By John-Henry Westen

ROME, May 9, 2007 ( – A reporter aboard the Alitalia plane chartered to transport the Pope to Brazil Wednesday asked Pope Benedict XVI if he supported the Mexican bishops in their warning to politicians who supported legalizing abortion that they would face excommunication. The Pope responded saying, “Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ.”

Referring to the Mexican bishops, Reuters reports the Pope added, “They did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church . . . which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment”.

Speaking of the vote on abortion in Mexico City, the Archbishop of Acapulco, Felipe Aguirre Franco, said of politicians who support the legalization of abortion: “They will get the penalty of excommunication. That is not revenge, it is just what happens in the case of serious sins.”

Continuing on the subject while en route to Brazil, the Pope said such pro-abortion politicians have “doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future”. He continued, “Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend lifeâEUR¦life is a gift, not a threat. The Church says life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift.”

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi later told reporters that the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated themselves by their actions.

The statements by the Pope have significance not only in Brazil but also in the United States and elsewhere where certain bishops have refused to follow the guidance of Rome in denying communion to pro-abortion politicians.

The most notable opposition in that vein came from the now-retired Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, who chaired a committee of bishops on the subject of how to deal with pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

McCarrick received direct guidance on the subject from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The letter indicated that persistently pro-abortion Catholic politicians, once they had been warned, “must” be denied Communion. Not only did McCarrick publicly refuse to follow Ratzinger’s directives himself, he concealed Ratzinger’s communication from even some of the Bishops who were on the committee.

The Ratzinger intervention was later leaked to the media in Rome and confirmed as authentic by Ratzinger’s then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

See related coverage:

See the Ratzinger letter to the US Bishops on “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion”

Cardinal McCarrick and the Concealing of Rome’s Position on Denying Communion