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If the Pope didn't say it, claim he 'hinted' (updated)

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 07, 2013

Writing on the CNN belief blog, Daniel Burke claims that in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis “hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called ‘wafer wars,’ in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion.”

You’ll notice that Burke doesn’t provide a quotation from the papal document to support his claim. That’s because there is nothing in the document to support it; the Pope doesn’t come within shouting distance of the topic.

But then Burke is not someone to let facts get in the way of a good theory. Notice, too, that he gives his readers the clear impression that Catholic politicians have been denied Communion because of their support for abortion. Can you name one?

It’s true that the American bishops have said Catholics should not receive Communion if they vote to promote the slaughter of the unborn, and a few brave bishops have even said that they would deny the Eucharist to prominent pro-abortion politicians, if the occasion were to arise. To the best of my knowledge, it never has.


Daniel Burke has written to take issue with my original post, correcting me on two points.

First, he argues that I was simply wrong to say that he could not produce a quotation from Evangelii Gaudium to back up his claim, since immediately after the paragraph quoted above, he includes some key lines from the papal document, including this significant statement: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

It is an enormous stretch, I think, to read that statement as a comment on the controversy over administering Communion to supporters of abortion. Nothing in the context leads me to suspect that is the “imperfection” or the “weakness” the Pope has in mind. Nor does that sentence—or anything else in the document—address the issue of the public scandal created when pro-abortion politicians receive Communion. It would be somewhat more plausible, I think, to interpret that sentence as the Pope’s reflection on the situation facing Catholics who are divorced and remarried. In fact, when I read Burke’s comment, I thought he was quoting the sentence in that context. Still, he did supply a quotation, so I was factually wrong in saying that he did not. Whether that quotation supports his claim remains open to debate.

Second, Burke answers my challenge to name a politician who has been denied the Eucharist because of his stand on abortion. In 2008, Douglas Kmiec, who at the time was an adviser to the Obama campaign, was turned away from Communion at a Mass for a group of businessmen. I had not been aware of any incident in which a prominent Catholic was denied Communion; now I know of one.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Dec. 09, 2013 2:42 PM ET USA

    There is scholarly reason to believe that even Iscariot received (Eucharist)... But what God allows and what He desires are two different things. Referring again to my vocation as a Psych Nurse He (God) sometimes allows people to shoot themselves in the head. But in the hospital we generally are not so permissive. Anything else would be malpractice. I am willing to have a rational conversation about almost anything, but this tendency to entertain lunacy within the Catholic Church must stop.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Dec. 07, 2013 7:31 PM ET USA

    I think technically you are still right about the 2nd point: Kmiec was not then a "politician", he was merely an adviser to Obama. And it is also right to continue disputing Burke's twisted interpretation of 1st point. Saying the Eucharist is not a reward for the perfect in no way condones its reception by those involved in serious sin against the 5th Commandment.

  • Posted by: Defender - Dec. 04, 2013 7:53 PM ET USA

    It needs to end, once and for all. CINO politicians, "educators," clergy and religious have made a mockery of the Faith and no one does anything! This whole business causes scandal and leaves the laity shaking their heads in dismay, hoping and praying for the day when the bishops take their jobs seriously.