Apostasy In D.C.?

May 11, 2009 09:00 AM

apostasy: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

Further, the Catechism defines the word as follows:  apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith

While I would never accuse a bishop of being in the position of totally repudiating Catholic teaching, what I am about to relate by way of comparison does leave me wondering about that word and the tragic situation in which we Catholics find ourselves today.

On Friday, May 8, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Raymond Burke delivered a stirring address in which he made the following statement:

It grieves me to say that the support of anti-life legislation by Catholics in public office is so common that those who are not Catholic have justifiably questioned whether the Church's teaching regarding the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging. It gives the impression that the Church herself can change the law, which God has written on every human heart from the beginning of time and has declared in the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue: Thou shalt not kill.

Just two days earlier, Washington, D.C.'s Archbishop Donald Wuerl took what can only be described as a seriously deficient position on Church law, namely Canon 915. As Life Site News reports:

In an interview published in a Politics Daily article today, [Arch]bishop Wuerl said he disagreed with refraining from giving communion to manifestly pro-abortion politicians, which was equated with "Communion wielded as a weapon." [sic] "That's the new way now to make your point," said Wuerl.

"We never - the Church just didn't use Communion this way. It wasn't a part of the way we do things, and it wasn't a way we convinced Catholic politicians to appropriate the faith and live it and apply it; the challenge has always been to convince people.'' On the other hand, sanctioning Catholics tends to alienate them, he said.

Wuerl said he will make no effort to keep Speaker Pelosi from receiving Communion, saying first "there's a question about whether this canon [915] was ever intended to be used'' to correct Catholics in grave error.

Rather than give you my interpretation of why the archbishop is wrong, please review the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania's, official policy on the enforcement of Canon 915, issued on February 26, 2009 :

The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. It is the sacrament of salvation, the Body and Blood of Christ offered for us on Calvary and received by us, the People of God. Regarding the Holy Eucharist, St. Paul says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27).

The law of the Church requires each Catholic, before receiving Holy Communion, to make a careful examination of conscience, using the teachings of the Church as the examining criteria. After this private examination, each Catholic is able to determine whether he or she is prepared to receive the sacrament. Canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law states:

A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

The above-mentioned preparation is private, as the state of each Catholic's soul is known to him or her alone. However, there are instances when a Catholic's unworthiness to receive Holy Communion will be determined by the Church because of a person's public conduct. This determination does not depend upon the private examination of conscience but results rather from a Catholic's public and persistent actions in opposition to the moral law as taught by the Church. In these cases, the Church forbids members to receive the sacrament. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states:

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.

In recent years, the Holy See has declared that those who are unworthy to receive Holy Communion if they are "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin" include persons directly involved in lawmaking bodies. These have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.[1] Pope John Paul II also addressed this matter when he wrote, "The judgment of one's state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one's conscience. However, in case of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who 'obstinately persist in manifest grave sin' are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion."[2]

In 2004, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) instructed the bishops of the United States as follows:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

This denial, the Cardinal noted in the same instruction, "is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy of Communion passing judgment on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."[3]

Therefore, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, reminds all ministers of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary, that:

1.    To administer the Sacred Body and Blood of the Lord is a serious duty which they have received from the Church, and no one having accepted this responsibility has the right to ignore the Church's law in this regard;
2.    Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception.

James B. Earley

[1] Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 4, 2002 http://www.usccb.org/dpp/synopsis.htm
[2]Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37, 2003 http://www.adoremus.org/EcclesiaDeEucharistia.html
[3] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's memo Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, 6 http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6041&CFID=84922716&CFTOKEN=65094630 ____________________________________________________________________________________________


In light of what we know about Church law and the reasons why those who distribute Holy Communion are bound by such laws, be they Eucharistic ministers, Deacons or priests, we can confidently say, as we did in the American Life League press release:

By allowing pro-abortion 'Catholic' politicians like Nancy Pelosi to receive Holy Communion, Archbishop Wuerl is not only disobeying Church law, he is ignoring the sacrilege being perpetrated against the body of Christ in Holy Communion and he is tacitly validating the alleged right of a woman to kill her preborn baby. Had the Archbishop studied the entire history of the Church, he would have learned that Church history is filled with examples of gravely sinful individuals being denied Holy Communion either by interdict or excommunication. For instance, in 1533 King Henry VIII was excommunicated for divorcing his wife and refusing to take her back, and in 1198 Pope Innocent III placed the entire country of France under interdict.

While we are saddened by this tragic turn of events, we also understand that there are millions of Catholics who cannot experience sadness, due to the archbishop's refusal to enforce Church law, because they do not know there is such a law.

This adds but another layer of distress to our initial question: Is there apostasy in D.C.?

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