Communion politics

What do bishops who propose refusing the Eucharist to prochoice politicians hope to accomplish? St. Louis Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has been the most vocal in resorting to this tactic, demanding that Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry not receive Communion in Missouri. In New Jersey three bishops recently issued public warnings, some veiled and some not, to that state’s prochoice Democratic governor, James McGreevey. In a May 5 pastoral letter, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers wrote that prochoice Catholic politicians have “abandoned the full Catholic faith” and thereby separated themselves from the church. “Every faithful Catholic must be not only ‘personally opposed’ to abortion, but also must live that opposition in his or her actions,” Myers wrote. “As voters, Catholics are under an obligation to avoid implicating themselves in abortion, which is one of the gravest injustices....That some Catholics, who claim to believe what the church believes, are willing to allow others to continue directly to kill the innocent is a grave scandal.”

It is not clear whether Myers contacted Governor McGreevey privately about these concerns, as good pastoral practice requires. In any event, McGreevey has graciously acceded to the bishops’ demands, saying he will no longer receive Communion, at least not in public settings. Nor is it clear, at least in Myers’s case, how broadly his condemnation of those who...

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