Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Cardinal Ladaria of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Writes Letter to US Bishops' President Archbishop Gomez on Reception of Communion by Politicians











A letter, dated May 7, 2021, was issued by Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, S.J., the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Archbishop José H. Gomez, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was a response to a March 30th letter from Archbishop Gomez to the C.D.F. in which he informed the congregation that the U.S.C.C.B. was preparing to draft a document on “the worthiness to receive Communion” of Catholic politicians who support legislation permitting abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils.
According the CNS, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, congregation prefect, reiterated what he said he had told several groups of U.S. bishops during their 2019-2020 "ad limina" visits, namely that "the effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions." 
Cardinal Ladaria begins the letter by responding at length to Archbishop Gomez’s request that the C.D.F. make available a copy of a letter from then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2004 on the subject. Cardinal Ladaria explained that since it was “in the form of a private letter to the bishops” and Cardinal Ratzinger had stipulated that “these principles were not intended for publication,” the C.D.F. would respect his wish.
At the same time, Cardinal Ladaria acknowledged that the principles contained in the letter may assist the bishops in drafting their document, but they “should only be discussed within the context of the [C.D.F.’s] authoritative doctrinal note” of 2002: “On some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life.” He said that text predates Cardinal Ratzinger’s “personal communication” and “provides the teaching of the Magisterium on the theological foundation for any initiative regarding the question of the worthy reception of Holy Communion.”
"Cardinal Ratzinger's communication," he said, "should thus be discussed only within the context of the authoritative doctrinal note which provides the teaching of the magisterium on the theological foundation for any initiative regarding the question of worthy reception of holy Communion."
The 2002 note said, "Those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."
The 2002 note did not, however, mention reception of the Eucharist.
Cardinal Ratzinger's 2004 letter, which was never published by the Vatican, said, "Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest -- understood in the case of a Catholic politician as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws -- his pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."
"When 'these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,' and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the holy Eucharist, 'the minister of holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,'" Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, quoting from a declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on the issue of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
Writing to Archbishop Gomez, Cardinal Ladaria said the U.S. bishops need an "extensive and serene dialogue" among themselves and between individual bishops and Catholic politicians in their dioceses who do not support the fullness of the church's teaching to understand "the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching."
Only after both dialogues, the cardinal said, the bishops' conference "would face the difficult task of discerning the best way forward for the church in the United States to witness to the grave moral responsibility of Catholic public officials to protect human life at all stages."
"If it is then decided to formulate a national policy on worthiness for Communion, such a statement would need to express a true consensus of the bishops on the matter, while observing the prerequisite that any provisions of the conference in this area would respect the rights of individual ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See," the cardinal said, citing St. John Paul II's 1998 document on bishops' conferences.
Cardinal Ladaria specifically pointed to paragraphs 22 of the document, "Apostolos Suos," which says bishops' conferences may publish doctrinal declarations when they are "approved unanimously," but "a majority alone" is not enough for publication without the approval of the Vatican.
He also cited paragraph 24, which says the bishops' conference cannot hinder an individual bishop's authority in his diocese "by substituting themselves inappropriately for him, where the canonical legislation does not provide for a limitation of his episcopal power in favor of the episcopal conference."
(Edited from Angelus News from Catholic News Service of the USCCB)
According to America Magazine; the counsel from the congregation seems to suggest clearly that the drafting of a document as envisaged by the U.S.C.C.B. president is something that cannot be rushed and would inevitably take time, and it would have to reflect “true consensus” among the bishops, something that cannot be taken for granted now.
The CDF's letter may lead to a reconsideration of the plan of some bishops to get the conference to approve the document. 
In the letter to Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Cardinal Ladaria also insisted: such a policy cannot usurp the authority of an individual bishop in his diocese on the matter; the policy would require near unanimity; and it would be "misleading" to present abortion and euthanasia as "the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics."

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