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Columnist reflects on Kennedy funeral, recalls 2004 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick

Catholic World News - September 09, 2009

Reflecting on the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy, Terry Mattingly recalls-- and brings to greater public attention-- the 2004 letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then Archbishop of Washington, on Holy Communion and pro-abortion politicians.

In the summer of 2004, the Vatican sent a letter to the United States addressing one of the hottest issues facing the church here — whether politicians who back abortion rights should receive Holy Communion.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent the guidelines to the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick chose not to share the letter with America’s bishops, which kept its blunt contents secret — until a leak in Italy.

The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin,” warned the letter, adding that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose” civil laws and judicial decisions that “authorize or promote” these acts. At the same time, it explained that there “may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not ... with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

On the central issue, the guidelines said 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.”

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