. I don’t know if the committee writing the ‘Statement,’ entitled ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ was given a copy of the letter.” However the Interim Report, presented to the bishops for their use in drafting the statement, suggested the opposite, warning against refusing anyone communion.  A recent letter from Cardinal Ratzinger verified his leaked memorandum was authentic and in fact Church Doctrine.  The letter also noted that the memo was “very much in harmony with the general principles” of his memorandum.  The Ratzinger letter did not however condone the misleading slant of the Interim Report which strongly favored never denying communion.  The Catholics in Political Life Statement, while it did leave the decision to deny communion up to local bishops, clarified that that must be done “in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles.”  Of note, Cannon 915 states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to communion.”  Kralis asked Bishop Vasa why McCarrick might have given conflicting information to the bishops. “Do the U.S. bishops now teach that it is correct for one Bishop to deny John Kerry the Eucharist while another Bishop, perhaps in a diocese just 10 miles away, mandates his ‘ministers of Holy Communion’ to give Kerry the Eucharist?”

Vasa replied, “I answer to the Holy See, I don’t answer to the USCCB. The June memorandum of Cardinal Ratzinger should have a greater impact on the decision of individual bishops in their own dioceses than the ‘Statement’ of the USCCB, which seems to give broader latitude to the judgment of the bishops.”

To contact Bishop Robert F. Vasa:  [email protected]

  Read the full text of the interview:

Read previous coverage:   ph/jhw


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