Thursday, November 15, 2007

Excommunicate Ted Kennedy and Other Scandalous Catholic Politicians

Well, the title of the post says it all.

Not really. I guess you could say this is my thesis to start with, but I'm really interested in others' opinions on this.

A few initial rules of engagement on this: 1. I'm definitely not any kind of Church scholar, I just go on what I've learned in the last two years; 2. I don't want Ted Kennedy (or anyone) to go to Hell; 3. Ted Kennedy's sins are no worse than mine; 4. The culture of death needs to be stopped.

If I understand this issue correctly, excommunication keeps a Catholic from the Sacraments, but doesn't really mean they are "kicked out" of the Church per se; they are effectively kept from all participation in the whole reason the Church exists, the Sacraments. The Church desires that anyone who has been excommunicated will eventually repent and return to full communion with Her. The reasons that excommunication might be imposed on a Catholic, include unrepentant mortal sin, made worse by obvious scandalous behavior. Now, in most cases we should not judge someone we see receiving the Eucharist, even if we're certain, or think we are, of their behavior. Such prejudice is obviously fraught with great danger, insofar as we probably don't really know the full story; they might have confessed and repented and are in a state of grace; if the priest is giving them Communion then we should assume it's OK.

(If I've got any of this wrong, let me know)

But, can anyone really understand a scenario in which Ted Kennedy, and other like-minded Catholic politicians, repeatedly and adamantly push a pro-abortion agenda including the so-called partial birth abortion procedure, but are somehow still in full communication with the Church? Does this not scandalize the person (Kennedy, et al); the parish; and the whole Church?

Sure, we are called to use the "benefit of the doubt" approach, which is prudent and charitable. But if I walked up for Communion, took the Host by hand, and then suddenly you saw me crunch it up in little pieces and scatter it all over the sanctuary, you'd have to use some pretty impressive pretzel logic to not assume I had just desecrated Our Lord-- unless you somehow decide to assume I had performed a sleight of hand trick, consumed the Host and then pulled out an unconsecrated wafer to trick everyone.....nevertheless, a scandal either way.

Looking for your viewpoint.


Germanicus said...

Small clarification on assumption 3;
Because of his public office the effects of Ted Kennedy’s sins have farther reaching consequences than yours. An argument could be made that his private sins and yours carry equal weight, though that is debatable as well when you consider that the private matters of public officials become public so quickly.
From scripture; consider the national effects of King David’s sin or the slow inevitable collapse of Israel because of the sins of the leaders.
Ted’s ability to cause scandal far outweighs yours. Or to put it positively his ability to encourage virtue and reason are far beyond yours also. Ted Kennedy has been given much so much is expected he also knows what he should do but refuses to do it. St Paul calls that suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
As a father I take that to heart because though my influence is far less than national or even municipal my scandal will effect my children. As for Ted Kennedy I am sure Cardinal O’Malley has spoken to him.

bill bannon said...

Once you've said a criminal murderer should have a chance at a long process repentance in prison and not be executed....then it is hard to turn around and excommunicate abortion pols because you are executing their connection to the sacraments while you are being lenient to criminals who murder adults.
In short, John Paul's innovative but misguided opposition to the death penalty (probably based on Cardinal Bernadin's Seamless Garment theory...(but review Rom.13:3-4)) has had the reverse effect of no repentance from abortion supporting pols.

You've told murderers that they deserve a long time to repent so how are you going to sever abortion pols from the sacraments which requires what Aquinas called the virtue of "severitas" ...severity...the ability to sever..... which virtue you abandoned when dealing with criminals.
Your a Pope... on murderers gives you an image of sweetness but then that very image leaves you looking as a procrastinator on stopping abortion by going beyond the issuing of yet one more document and into actual actions that speak louder than words.

Joshua 24:15 said...

Bill, thanks for your comments.
You lost me a little near the end of the post but that's OK I'm a slow learner.
If you're comparing the death penalty with excommunication, I see what you saying but I disagree with it. Ted Kennedy has the ability to come back to communication with repentence and Reconciliation (and true change of course). This is what the Church would wish.
To make the issues apple to apple, the criminal murderer, if unrepentant, would also not be in the state of grace necessary to properly receive Communion.
Bottom line is, life is sacred and should be respected and protected. Those who lead others to abortion are committing mortal sin.

Tom & Carrie Herring said...


I submit that there is an element of scandal also on the part of U.S. bishops who do *not* make public the excommunication of "Catholics" like Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, Murray, Cant(vote)well, and the rest.

How can we expect American Catholics to reject pro-abort politicians at the voting booth, when they're seen welcomed into the communion line?

bill bannon said...

I agree with Tom and Carrie but would add that Popes have to get involved as being rulers over those Bishops if those Bishops do nothing....this issue has been going on for decades beginning with Cuomo and Ferraro.

If Popes slowly define themselves as authors only and not rulers (canon law gives them power that is "immediate" and "supreme" over individual churches and "groups of churches")...then these debates will continue ad infinitum and blogs 20 years from now will look as blogs look now on this issue. Popes or the CDF issuing yet more documents is not enough.

Here is canon 333:

Can. 333 §1. By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff not only possesses power over the universal Church but also obtains the primacy of ordinary power offer all particular churches and groups of them. Moreover, this primacy strengthens and protects the proper, ordinary, and immediate power which bishops possess in the particular churches entrusted to their care.

§2. In fulfilling the office of supreme pastor of the Church, the Roman Pontiff is always joined in communion with the other bishops and with the universal Church. He nevertheless has the right, according to the needs of the Church, to determine the manner, whether personal or collegial, of exercising this office.

§3. No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.

I am no canon lawyer but it sure sounds like the papal office could make a phone call to the US Bishops and mandate that they excommunicate Catholic pols who support abortion actively as Kerry did when he had his wife and daughters march in a pro choice parade.....which is hardly the neutrality that the original Cuomo speech years ago proffered as viable.