Michael Gaynor
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been defrocked
But Speaker Again Nancy Pelosi is still championing abortion and scandalously receiving Holy Communion
By Michael Gaynor
February 17, 2019

Had McCarrick been more comfortable with following canon law and not uncomfortable with enforcing it, he would not be disgraced and pro-abortion Catholic politicians like Pelosi would not have cover and sow confusion.

In "Why haven't Pelosi and Gillibrand been excommunicated?" (www.renewamerica.com/columns/gaynor/120218), I asked, "When will the Catholic bishops learn than tolerating...scandalous behavior only makes matters worse?"

History might be much better if the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had decided to refuse Holy Communion to unrepentant Catholic politicians in accordance with canon law.

Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) tried in 2004, but then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick blocked him by not sharing his letter with all the bishops of the United States.

As I wrote last year in "Would Cardinal McCarrick have followed canon law on distributing Holy Communion if he had not been a sexual abuser?" (www.renewamerica.com/columns/gaynor/180623):

"Sadly, Cardinal McCarrick has found an excuse for the sin of disregarding Canon 915 and knowingly giving Communion to pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicans: personal uncomfortableness.

"The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, left no room for each bishop to adopt his own policy on giving and refusing Communion in Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

'[I]n cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion" ....'

"This was reiterated in Cardinal Ratzinger's recent confidential memorandum to Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the 'General Principles' with respect to 'Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.'

"In that memorandum, delivered as guidance for the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, stated succinctly, emphatically and unambiguously as follows:

"1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one's worthiness to do so, according to the Church's objective criteria, asking such questions as: 'Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?' The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction 'Redemptionis Sacramentum,' nos. 81, 83).

"2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it' (no. 73). Christians have a 'grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it' (no. 74).

"3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

"4. Apart from an individuals's judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

"5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

"6. When 'these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,' and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, 'the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it' (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration 'Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics' [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

"Cardinal McCarrick apparently neglected to provide a copy of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to his fellow bishops during their meeting last month and instead told them that what to do about nominally Catholic pro-abortion politicians seeking Communion was a discretionary matter for them to handle as they thought best.

"Instead of providing copies for each bishop to consider with due care, Cardinal McCarrick told his fellow United States bishops, in emphatic terms, that 'Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path' of denying Communion. 'The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent,' Cardinal McCarrick said. The full text of Cardinal McCarrick's speech to the bishops is posted at the bishops' Web site, www.usccb.org.

"Cardinal McCarrick reported to the conference that their task force on politics believes 'the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail, but in the public square.' He warned of 'serious unintended consequences' in refusing Communion, including danger that faithful Catholic politicians who courageously stand for moral principles might be perceived as yielding to pressure from the Church hierarchy while 'weak leaders who bend to the political winds...are perceived as courageous resisters of episcopal authority.'

"The 'each bishop decides for his diocese' approach carried, with 183 of 189 voting in favor.

"However, it is surely questionable, if not highly doubtful, that the bishops' conference would have approved a policy of allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians, as though canon law depends upon geography or whim, if they had been aware of Cardinal Ratzinger's compelling conclusion that denial of Communion is obligatory 'regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.'

"The release of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to the media should prompt the United States bishops to reconsider their position as soon as possible instead of waiting for their next regularly scheduled meeting in November, AFTER the United States elections.

"Cardinal McCarrick commented, 'From what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger, and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received.'

"But the memorandum was released in full and is unambiguous and consistent with what both Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Arinze have said.

"Cardinal McCarrick and the rest of the clergy need to follow Christ and canon law, not to coddle the powerful nominally Catholic pro-abortion politicians.

"As Archbishop [now Cardinal] Raymond L. Burke put it in his statement on Catholic Politicians and Bishops made on June 17, 2004: 'Right reason...tells us that a bishop, if he truly cares for the flock, must admonish Catholic politicians "who choose to depart from church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life" regarding "the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin" (Living the Gospel of Life, No. 32).' In addition, 'if the Catholic politician does not recognize the lack of the proper disposition to receive Communion, then the church herself must refuse the sacrament, in order to safeguard the worthy reception of the sacrament and to prevent a serious scandal among the faithful.'

"Because, in the words of Archbishop Burke: 'For a bishop or any pastor to exclude someone from Communion is always a source of great sorrow....What would be profoundly more sorrowful would be the failure of a bishop to call a soul to conversion, the failure to protect the flock from scandal and the failure to safeguard the worthy reception of Communion.'"

Perhaps the defrocking of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, now notorious for using his clerical status to sexually abuses minors and adult seminarians, will inspire the Roman Catholic Church to refuse Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

On February 16, 2019, Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz of The New York Times reported on punishment imposed by Pope Francis as follows (www.nytimes.com/2019/02/16/us/mccarrick-defrocked-vatican.html):

"Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday.

"The move appears to be the first time any cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse – marking a critical moment in the Vatican's handling of a scandal that has gripped the church for nearly two decades. It is also the first time an American cardinal has been removed from the priesthood."

During those nearly two decades the Roman Catholic Church in the United States had failed to deal effectively with another scandal – politicians simultaneously professing to be faithful Catholics and championing a legal right to abort babies, notwithstanding the Catholic position that human life is sacred from conception to natural death.

The Times article continued:

"In a statement on Saturday, the Vatican said Mr. McCarrick had been dismissed after he was tried and found guilty of several crimes, including soliciting sex during confession and 'sins' with minors and with adults, 'with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.'

"While the Vatican has defrocked hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church's leaders have faced severe discipline. The decision to laicize, or defrock, Mr. McCarrick is 'almost revolutionary,' said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America."

It is distressing when doing the right thing is considered "almost revolutionary," but at least we can celebrate that the right thing finally was done and not even a "prince of the Church" can be comfortable with engaging in what seems to have been described as a sexual "abuse of power."

Will Pope Francis now be as bold in disciplining pro-abortion Catholic politicians for public scandal?

I wrote long ago that former and again Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should have been declared to have excommunicated herself.

In 2004, I wrote: "Despite authoritative Vatican opposition to the receipt of Holy Communion by persons professing to be both Catholics in a state of grace and abortion supporters, ardent pro-abortion 'Catholics' like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 'fully intend to receive communion, one way or another.' Ms. Pelosi said that receiving Holy Communion is 'very important' to her. That makes good sense politically, since a Catholic who presents herself or himself for Communion thereby represents that she or he is in a state of grace and being in a state of grace (or at least appearing to be) is still a political plus."

In "Illicit Reception: Holy Communion Must Be Denied To Senator Kerry and Other Unrepentant, Nominally Catholic Pro-Abortion Politicians Until They Repent" (www.catholicmediacoalition.org/illicit%20reception.htm), I explained:

"On April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, explained at a press conference in Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion 'Catholic' politicians should be denied Communion. Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: 'If they should not receive, then they should not be given.'

"But Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and many other priests in the United States have continued to give Communion to such persons. Cardinal McCarrick said that he has 'not gotten to the stage where I'm comfortable in denying the Eucharist.'

"Concerned that the priests of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States might actually follow the canon law that mandated them to prevent the sacrilegious receipt of Communion, 48 members of the House of Representatives who identify themselves as Catholic wrote to Cardinal McCarrick, ominously warning that refusing them Communion 'would be counter-productive and would bring great harm to the Church.'

"Moral authority is derived from upholding principle, even when principle is unpopular or upholding it is costly. It is diminished when principle is compromised, because it seems expedient to do so.

"The Catholic Church's moral authority suffered greatly because the problem of sexual abuse of altar boys by priests was handled as secretly as possible for decades instead of acknowledged and dealt with openly.

"Will the Catholic Church's moral authority suffer further because priests find it easier to give Communion to whomever asks for it rather than follow canon law and refuse persons 'who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin'?"

The answer is YES! and the Obama Administration's HHS mandate put an exclamation point on it.

If standing up for the Eucharist means turning away unrepentant Pelosi and her ilk from Holy Communion, then stand up, distributors of Holy Communion!

Capitulating sure hasn't work and you've run out of cheeks to turn.

Pelosi also has scandalously sowed confusion by preaching that she supports "same-sex marriage" because she's Catholic! See http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2012/05/11/pelosi-my-religion-compels-me-favor-gay-marriage.

A reporter asked Pelosi: "Many of the people that are opposed to gay marriage cite their religion as the reason why they're opposed. You're a Catholic that supports gay marriage. Do you believe that religion and the idea that you can support gay marriage can be separated? And how do you grapple with the idea that you support gay marriage as a Catholic?"

Pelosi responded: "My religion has, compels me – and I love it for it – to be against discrimination of any kind in our country, and I consider this a form of discrimination...."

The Catholic religion certainly does not accept "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage."

As Speaker again, Pelosi is riding high, but now thoroughly disgraced McCarrick will no longer be politically helpful to her.

On November 11, 2009, Catholic World News reported as follows (www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=4566): "On the eve of her decision to permit a vote on the pro-life Stupak amendment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telephoned Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Rome, according to the Associated Press."

Had McCarrick been more comfortable with following canon law and not uncomfortable with enforcing it, he would not be disgraced and pro-abortion Catholic politicians like Pelosi would not have cover and sow confusion.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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