By Judie Brown
As Catholics around the world rejoice at the election of a new pope, Americans worry about the leadership in our country by our bishops. We read canon law and wonder why it isn’t always being upheld. We question those in politics who claim to be Catholic, yet who trounce on the faith. Today’s commentary addresses these things and encourages us to pray for the bishops as we enter this new era with Pope Francis.
When the Obama White House first announced that pro-abortion Catholic vice president Joe Biden would lead the United States delegation to the inaugural Mass for Pope Francis, a collective gasp was followed by a prayer that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would make a public statement clarifying why the vice president could not receive the Eucharist.
Two days later, and with continued silence from the USCCB, another news report told the nation that Biden would be joined by, among others, rabidly pro-abortion, pro-homosexual rights former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Still no announcement from the USCCB!
Between the dates of March 13 and March 19 there was a six-day gap during which the USCCB had ample time to issue such an instruction to these wayward Catholics representing the United States at the Papal Inauguration. The USCCB public instruction might have said that these individuals, including the vice president and Congresswoman Pelosi, were to refrain from receiving the Eucharist under pain of sin because their public advocacy of abortion and other grave evils had never been corrected by a public statement of repentance.
The USCCB could have cited the body of Catholic teaching on the subject of denying the sacrament, including this quote from the Letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued in July 2002:
In view of the law that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them” (Canon 843.1) there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person’s unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared.
Sadly, the American bishops chose not to issue such a statement, and thus it should have come as no surprise to anyone when the Washington Times reported that both of these pro-abortion Catholics did, in fact, receive Communion during the Papal Inauguration Mass.
Shortly after this scandal occurred, we received several inquiries from concerned Catholics asking us why the Holy Father did not deny the sacrament to these two people who were among more than 200,000 in attendance. Though the question is naïve given the expansive crowds, the fundamental question is why these two so-called Catholics were not properly instructed in advance of their departure.
Ten years ago when American Life League launched the “Canon 915” campaign we sought to beg Catholic bishops to obey canon law, to protect Christ from sacrilege, and to protect the souls entrusted to their care from scandal by instructing those Catholics in public life who support grave moral evils—such as abortion and homosexual marriage—that they must not receive Holy Communion until they repent of their support for such evils. And further, if they attempt to receive it, the sacrament will be denied to them.
To this very day the USCCB has taken no such action, and only a handful of bishops have enforced this canon law. This is itself a scandal.
Until the USCCB sets aside politics and the gospel of tolerance, the Church will continue to witness a decline in its moral authority.
As Pope Francis said, “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil.”
Recent events involving pro-abortion Catholics in public life versus the failure of American Catholic bishops to act in defense of Christ suggest that perhaps worldliness is the new normal at the USCCB!
Let us remember to pray and fast for the sake of our bishops. Go to our website at www.all.org/prayandfast/ to register and help lift up our clergy by showing you love and support them.
Judie Brown is president and cofounder of American Life League and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life.