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Catholic World News News Feature

Scranton's Bishop Martino orders priests: no Communion for public sinners February 27, 2009

Bishop Joseph Martino-- who has emerged during the past year as the American bishop most determined to call pro-abortion politicians to account-- has now issued an order that in his Scranton, Pennsylvania diocese, "Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception."

Bishop Martino's directive was conveyed by the diocesan chancellor, James Earley, in an official notice dated February 26. The crucial concluding portion of notice reads:

Therefore, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, reminds all ministers of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary, that:

1. To administer the Sacred Body and Blood of the Lord is a serious duty which they have received from the Church, and no one having accepted this responsibility has the right to ignore the Church’s law in this regard;

2. Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception.

The official notice does not mention any individual by name. However it is impossible to overlook the fact that on the same day, February 26, the Scranton diocese also posted an open letter from Bishop Martino of Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, in which the bishop-- for the second time-- reminded the Catholic lawmaker of his moral obligation "to oppose abortion and other clear evils." [See today's separate CWN headline storyon the bishop's letter.]

Earlier in the month, in a first rebuke to Senator Casey, Bishop Martino had warned that the senator's vote against an extension of the Mexico City policy-- which prohibited US taxpayer funding of abortion advocacy abroad-- was a violation of the legislator's moral obligation. “Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy,” the bishop wrote.

The February 26 notice from the Scranton diocese notes that the #915 of the Code of Canon Law instructs Eucharistic ministers not to administer the Blessed Sacrament to Catholics "who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin." [emphasis added] The official notice goes on to quote then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his 2004 message to the bishops of the United States:

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.

Thus Bishop Martino has clearly drawn the connection between public support for legal abortion and obstinate perserverance in grave sin, pointing toward the inevitable conclusion that a lawmaker who supports abortion must be barred from receiving the Eucharist.

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