Should Catholic bishops deny Communion to pro-choice politicians?


By ERASMUS

AS POPE FRANCIS tours the Gulf and parleys with leaders of the Muslim faith, he and his interlocutors are pronouncing lofty words about the need to regard humanity as a single family with a common destiny. But in some heartlands of Catholicism, bishops and other prominent figures are busy disagreeing about the boundaries of the Catholic community as defined in a much narrower sense. Some argue that politicians who support abortion rights should be excluded from Holy Communion, Christianity’s most sacred rite; others disagree with that punishment.

The subject is especially contested in Ireland and in parts of the United States with strong Catholic roots. American conservatives point to a memorandum penned in 2004 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, shortly before his elevation as Pope Benedict XVI, which said that if any Catholic politician was “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws,” that person’s priest should instruct the errant legislator about Catholic teaching and issue a warning that Holy Communion will not be granted until this “objective situation of sin” is brought to an end.

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