[America editor notes:] The Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, the bishop of Springfield in Illinois, and the Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, the bishop of Orange in California and a former priest of the Springfield Diocese, also requested a chance to respond to the interview with Senator Durbin with a formal letter to the editor. Springfield is the senator’s home diocese.
In an interview published by America on Nov. 8, Senator Dick Durbin comments about his disagreements with church teaching on abortion and other matters. He also discusses the background of his being asked not to present himself for Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. In his comments, the senator misconstrues the reasons for the latter and sows confusion regarding the former. Both matters demand correction.
First, we would like to acknowledge Senator Durbin’s lifelong dedication to public service and his commitment to advancing many policies and programs that recognize the underprivileged and marginalized. In these areas, we are grateful for his contributions to causes that are of great importance to the church and her faithful. However, Senator Durbin’s comments in the America interview must be corrected, out of concern for his soul and out of concern for the confusion and scandal his words and actions present to the faithful of the church.
Senator Durbin suggests that many Catholic faithful agree with his position on abortion, and he claims that he is being unfairly singled out because he expresses his opinion publicly. This is untrue. In fact, it was due to the senator’s concrete, consistent actions to promote abortion in our country that, as his pastor, Bishop Kevin Vann (then Monsignor Vann)—when asked by a newspaper reporter how he would respond if Senator Durbin presented himself for holy Communion—expressed that he would be reticent to give holy Communion to Senator Durbin.
Archbishop George Lucas, who was then bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, publicly supported that position. Subsequently, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki spoke directly with Senator Durbin and clarified that unless the senator ceased his promotion of abortion, the position held by Father Vann and Archbishop Lucas would have to be sustained. Senator Durbin affirmed his ongoing commitment to promoting legal abortion and has since publicly persisted in actions opposed to God’s law in the grave matter of the taking of innocent human life.
In the section of the church’s law governing the Eucharist, Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law prescribes that, “people who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Senator Durbin’s public support and promotion of policies—clear and concrete actions, not mere opinions—that advance abortion are “manifest grave sin.” He has persevered obstinately in these actions despite repeated correction. According to the church’s law, he should not be admitted to holy Communion, and Senator Durbin alone has the power to change this reality.
Senator Durbin suggests that the standard for worthy reception of the Eucharist is a “well-formed conscience.” This is also untrue. Rationalizing one’s actions does not equate to a well-formed conscience, and one’s own self-assessment does not erase the objective reality of one being outside of communion with God and the church. Pope Francis recently affirmed this reality. Noting that there is no theological ambiguity in the matter of pro-abortion politicians, the Holy Father said, “Those people who are not in the community cannot take Communion, because they are out of the community. It is not a punishment: Communion is linked to the community.”
Senator Durbin has been fully informed of this reality, yet he persists in active promotion of abortion. For example, on September 1 of this year, Senator Durbin published a Twitter post boasting of his support for “#ActforAbortionAccess” as a “critical step towards ensuring people across the U.S. have access to safe, legal abortion.” The senator’s active support and promotion of abortion is clear, consistent and unambiguous. His obstinate persistence in promoting the grave sin of abortion is an objective reality, not a subjective interpretation.
Echoing the Holy Father’s words, as shepherds of souls, we must clarify that Senator Durbin’s sustained promotion of pro-abortion policies places him objectively outside of communion with the church, and we offer this additional correction in hopes of his conversion and return. St. Paul cautions against the danger of such unworthy reception, writing, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:29). Asking Senator Durbin not to present himself for holy Communion reflects the next, necessary pastoral measure after dialogue has failed to facilitate conversion, and it is a measure intended to bring about repentance and a restoration of communion. It is not a punishment. It is a pastoral measure with the ultimate good of salvation and communion with Christ as its aim.
Last, the senator rightly acknowledges the church’s concern for immigration policies that promote human dignity, but he is wrong to imply that abortion and immigration are morally equivalent. They are not. Immigration policies involve many prudential decisions and various means of promoting charity and justice. Abortion, by contrast, is an intrinsic evil that is never permissible. In suggesting their moral equivalency, the senator implies that the church should celebrate Catholic leaders whose policies agree with the church’s concerns for immigrants while turning a blind eye to their promotion of other policies that lead to the murder of millions of innocent lives. This approach is incoherent and unjust. If the dignity of defenseless persons in the womb is disregarded, there can be no justice or human rights.
As our church in this country prepares for a eucharistic revival, we will seek to grow in understanding and reverence of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We hope that the senator will experience a renewal of mind and conversion of heart in this grave matter so that he may be admitted to holy Communion again and receive the many graces that come with its worthy reception.
At a minimum, we hope that he will more honestly acknowledge the reality of his disagreement with the truths of our faith and desist from leading other members of the faithful astray. We remain open to dialogue with Senator Durbin on these matters and welcome that discussion.
Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Orange in California
The above comes from a Nov. 15 posting in America magazine.
From paragraph 6 above: “Pope Francis recently affirmed this reality. Noting that there is no theological ambiguity in the matter of pro-abortion politicians, the Holy Father said, ‘Those people who are not in the community cannot take Communion, because they are out of the community. It is not a punishment: Communion is linked to the community.’”
It almost impossible to believe President Biden when he said the Pope told him he was a good Catholic and should receive Communion. It can’t be both ways.
Most U. S. Catholic Bishops are republicans and seem to help out the GOP whenever they can. This situation is an object lesson in how they favor the GOP. I will believe these Bishops and priests are sincere in what they are doing when they apply the same standards to republican politicians who support and promote the death penalty. Capital punishment is anti-life and has been condemned by St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and it is also condemned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If Senator Durban cannot receive Holy Communion than neither should Senator Marco Rubio, or any other Senator who supports the death penalty.
THe death penalty is completely different. Innocent vs. guilty.
“Most U. S. Catholic Bishops are republicans…” So FHKJ, how do you know something that no one else knows? Unless the bishops released their party affiliation and voting records for the past 30 years or so, one can only guess as you have done. So there is no object lesson here. As to the death penalty, opposition to it has come only recently starting, as best as I can tell, with JP II. Up until that time, the punishment of the guilty was left to the discretion of the secular arm with the Church accepting the practice. The punishment of the wicked and the slaughter of innocent unborn babies is understood by most as not remotely equivalent. Abortion is condemned explicitly in the Didache and implicitly in the scriptures; whereas capital punishment is sanctioned from the beginning, Gen 9:6. But you, FHKJ, want the penalty for Durbin applied to Rubio on disproportionate matters. Maybe some day his bishop will agree with you and deny Rubio communion. Then maybe some day a future pope will soften the Church’s stand against the death penalty. But this can never happen to her stand against abortion. And I am no fan of the death penalty.
Murder is murder! Abortion is murder and the death penalty is state sanctioned murder!
“…and the death penalty is state sanctioned murder!” If this were 1950, I don’t think you would have many takers on this one. For almost all church history, indeed, biblical history, capital punishment was considered the just punishment for capital crimes. But in 1950 and all of Church history, abortion would be considered murder beyond cavil.
Note: When I was a teen, Richard Speck killed 6 student nurses. Some years back they showed him living a life of relative ease in the pen. I wanted to vomit. In the sequence filmed in prison if I remember correctly he had access to drugs and sex with other men. This punishment in no way fits the crime and in no way did what I saw indicate that he was repentant with good standing before our Lord. And that is the most important thing of all.
Make of this what you will.
Dan: your philosophical and theological assertions for the death penalty are all the same assertions that have been promoted for centuries. The facts are the death penalty is administered unjustly in this country and horrifically applied in other countries (consider Eastern Europe) throughout the world. Many innocent people, mostly black men, have been unjustly put to death in this country. The Innocence Project has documented this many times over. One cannot be a “good Catholic” and particularly a “good Bishop” and support the death penalty. Read the Catechism for goodness sake.
Dan is definitely wrong. The Magisterium, beginning with Pope St. John Paul II, has judged that the death penalty is “cruel and unnecessary” and Pope Francis has continued that teaching by judging that the death penalty is not permissible in our time. The death penalty may be “just punishment” for most of Church history, but not in our time. FHJK is most correct: in our time, because of the existence of other forms to punish a capital criminal short of executing him, the death penalty is tantamount to state-sanctioned murder. Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life!
Dan’s error is the assertion that perhaps someday the “Church will soften its stand against the death penalty” as if the value of human life, even that of the criminal, depends on who is pope. Wrong. As long as other means exist to defend society short of executing the criminal, the Church will not soften its stand against the death penalty. The CDF Instruction on “Worthiness To Receive Holy Communion” (2004) does teach that a politician who decides to dissent from the Church’s teaching may still receive Holy Communion because the issue of the death penalty does not have the same moral weight as abortion. Because dissenting from the teachings of the Church is always a sin, the politician would be guilty of a venial sin here. But as we all know folks, venial sin is not to be taken lightly. Overtime, unrepented venial sins can amount to greater transgressions. It is never prudent for a Catholic to say to his/her member of Congress: “You may go ahead and receive Congressman/Senator. It’s only a venial sin.” Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
For Jon and FHKJ: I am not arguing in favor of the death penalty, nor am I impugning the present position of Francis that it is inadmissible. If you read that into my statement, I will take credit for the misunderstanding. I merely was contrasting the more recent position of JP II & Francis with that of 1900+ years prior, as opposed to the consistent opposition of abortion, as well as pointing out the obvious fact that there is no equivalence between executing the wicked vs. executing the innocent, though the “inviolability of the human person” an be asserted to provide this equivalence. In fact my opposition to the death penalty, such as it is, follows the objections of FHJK on its actual application. I might conclude that labelling the death penalty as state-sanctioned murder goes, as far as I can tell, far beyond any characterization in the Catechism, though I will re-read it to make sure.
I don’t know how many bishops are Democrats, but whichever ones are are Judas bishops.
Guess what, Judas was not an apostle, therefore there are no “Judas bishops.” Judas wasn’t present to receive the Great Commission from Our Lord; and he was most likely already dead when Pentecost occurred and therefore did not receive the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to be an apostle, and to be a bishop for that matter. He was a disciple, and was intended by Our Lord to be an apostle, but he did not make it. One can use the image of dropping out of seminary just before his ordination. Therefore, calling bishops you don’t like “Judas-bishops” is technically wrong, as well as uncharitable, un-Christian, and un-Catholic.
Judas was one of the twelve apostles. (Matthew 10:2-4) He was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1: 15-26)
As I had written cton Judas was intended to be an apostle by Our Lord and was even already called as such in Matthew 10, but in the end he was not present when Our Lord gave the Great Commission nor did he receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And both the Commission and the Holy Spirit are necessary to be “sent out” which is the meaning of the word “apostle”.