Very important message; very strange form

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Oct 18, 2004

Is John Kerry excommunicated, or isn't he?

That's a fairly important question, wouldn't you agree?

But the form of the answer from Rome is simply bizarre.

A ranking official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asks an American theologian-- who is himself a consultor to CDF-- to answer a question from a layman. And in his answer, that priest-- who certainly seems to be speaking on behalf of the Vatican-- says: Yes, Kerry is excommunicated!

Now that's a bombshell statement. But it was handled like an arcane scholarly query. ("Yes, the Monophysite heresy was condemned by the 2nd Council of Constantinople. Thanks for asking. And by the way, the "Catholic" candidate for the world's most powerful political office is excommunicated.") Why?

Could it be that the CDF sent this message unofficially, because it was clear no official pronouncement would survive the vetting of the Vatican bureaucracy?

Is it a coincidence that this statement came (indirectly) from the same dicastery that "leaked" Cardinal Ratzinger's comments on giving Communion to pro-abortion politicians-- after Cardinal McCarrick withheld those comments from the other US bishops?

Is it a coincidence that this statement became public shortly after Cardinal Sodano conferred a papal knighthold on a politician who, it seems, has earned excommunication in the same fashion as Kerry?

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: - Oct. 23, 2004 11:24 PM ET USA

    Don't you just love it! The people who hold positions of authority in the Church are so verrrry careful about how they phrase these things! Just read the appropriate sections in canon law. You don't needadvanced degrees. Forget the bad marriage, avid support of abortion in all its forms, stem cell murder & promotion of the gay lifestyle place him outside. End of story. Can't our people just come out and say it! There ARE some things that get you excommunicated & John has done it to himself.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 9:24 PM ET USA

    I think the real reason the Church does not 'ex cathedra' many morals is mercy. Is not excommunication somehow worse than ordinary mortal sin -perhaps by being entirely cut off and no graces even storeable? Well, what if we applied Fr. Cole’s analysis to contraception? Curran was only cited as being “in error”, not a heretic The risk of applying it to contraception would be MANY millions of Catholics “cut off” - and repeatedly - perhaps forcing them to leave in despair. Please comment.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 5:39 PM ET USA

    Fr. Cole makes a very important qualification at the beginning of his letter; i.e., he says that he is responding "unofficially." Also, it is important to understand that the post of "consultor" of the CDF is a papal appointment. Fr. Cole is not a consultor of the CDF and does not claim to be one. The consultors of the CDF are listed in the current 'Annuario Pontificio.'

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 5:34 PM ET USA

    My undersatanding is there are four types of response4s to dubia from the Vatican: 1. Response from the Head of the Congregation and the Secretary. 2. Response from the Secretary and Sub-Sectretary Note: First Two have canonical force... 3. Response signed by only one official... Note: First three are on letterhead..... Third is advisory 4. Response not on letterhead and unsigned. Note 4. is not even advisory and indicates only thinking.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 5:26 PM ET USA

    To add to Altar Boy's comments, it is profoundly tragic that our bishops have, for the most part, abdicated their responsibilities as true shepherds, prefering instead the unctuous role as obfuscators in a era that calls for clear courage. There are, happily, notable exceptions. But the general run of bishops are fatuous, pampered men, soft in mind, body and spirit. The result is in the genocidal numbers of murdered unborn children.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 2:40 PM ET USA

    I’m neither a canon lawyer nor a theologian, but I don’t have to be to know that John Kerry has been excommunicated many times over. Any properly instructed and adequately informed Catholic should know this. What is important (sadly so) to the Church is that almost all of its leading prelates refuse to speak out forcefully on this issue and brand Kerry as the heretic and purveyor of sacrilege that he is. Catholics ought to be warned that voting for Kerry places their soul in grave danger.

  • Posted by: Franko - Oct. 18, 2004 1:21 PM ET USA

    I wondered why the date of the letter is September 11, 2004 and we are just hearing about it now. In addition I was struck by the misspelling of common words that any word processor would catch. It could be nothing more than human error but given the recent Dan Rather incident with forged documents it gave me pause.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 12:43 PM ET USA

    While it is arguable that Kerry - and other - pro-abortion Catholic politicians have automatically incurred the penalty of excommunication, canon law requires that this must be formally delcared before the full legal effects take place. Canon 1324 provides a laundry list of factors that reduce accountability and goes on to say that an offender is not bound by the penalty if any of them are present. The solution would be to began an administrative or judicial penal process.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 12:32 PM ET USA

    Is it a sin to deliberately kill unborn children? Is it a sin to help people deliberately kill unborn children? Is it a sin to elect to office people who have made it perfectly clear that they will not allow the law to be changed which presently allows the deliberate killing of unborn children? The answer is as obvious as the nose on John Kerry's face. It is uncomfortable for bishops to admit it - but that is their job. If they don't do their job, FIRE THEM!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2004 11:56 AM ET USA

    So Phil...what does this mean? A member of the CDF has basically told us what we already know?....So what are the ramifications?