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Colorado bishop's blunt remarks on duties of Catholic politicians, Catholic voters

Catholic World News - October 10, 2012

A Colorado bishop has stated that Catholic politicians who support legal abortion or same-sex marriage—and perhaps Catholic voters who support them--should not receive Communion.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs told the Colorado Springs Gazette that in accordance with the Code of Canon Law (#915), a Catholic public official “who publicly espouses positions that are contrary, not just to any teachings of the Church, but to serious moral teachings, should not receive Holy Communion until they recant those positions publicly.” Applying the same principle to individual Catholic voters would call for “a little bit more nuance,” the bishop said. But he concluded:

It would be very difficult for me to understand how, if there are two candidates quite far apart in their positions on these matters, I could vote for the one who consistently opposes these Church teachings, simply because he might be in favor of a few good things.

Asked whether his statements meant that Vice President Joseph Biden should not receive Communion when visiting his diocese, Bishop Sheridan replied: “He should know, and I would do everything I could do to make sure that he knows, he ought not to be receiving Communion.”

In his interview with the Gazette the bishop said that while the American bishops have taken public stands on many issues, including immigration policy and welfare reform, their statements on those issues do not carry the same authority as Church statements on abortion, euthanasia, and marriage. In the former case, he explained, Catholics may disagree regarding candidates’ policies, and “which one you believe is for the common good.” But regarding issues that touch on the dignity of life, he said, “you can’t make that kind of prudential judgment on issues that are intrinsically evil.” Bishop Sheridan added that the fundamental question of religious liberty, raised by the contraceptive mandate in the Obama administration’s health-care program, might also be classified as a non-negotiable issue.

Regarding the death penalty, the Colorado bishop pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that execution might be justified under some circumstances. Even if those circumstances are exceedingly rare, he said, “you’re not talking about intrinsic evil.” He remarked that some good and thoughtful Catholics support the death penalty, mentioning Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as an example.

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  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 11, 2012 5:46 AM ET USA

    We need more bishops like Michael Sheridan who will speak out on the moral issues in political races and do so with clarity. The majority of the laity in the American Church are not being taught or led, so it is no suprize that their political opinions do not differ from those of the rest of America. A Year of Faith consisting of liturgy and navel gazing alone will not change the Church in America!

  • Posted by: Macrojo37490 - Oct. 11, 2012 1:50 AM ET USA

    Here-Here ... kudos to a REAL Bishop !

  • Posted by: dagbat - Oct. 10, 2012 10:44 PM ET USA

    Hopefully many other Bishops will begin to speak out and also take action against the many celebrity Catholics who are undercutting the Church. For too long these Catholics have been allowed to choose, cafeteria style, what they want to believe and do, even if it is contrary to Church teachings and intrinsically evil, such as sanctioning abortion. If the Bishops want to change this malaise then they have to accept that their job goes beyond merely teaching and serving as figure heads. As Shepherds of the flock Bishops must be alert to danger and ready to take decisive action when their flock is threatened. Bishops seemingly have lost sight of this action oriented part of their responsibilities, especially towards the many high profile Catholic political and media leaders who by their public anti Catholic pronouncements and actions are leading regular Catholics astray. It is time for the Bishops to take charge and begin enforcing the rules against intrinsic evils. Strike one – public warning. Strike two – suspension of receiving holy communion). Strike three – forced separation from the Church.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Oct. 10, 2012 10:14 PM ET USA

    Bishop Sheridan should quit pulling his punches and remove the word "perhaps" in his first sentence.

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