Archbishop Donald Wuerl and the World

October 6, 2008 09:00 AM

Today is the day we run our full-page ad in the Washington Times weekly edition. It is a full-color ad in which we pay tribute to the 16 Catholic bishops who have chosen to protect Christ from sacrilege by enforcing Church law, specifically Canon 915.

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In the ad, we ask Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. when he will join with these bishops. We have to presume from past statements and actions that the archbishop does not plan to do so any time soon; yet the question is a valid one. As Catholic columnist Barbara Kralis wrote in January 2007, 

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington recently told journalist Allyson Smith that he would not discipline nor deny Holy Communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nor to other Catholic politicians who promote and legislate procured abortion.

Without belaboring the point, it is sufficient to say that many opportunities have presented themselves to the archbishop to not only enforce Canon 915, but to instruct his priests, ordained deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to do likewise. Such an action has not occurred.

The purpose of this column is to explain why we persist in this campaign and why our actions should not be perceived as disrespectful or otherwise antagonistic toward Catholic bishops. Quite the contrary is the case, as my comments will show.

Perhaps you have not read this particular canon before, so I will quote it for you:

Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, [emphasis added] are not to be admitted to holy communion.

We pursue this project of asking Catholic bishops, priests, ordained deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to enforce this Church law specifically because numerous pro-abortion Catholic public figures, politicians, media types and so forth are scandalizing the faithful. They do so by being permitted to receive the body of Christ despite exhibiting obstinate persistence in the manifest grave sin of publicly supporting abortion.

As one Catholic wrote recently on Father John Zuhlsdorf's blog, 

Senator Lisa Murkowski was listed as a guest of honor in the program for the Red Mass in Anchorage last Sunday, attended by Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz, OMI. Lisa voted for the infamous "Harkin Amendment," proclaiming the "sense of the senate" that Roe v. Wade is a wonderful decision and should be the law of the land. Thank God, she wasn't able to attend and profane the Eucharist. Nonetheless, the impression left with the congregation was that if you publicly endorse abortion, you too can still be a guest of honor at a Red Mass, of all occasions.

The sentiments expressed in this comment expose the problem of not protecting Christ from sacrilege. The notion is created that pro-abortion Catholics in public life really aren't in direct conflict with Church teaching. And yet, the fact is that they are not only in conflict, but their souls are in grave jeopardy. Regardless of what your opinion may be on Catholic teaching, the fact is that for any Catholic who claims to be a practicing Catholic, the act of abortion is an intrinsically evil act that is always and in every case wrong. No Catholic should support the murder of the innocent and yet they do so with abandon, and few ordained priests and deacons remind them of the gravity of their public position by denying the body of Christ to them. This too is a scandal.

American Life League does not focus attention on Canon 915 because we disrespect Catholic bishops; on the contrary, we do this because we believe sincerely that the purpose of Canon 915 is two-fold. Enforcement of this Church law protects the body of Christ and helps to teach the errant public figure that his actions are an offense to God and he must repent in order to return to full communion with the Church. 

For these two reasons alone, we cannot understand why all 260-plus Catholic bishops have not united in a position of solidarity to protect Christ from sacrilege. And by sacrilege I do not mean to suggest that we at American Life League are sitting in judgment of others' intentions. Quite the contrary. If one examines the public record of any of these Catholic supporters of abortion, it is crystal clear that they endorse this crime against humanity while knowing full well that it conflicts with Church teaching, not to mention the commandment of God: "Thou shalt not kill."

Deacon John Giglio states in his Deacon for Life blog, 

Were there to be no support in the whole history of ethical and moral thought, were there no acknowledged confirmation from medical science, were the history of legal opinion to the contrary, we would still have to conclude on the basis of God's Holy Word that the unborn child is a person in the sight of God. He is protected by the sanctity of life graciously given to each individual by the Creator, Who alone places His image upon man and grants them any right to life which they have.

It is an undeniable fact that there is a human being in the womb during pregnancy; if it were otherwise, why would anyone promote, support, fund or acquire an abortion?

The presence of that baby in the womb, Fallopian tube or test tube is as real as is the presence of Christ in Holy Eucharist. It therefore makes perfect sense that just as the Catholic Church teaches that there is never a reason to abort a child, so too there should never be a reason to permit sacrilege against the truly present body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. And yet it continues, day in and day out.

But we are not disheartened. We know that defending the truth does not resound well with many, but the accusations that we are divisive or judgmental cannot deter us. In fact, we welcome it all as we continue to defend the preborn and the real presence of Christ.

As Archbishop Raymond Burke wrote last year,

The United States of America is a thoroughly secularized society which canonizes radical individualism and relativism, even before the natural moral law. The application, therefore, is more necessary than ever, lest the faithful, led astray by the strong cultural trends of relativism, be deceived concerning the supreme good of the Holy Eucharist and the gravity of supporting publicly the commission of intrinsically evil acts. Catholics in public office bear an especially heavy burden of responsibility to uphold the moral law in the exercise of their office which is exercised for the common good, especially the good of the innocent and defenseless. When they fail, they lead others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to be deceived regarding the evils of procured abortion and other attacks on innocent and defenseless human life, on the integrity of human procreation, and on the family.

As Pope John Paul II reminded us, referring to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Holy Eucharist contains the entire good of our salvation [91]. There is no responsibility of the Church's shepherds which is greater than that of teaching the truth about the Holy Eucharist, celebrating worthily the Holy Eucharist, and directing the flock in the worship and care of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 712 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches articulate an essential element of the shepherds' responsibility, namely, the perennial discipline of the Church by which the minister of Holy Communion is to deny the Sacrament to those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.

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