Vatican Cardinal Arinze Says Pro-Abortion Politicians Must be Denied Holy Communion

VATICAN, April 23, 2004 ( - Today at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, presented a new Vatican document aimed at stemming abuses connected to the reception of Holy Communion entitled “Redemptionis Sacramentum.”

During the press conference Cardinal Arinze was asked about U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, who causes scandal by receiving Communion despite his pro-abortion stand. Asked if Kerry should be refused Communion, Arinze responded, “The norm of the church is clear.  The Catholic Church exists in the United States and there are bishops there. Let them interpret it.”  When pressed on such “unambigiously pro-abortion” Catholic politicians, Arinze said such a politician “is not fit” to receive communion.  “If they should not receive, then they should not be given,” he said.  The statement from the highest authority in the Catholic Church on the subject, next to the Pope, was a shock to many since many bishops have publicly backed away from refusing Communion to pro-abortion politicians.  In fact, the Catholic news service yesterday published the results of a survey of several European Bishops who opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians.

The survey reported that Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales, chairman of the bishops’ Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship said Bishops in Great Britain would “absolutely not” take the route of announcing a ban on Communion to politicians voting contrary to church teaching.  According to the report, Italian Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Narni and Amelia said that announcing that a politician cannot receive Communion “is a pastoral choice which I would not make. It does not make sense to me to use a sacrament to make a statement or judgment.”  And in a very confused statement Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, rector of the Krakow Theological Academy, said, “If politicians say they are personally against abortion, but don’t wish to impose their convictions on others, they are right.  However, if they declare themselves Catholic but disregard church rules by saying they favor abortion, the bishops are entitled to criticize and impose sanctions on them,” he said.  Canadian Bishop Fred Henry pointed out in 2001 the absurdity of such a position.  The Bishop compared the common political line, “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I cannot force my morality on others” to someone being “personally opposed to child abuse” but unwilling to defend abused children. “We do it (impose morality) all the time; it’s a matter of what morality we’re going to impose,” Henry said.

See the Reuters and Catholic News Service coverage:   See LifeSite’s page of Statements by religious leaders on Moral Obligations of Voters and Politicians

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