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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

A Little Catechism on Politics and So-Called Catholic Pro-Abortion Politicians

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 30, 2021

1) What does the Church teach on the morality of abortion? The Second Vatican Council reinforces the gravity of the sin: “...from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. “ (GS 51)

2) What does Canon Law say about public officials who promote abortion (or who are “pro-choice”)? “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” (Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law)

3) Why does the Church’s response matter? Church teaching—and the Church’s discipline—is a matter of life and death for the unborn and the eternal salvation for the Catholic politicians involved. The salvation of those who vote for such candidates is also at risk. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Cor. 11:29)

4) Is the Church “meddling in politics” when disciplining politicians identified as “manifest grave sinners” for their support of abortion? No. The question itself betrays an attitude that fails to recognize the magnitude of the crime of abortion. Would the person asking such a question ask: “Is the Church meddling in politics when disciplining politicians identified as ‘manifest grave sinners’ for their support of the extermination of Jews?” Unborn babies are innocent and helpless human beings in need of our protection.

5) Why haven’t the bishops applied the obvious Canonical remedies on pro-abortion Catholic politicians? A handful of bishops have admirably exercised their lawful authority in this regard.

6) Why haven’t more bishops done so? It’s hard to know. Many bishops have relinquished their authority to the USCCB and merely await direction from the body of bishops. The USCCB has some administrative and liturgical jurisdiction but holds no doctrinal authority over individual bishops.

7) Should priests publicly support political candidates? Although priests have a right to private political views and favorite politicians, it is not wise to publicly support any of them. The arena of priests is the religious sphere where they render unto God that which belongs to Him. The realm of the laity is the political sphere where they render unto Caesar that which belongs to him. When Caesar violates God’s law, the clergy have a right and obligation to intervene.

8) Should priests publicly oppose political candidates? Yes, priests are duty-bound to publicly oppose political candidates who promote violations of God’s Law. There should be no objection to public opposition to the pro-abortion views of politicians such as President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and Virginia Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. (There is no ambiguity whatsoever in their pro-abortion views.) It is incorrect to conclude that the same priests necessarily support the views of opposition candidates. On the other hand, a priest should never find himself “in the pocket” of any politician. He belongs to Christ and His Church.

9) Do you allow political candidates to address parishioners in church? Although there may be legal and policy allowances, it is better to keep a church a house of prayer.

10) Do you fear IRS sanctions such as losing tax status? No, although irate observers who object to pro-life activism sometimes make the threat. The double standard is striking. “Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams urged Black churchgoers in Virginia to turn out for former [pro-abortion Catholic] Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in his bid for a second term as chief of the Old Dominion during campaign stops on Sunday... Abrams told an audience that when she first got involved in politics, she thought it was wrong to combine politics and church, according to the AP. Later, however, she said her parents told her that the two topics always cross paths. ‘Politics is always in the church’ Abrams said her mother would tell her.” (The Hill, BY Mychael Schnell—10/17/21)

10) What is your view on voter guides? I think the hierarchy should avoid voter guides because they tend to water down the seriousness of abortion compared to the prudential political decisions in other matters such as immigration, climate change, and waging war. But facts are stubborn things. Observing that the Democrat Party has become the Party of Abortion—with rare exceptions—is incontrovertible. Of course, some might say that we shouldn’t allow 99% of the pro-abortion Democrats to give the rest a bad name. Others may argue—correctly in many cases—that the Republicans often pay lip service to pro-life causes and not much else. These facts highlight the urgency for the laity to take control of the political arena.

11) If you had to select a voter guide, what would you choose? Planned Parenthood voter guides are invaluable in identifying pro-abortion candidates worthy of vigorous opposition.

12) What is the role of the clergy in political matters? Priests and bishops should get into the habit of enunciating Christian principles (e.g., abortion is an “unspeakable crime”) for the application by the laity. The bishops are obliged to impose religious sanctions according to Church law on “manifest grave sinners.”

13) How has the clergy failed in political matters? I am disappointed in the tendency for Churchmen to blur the distinction between Catholic principles and the application of those principles. For example, America has waged many wars as a superpower. Every Catholic (and Catholic politician) should have a clear understanding of just-war principles for application by the laity. We do not.

14) Should the clergy remain silent in these other political matters? Not necessarily. I would rather see the Church’s vast bureaucracy—which includes many more of the laity than priests and bishops—carefully identify competing prudential solutions for consideration by the laity. Indeed, the clergy should consult the laity to obtain expert analysis and position papers. But in recent decades, we cannot seem to avoid the clericalism (and hubris) of taking a stand in favor or against every prudential decision from immigration to climate change.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dsauclair9437 - Oct. 30, 2021 11:45 AM ET USA

    Another good article to strew around the house for consumption of our first-time voters!