February 23, 2011 ( – Vatican legal consultant Edward Peters has made international headlines by saying that New York governor Andrew Cuomo should be denied holy communion because of his open and consistent support for legal abortion, and because he lives in an adulterous relationship with his girlfriend.

Asked by Cybercast News Service (CNS) about Cuomo’s position on abortion, Peters answered: “I would want experts on New York law and politics to verify a few facts here, but based on what is widely reported about the governor’s consistent support for abortionism in New York, I see no other way to interpret his abortion-related conduct except as sufficient to warrant withholding of holy Communion from him under Canon 915.”

Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states that “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The CNS interview follows a January 4 blog post by Peters calling Cuomo’s live-in arrangement with girlfriend Sandra Lee “public concubinage” which disqualifies him from receiving communion.  Peters added that “The fact that both Cuomo and Lee are divorced renders the concubinage adulterous on both sides as well.”

In an article based on an interview with Lee following Cuomo’s inauguration, the New York post reported that “Newly minted Gov. Cuomo spent the night in his parents’ old bedroom with First Girlfriend Sandra Lee and the power couple’s newest ‘baby’—a 2-month-old cockatoo so fragile he needed to sleep next to a heating lamp for warmth.”

“Yes. There is no dispute about this one, whatsoever,” Peters told CNS. “The governor, with complete freedom, is publicly acting in violation of a fundamental moral expectation of the Church. On these facts alone, his taking holy Communion is objectively sacrilegious and produces grave scandal within the faith community.”

“As long as he persists in such conduct, he should refrain from taking holy Communion in accord with Canon 916.  If he approaches for holy Communion, he should be denied the august sacrament in accord with Canon 915,” he added.

In addition to his pro-abortion position and public concubinage, Cuomo is an open advocate of homosexual “marriage,” which the Vatican says Catholics have the obligation to oppose.

In a speech given during the gubernatorial campaign in October of last year, Cuomo told homosexuals that “I don’t want to be the governor who just proposes marriage equality. I don’t want to be the governor who lobbies for marriage equality. I don’t want to be the governor who fights for marriage equality. I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York.”

“It is, of course, wrong for public officials to lend support to programs that damage the foundations of the very societies they govern,” Peters told CNS.

Cuomo receives Holy Communion at bishop’s Mass

The questions were provoked by Cuomo and Lee’s public reception of holy communion at a mass celebrated by Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard specifically for the purpose of commemorating the inaugural. During his homily, Bishop Hubbard said that the abortionist Governor Cuomo would “be deeply immersed in the work of evangelism by bringing about the transformation of our state and our society.”

In his January 4 post, Peters notes that “it is Albany Bp. Howard Hubbard’s responsibility to see to it that the common discipline of the Church is promoted and that all ecclesiastical laws are observed, exercising particular vigilance against abuse of the sacraments and the worship of God,” citing Canon 392 of the Code of Canon Law.

“Unfortunately, Hubbard’s rah-rah inaugurational homily before Cuomo and Lee, in which, without admonition for their objectively and publicly sinful status, the prelate seemed to have anointed the pair as his kind of evangelizers in government, and his complicity in the administration of Communion to Cuomo, amounts, in my opinion, to another dereliction of pastoral duty,” he added.

The Diocese of Albany has responded by saying that it is “unfair and imprudent to make a pastoral judgment about a particular situation without knowing all the facts,” and adding that “As a matter of pastoral practice we would not comment publicly on anything which should be addressed privately, regardless if the person is a public figure or a private citizen.”

Following the statement, Peters shot back on his blog that “I responded to reasonable questions that I received about public behavior, as known from public sources, about which public canon law, which is my area of expertise, has something to say for the welfare of the faith community.”

“I did so calmly, accurately, and with due respect for the persons involved, per Canon 212 § 3. I do not see how anyone could reasonably construe my comments as making improper ‘pastoral judgments’.”

Cuomo only responded by saying: “My religion is a private matter, and that is not something I discuss in the political arena.”

Holy communion and Catholic teaching

Although Peter’s statements have generated a stir internationally, they merely repeat the Church’s long-standing law regarding the reception of the sacraments, a point that has been reiterated in recent years by now-Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.

“I don’t understand the continual debate that goes on about it. There’s not a question that a Catholic who publicly, and after admonition, supports pro-abortion legislation is not to receive Holy Communion and is not to be given Holy Communion,” Burke told in a 2009 interview.

New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan remarked in February of last year that he would not permit Cuomo, who was then the state’s attorney general, to have a place of prominence in a Catholic ceremony.

“There’s a difference between everybody being welcome, and providing somebody who is dramatically, radically, publically at odds with the Church on a particularly given issue to have a place of prominence and to receive an award,” Dolan said.

Although Peters is not a representative of the Vatican, he is an official referendary (consultant) to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

Contact information for the Diocese of Albany:

Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany
Tel:  (518) 453-6611
Fax: (518) 453-6795
Email: [email protected]