Washington’s archbishop, who will be made a cardinal this weekend, told a journalist Tuesday that in his diocese, he will not deny Holy Communion to a politician who has pledged to enshrine access to abortion in federal law and permit federal funding of abortions. That politician is President-elect Joe Biden.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s comment is sure to raise questions about the Church’s pro-life witness. But for some Catholics, the remark might also raise questions about the sincerity of U.S. bishops on the topic of ecclesial reform.
In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Church’s doctrinal office, told U.S. bishops in a memo that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin….
If history is predictive, some Catholics will praise Gregory as a witness of civility and tolerance. They will say that no one should politicize the Eucharist, and that denying Holy Communion is not pastoral, or prudent.
They will not be the first to use that language.
In 2004, when U.S. bishops discussed pro-choice politicians and the Eucharist, one cardinal among them was charged with summarizing the memo sent from Ratzinger to bishops on the subject, as few of them had yet received it. The cardinal downplayed the memo, saying addressing the matter at all was up to the discretion of U.S. bishops.
“The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent,” the cardinal said.
That cardinal was Theodore McCarrick.
At the 2004 spring meeting of U.S. bishops, which took place in Denver, McCarrick inaccurately summarized the instructions of the Vatican on Holy Communion, omitting Ratzinger’s normative direction. Under McCarrick’s influence, the bishops decided the best way to handle the question was to defer to the individual judgement of bishops.
The memo, incidentally, was sent ahead of the meeting to two U.S. bishops: McCarrick, and the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory….
The above comes from a Nov. 24 story on the site of the Catholic News Agency.