Bishops and bald eagles

March 2, 2007 09:00 AM

Commentary by Judie Brown

Over the last four years American Life League has sought, through advertising, public commentary, personal communications, and other means to invite the Catholic bishops of our nation to enforce a particular Church law that deals with the protection of Christ who is truly present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

This Church law, Canon 915, is quite specific and states:

 

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or the declaration of a penalty as well as others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to communion [emphasis added].

 

It is our position that this canon should apply to any public figure, whether a television personality, a politician, a Hollywood star or an otherwise well-known individual who claims to be Catholic while at the same time supporting abortion either by vote, public statement or financial support. Thus we have simply asked each bishop, priest, deacon and Eucharistic minister to enforce this church law.

During the process of our campaign, which is ongoing as I write, some have claimed that our actions are disrespectful of the office of bishop. But these very commentators have not been able to bring to our attention a single statement or phrase that in any way attacks either the office of bishop or a particular bishop by name. In fact, it is my contention that if we were to sink to that level, our entire effort would be derailed and despicable, because first and foremost, we as Catholics are called to respect the office of bishop and the tremendous honor that the office brings to those who have received it.

Therefore I am simply incredulous when I witness such fiascos as the most recent events surrounding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who flaunted her Catholicism publicly while pandering to every single pro-abortion leader within view. It didn’t seem out of line for us to ask Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. to act in a way that made it clear to Ms. Pelosi that as long as her public support for abortion continued, she could not honestly identify herself as a Catholic in good standing, nor would she be permitted to receive the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion.

Though our pleas went unanswered, the dilemma remains. On the one hand we have a Church law that is quite specific and on the other hand we have men in authority, capable of enforcing the law and yet hesitant to do so. But as one Catholic World News commentator recently wrote,

 

Bishops ought to think carefully before handing over Holy Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” like civil authorities who publicly promote contraception, abortion and same sex marriage. Jesus was surely referring to the “chief priests” when he said to Pilate, “he who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 18:35; 19:11)

 

If I were to compare a bishop to a different kind of law enforcement officer, I might be able to make a better case, perhaps, to the bishops. For example, in the United States we have the “Bald Eagle Protection Act.” This law, 16 USC 668-668d, was originally entered on the books in 1940 and was amended most recently in 1978. The law imposes criminal and civil penalties on anyone in the United States who takes, possesses, sells, purchases, or barters a bald or golden eagle, alive or dead or any part, nest or egg of these eagles. The maximum penalty is $5,000 and/or a one-year imprisonment.

If the mere act of taking a bald eagle egg can result in such a criminal conviction, how much more grievous is it to insult the body and blood of Christ by receiving Him in the most holy of Sacraments after publicly advocating the murder of His innocent preborn children?

Why wouldn’t anyone empowered by grace and authority to hand over to someone else the sacred body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion be compelled to protect Christ from sacrilege, even unto death if necessary? There is precedent for this.

Saint Tarcisius was a 12-year-old altar boy. He lived in Rome during the third century. On a particular day when no deacon could be found, Tarcisius was sent to carry the Blessed Sacrament to those in prison. On his way he was stopped by a large group of non-Christian boys his own age and was invited to join them at play. He refused and his friends noticed that he was carrying something. Out of curiosity or out of disdain for Tarcisius’ faith, the boys turned on him and stoned him until a fellow Christian happened upon the scene and took the badly wounded boy back to the catacombs where he subsequently died.

Tarcisius died protecting Christ from the assault of the mob. And while I am not asking any bishop to put his life on the line, I am convinced that if every bishop, priest, deacon and Eucharistic minister were filled with the zeal of this 12-year-old boy, nobody who publicly favors evil would ever be given the body of Christ in Holy Communion.

And never would we read a comment like this one published in the Catholic World Report: “What would once have been considered an inconceivable parody has now become a stunning reality: the most powerful enemy of the Church’s moral teachings in Washington D.C. is a self pro-claimed ‘practicing Catholic.’”

Let us pray that each bishop is imbued with the great grace of courage possessed by that 12-year old boy, Tarcisius. Let us pray for each of those courageous bishops, priests, deacons and Eucharistic ministers who have taken steps to make sure that no enemy of the Church’s moral teaching is ever handed the body and blood of Christ. Let us never give up the struggle to protect Christ, the Church and the preborn from the tentacles of iniquity that have, in too many quarters, facilitated the elevation of bald eagle eggs to a higher status than the body of Christ.

Release issued: 2 Mar 07

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