Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What Are We to Do About This? (Hint: Not What They’re Doing on the Internet)

If you have been following the news of Cardinal-Elect Gregory, you probably are aware of the recent information that he has no intention of denying the Eucharist to the Catholic President-Elect Joe Biden over his intention to enable policies contrary to Catholic Moral Teaching. As this seems to be contrary to Canon 915, this is troubling to many. This canon and the companion canon 916 read:

CAN. 915 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.

CAN. 916 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.

As commonly understood, someone who is aware that they committed a grave sin must not go to Communion and, if they try, they are to be refused. Since Confession of a grave sin requires a firm purpose of amendment to avoid that sin in the future. To confess a grave sin with no intention to change is a serious matter indeed.

Unfortunately, matters are muddied by the fact that the coverage seems slanted. Those who react strongly against the abortion issue are outraged and report it as such. Those who tend to downplay it tend to focus more on the need to work together and think he is doing the right thing. Those of us who are trying to be faithful Catholics and avoid rash judgment are confused.

Speaking personally, I am deeply troubled by the statement. Regardless of the policies Biden supported when he was a member of Congress or Vice President, he is now in the position to enable those policies with even fewer restrictions. Personally, I am praying that someone (like the Pope) will “have words” with him about this. I want to ask, “if canon 915 does not apply now, when will it?”

However…

(And you should know by now, there is always a “however” when I write articles like this), it’s not as clear cut as it seems.

Despite my personal feelings, we members of the Catholic laity do need to be aware of the fact that there is more to consider than we know that might merit a pastoral decision like this. No, I cannot personally think of any that convince me either. But we need to avoid the argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because we do not know of such a reason does not mean no such reason exists. We do know that there are pro-abortion Catholic politicians in other countries, and we would certainly need to first research whether they are denied the Eucharist.

And here we see that Cardinal-elect Gregory’s plan—however much we deplore it—is not unusual. In other nations, this approach has been used for awhile (See HERE for examples). So, like it or not, we are a bit late in our outrage… we were just ignorant about the situation.

God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If Biden does receive the Eucharist unworthily, he will answer for that as well as any unrepented sins… just as we all will. This may or may not apply to the Cardinal-elect or bishops in other nations as well that permit a pro-abortion politician to receive. But that is a judgment that God will have to make.

The judgment the Pope and Curia will need to make is, at what point does canon 915 apply when it comes to politicians creating and protecting laws contrary to Catholic teaching.

So, if Cardinal-Elect Gregory persists in this, and Rome does not overrule him, we do have an obligation to understand the thinking involved instead of committing rash judgment. No, this is not a doctrine. No, we are not required to give “religious assent of intellect and will” to this decision. No, this is not a stamp of approval by the Church for Biden’s policies. We do know that the Pope is opposed to abortion, after all. But, even if we are morally appalled by this, we are still required to behave in a Christian manner. Canon 212—the part that gets forgotten—requires us to make our concerns known respectfully:

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

So, if we are morally troubled, let us pray for Biden and for Cardinal-elect Gregory, that they might do what is right in God’s sight. And, if they persist in acting in a way we are morally appalled by, then let us pray that we might understand God’s will in the matter. But let us not invent charges of heresy and act like an angry mob. If conscience demands that we speak out, we cannot do so in a way that treats the clergy as if they were enemies… because then we are guilty of doing wrong as well.

 

______________________

(†) As I understand it, canon 1398 (“A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”) does not apply to the politicians that legalize abortion, but only those who participate in a specific act of abortion.

(‡) We might fail of course, but the intention must be there.

4 comments:

  1. This is how I see it. Canon 915 probably applies here. Whatever Cardinal-to-be Gregory does, people will disagree and feel alienated. If he doesn't deny communion: the Church will be in a better position to have dialogue and change things for the better, the right and conservative branches will disagree, and their alienation will leave at least the conservatives fighting within the Church for change. If he does deny communion, he alienates those in secular leadership positions best able to make changes if they are engaged in dialogue, and the left end of the spectrum will disagree, and their alienation will have them drift away from the Church. If I am correct, as someone who is not a US citizen/resident and has no training in political studies, then I think the former option has the best outcome. I don't know what the effect of scandal will be here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does seem to be the dilemma in a nutshell. I think the effect of scandal would be that people look at the Church teaching on the matter as something not important

      Delete
    2. I think the solution to that scandal issue is to get people to get their hands dirty. It's not their role to elect a president to do their work for them. To me, as an outsider, that seems to be what many think. Maybe I'm wrong. There need not be the sort of anti-Biden rhetoric like that coming from the right. Bishops can work with Biden. But bishops can mobilise their priests, the priests mobilise their parishioners, and the laity (of other faiths too) push back. That mitigates the scandal, and nobody sits around waiting for a president or a bishop who will solve their problems for them. But I think we're all tired and disillusioned.

      Delete
    3. People do indeed need to get involved. For example, even if the SCOTUS should overturn Roe v. Wade, we will still need to work to eliminate abortion in all of the states. We can't just let the government do everything.

      But, if Biden makes an issue out of being Catholic and uses his presidential powers to sign laws, enact executive orders, and appoint judges that go against that religious profession, the question becomes, "What are we to do with him as a Catholic?"

      Obviously the Church teaching will not dictate how to run the country. But it might serve as a warning to Biden about the moral consequences of what he chooses to do.

      Delete