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DETROIT, Michgan, March 15, 2011 ( – Canon lawyer and Vatican legal consultant Edward Peters has countered one cardinal’s argument that publicly pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, made the comparison in an interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Tim Rutten published March 9.

Mahoney said that politicians shouldn’t be punished if they “aren’t able to act” on their Catholic principles and claimed, in Rutten’s words, that “canon law … puts the responsibility for worthy receipt of the sacrament on the person approaching the Communion rail rather than on the priest.”

“You know, throughout the Gospels, Jesus never appeals to punitive measures to change anyone’s life,” Mahoney told Rutten. “A person who runs for elective office is still a Catholic and obliged to bring his or her moral principles to public policy. But being an elected legislator is a different role with its own responsibilities, and if they aren’t able to act on those principles, the church can’t say, ‘You didn’t make it happen, so you’re guilty of something.’ We can’t do that.”

Posting on his In the Light of the Law blog Friday, Peters included comment on Mahoney’s statements in a broader response to those attacking his earlier assertion that section 915 of the Code of Canon Law clearly prohibits prominent public sinners, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, from receiving Communion. Cuomo is publicly pro-abortion and a divorcee living with his girlfriend.

Peters said that, in fact, by administering Communion to Judas, Jesus would have been “acting in anticipatory obedience to the 1983 Code” because the Communion prohibition applies only to public sinners, and not to those whose sins are still hidden, such as in the case of Judas’s betrayal.

“As important as the prevention of sacrilege is in the operation of Canon 915, it is not the only basis for the canon; rather, the prevention of scandal is also a key consideration, but scandal arises only from public behavior seriously at odds with Church teaching and order,” wrote Peters.

Peters’ comments had received widespread criticism, including from the Albany diocese where Cuomo is a parishioner. The diocese issued a statement calling it “unfair and imprudent to make a pastoral judgment about a particular situation without knowing all the facts.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter had also slammed Peters, saying that the problem is “not, as Peters suggests, with the canons,” but that Peters has “a misplaced understanding of the role of [his] legal craft in the life of the Church and society.”

In his latest post, Peters emphasized that while canon lawyers “have no more authority over the application of canon law in the Church than attorneys in a law firm,” they have “ready access to the detailed resources that are necessary to set out, accurately and clearly, exactly what the Church’s legal system says (if anything) about this topic or that” and thus should do so in order to help those in the Church charged with upholding the law.

Cuomo himself has declined to comment on the issue, saying only that, “I choose to keep my religion and my religious practices private.”