VATICAN, October 19, 2004 ( – News which broke yesterday about a Vatican consultant’s response to a question about canon law application to Catholic politicians who support abortion, has created a media uproar and contradictory statements about the Vatican’s involvement in the response. 

Father Basil Cole, a Washington-based Dominican priest was asked by the Vatican’s undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to respond to a query to the Congregation from California canon lawyer Mark Balestrieri.  Balestrieri has launched a church lawsuit against Kerry seeking to have him disciplined by Church authorities for his outspoken support for abortion.

Rev. Cole’s response indicated that Catholic politicians who advocate abortion are “automatically excommunicated”.  This pronouncement was understood by Balestrieri to indicate Vatican support for his lawsuit against Kerry.  However, with the Presidential contest in question, Vatican authorities, with unusual haste for an institution that is typically very slow to respond to even the gravest matters, today fended off any suggestion of involvement in Balestrieri’s lawsuit.

According to the U.S. Bishop Conference’s Catholic News Service, Father Augustine di Noia, undersecretary of the Vatican congregation said, “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had no contact with Mr. (Marc) Balestrieri.”  In comments to the Catholic News Service, Rev. di Noia added “His claim that the private letter he received from (Dominican) Father Basil Cole is a Vatican response is completely without merit.” ( )

Fr. Cole noted that he had labeled his response as “unofficial”.  “Neither Fr. di Noia nor I had any knowledge that he was going to ‘go after’ Kerry or any other Catholic figure for their public stance concerning the evil of abortion,” said Fr. Cole. ( )

Of note however, neither Fr. di Noia, nor Fr. Cole contested Balestrieri’s main assertion that Kerry is “automatically excommunicated” due to his public and persistent support for abortion.  In fact, in his original response, Fr. Cole notes that all Catholics who “publicly and obstinately support the civil right to abortion” while knowing the Church teaching against it, are “automatically excommunicated.”

In a De Fide press release issued today, Balestrieri responds to the latest controversy over his statements. He indicates that he very carefully confirmed all facts before making his public pronouncement and that Fr. Cole clearly indicated to him that “he had been ‘delegated’ by the Very Rev. Augustine di Noia, O.P. to respond to my queries.”

Balestrieri states that on Sept. 18, “At the end of a very good meeting, Fr. Cole confirmed the interpretation contained in the Press Release of 18 October 2004. The theologian said explicitly that I was free to publish the document ‘to the whole world if I wanted to.’”  Balestrieri further states that Fr. Cole “explicitly said to me that he was acting ‘under orders’ in writing the document, and as such, he said that he had to defer to the Congregation.”

Balestrieri also insists that he did in fact communicate directly with the Vatican about the planned public release of Fr. Cole’s response. He states “Last Monday, I called Fr. di Noia at his private residence in Rome, in order to achieve absolute clarity in the matter about the scope of permission of use, as I did not want to take the risk of using a response which could easily fall into the public domain against the wishes of the Vatican. Having finally made contact, which I was attempting to do for more than a month, prior to releasing the document, the Undersecretary and I spoke. Fr. di Noia stated explicitly to me that he had read the text, that he thought the response was ‘excellent and solid.’ When I explained to him that Fr. Cole deferred to the Congregation regarding how the document could be used, Fr. di Noia stated, ‘The reply was prepared by Fr. Cole. As such, he is free to publish the text if he so chooses.’ I called Fr. Cole, upon di Noia’s request, and informed him of the tenor of our conversation. Fr. Cole, upon hearing of the Undersecretary’s clarification, stated, ‘Well by all means use it, no restrictions whatsoever.’”

The De Fide founder concluded that he hoped that the public denial of the Vatican’s involvement with Fr. Cole’s text, “which was never in doubt”, would not cause certain individuals to risk “their salvation” by denying the “binding core conclusions of the Response”.

See Marc Balestrieri’s complete Oct. 19 De Fides press release “Response to Vatican’s Statement Denying Contact”

Fr. Cole’s complete response to Marc Balestrieri’s query

De Fides website

See related coverage:
Sen. John Kerry “Excommunicated,” According To Vatican Response

In divided Vatican opinion, Kerry appears to lead Bush



Commenting Guidelines
LifeSiteNews welcomes thoughtful, respectful comments that add useful information or insights. Demeaning, hostile or propagandistic comments, and streams not related to the storyline, will be removed.

LSN commenting is not for frequent personal blogging, on-going debates or theological or other disputes between commenters.

Multiple comments from one person under a story are discouraged (suggested maximum of three). Capitalized sentences or comments will be removed (Internet shouting).

LifeSiteNews gives priority to pro-life, pro-family commenters and reserves the right to edit or remove comments.

Comments under LifeSiteNews stories do not necessarily represent the views of LifeSiteNews.