Consequences: logical and otherwise

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Aug 04, 2003

In a remarkably prompt and clear public statement-- issued even before his installation-- Boston's new Archbishop Sean O'Malley said that "pro-choice" Catholic politicians should not receive Holy Communion.

That's a very big first step, and I don't mean to criticize Archbishop Sean for taking it-- far from it. But when he goes on to say that he would not deny the Eucharist to an abortion supporter, I am confused.

Why shouldn't a pro-abortion Catholic receive the Eucharist? Because by receiving Communion while in a state of sin he is jeopardizing his own soul. And if that is the case-- if the bishop or priest is reasonably certain that is the case-- wouldn't it be an act of true charity to save him from his own dangerous intentions?

Take a completely different sort of case: A prudent bartender will not serve drinks to a man who is obviously intoxicated. Why not? Because he fears for the consequences-- both for the inebriated customer, who might harm himself and/or others, and for himself, since he could be held liable.

Shouldn't bishops and priests be worried, in much the same way, about the consequences of sacrilege?

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 - Aug. 07, 2003 8:56 PM ET USA

    Never mind. I checked the reference myself. Canons 1398 and 1314. And what does that mean? It means just this; That rather than there being an issue about whether persons like Daschle and T Kennedy can receive Eucharist at all there is rather the issue as to whether ANY clergy (including Bishops and Cardinals) have ever had any right whatsoever to give these men and men like them Eucharist without incurring the penalty of excommunication themselves.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 06, 2003 9:41 PM ET USA

    Addendum: Perhaps I went out on a limb needlessly. If I recall my Canon Law correctly, I believe there is something to the effect that any person having an abortion or aiding in one is AUTOMATICALLY EXCOMMUNICATED and must see the Bishop as well as the priest before receiving Eucharist again. I am sure there are scholars in the audience who can further refine my remark, but I feel that I am not formally far from the truth.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 06, 2003 5:52 PM ET USA

    Spare me the legalities, RC. When common sense is violated duty is clear. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for such nonsense.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 05, 2003 8:07 PM ET USA

    It's a matter of church law. A priest can only deny the sacrament to one of the faithful if there is a specific legal reason to do so: e.g., an interdict or excommunication. Maybe the bishop should pursue the possibility of imposing one of those penalties: I think "interdict" is the better one, as it's more clearly directed at obtaining amendment, and avoids misinterpretations about "throwing out" the sinner.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 04, 2003 10:45 PM ET USA

    Sounds obvious to me. And is this super-theology???

  • Posted by: visions - Aug. 04, 2003 9:02 PM ET USA

    True , the Archbishop's statement did send a mixed message. When one receives communion we are showing our unity with the Church and her beliefs. So the pro-choice politicians who receive communion are disingenuous. Sheep searching for their Shepard.