Boston, MA -- The Catholic Democrats today condemned the politicization of the Eucharist that emerged this week in an attack by one bishop on the governor of his state, and in the denial of Communion to a Republican Constitutional law scholar because of his support for presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is a Catholic advisor to Senator Obama, and a leading candidate for his vice-presidential nomination. She has been in the forefront of all state executives in advocating constructive measures to decrease the number of abortions, which have indeed fallen at a rate twice the national average (3.6% her first 4-yrs in office, compared to 1.6% for the Bush first term, according to CDC data).
Professor Douglas Kmiec is a former counsel to President Ronald Reagan and law professor who has been an ardent opponent of abortion. Both have been singled out for a subtle form of excommunication because they are highly visible supporters of a Democratic presidential candidate.
In Governor Sebelius' case, she vetoed a law that imposed new criminal dimensions on the abortion process in Kansas, and would have significantly expanded the role of courts and trial lawyers. Over her five years in office, she has carefully and repeatedly articulated the reasons why she found criminalization measures counterproductive, and inferior to more supportive approaches to decreasing abortions. In other words, like most of her fellow Catholics and all the US Bishops, she is dedicated to seeing the number of abortions significantly reduced. Nonetheless, her prudential judgment in that matter incurred the wrath of Archbishop Joseph Naumann, a registered Republican. He publicly called for her "to refrain from receiving the Eucharist" because of her stance on abortion, even though both of them are fundamentally opposed to abortion.
Despite the ardor of certain conservatives to deny Communion to Democrats and other Obama supporters, this practice is not legitimized in Church law. According to Rev. John Beal JCD, professor of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America, "...a necessarily strict interpretation of Canon 915 serves as a brake on the temptation to politicize the Eucharist by allowing the sacrament that signifies and effects the union of love between Christ and the church to become a sacrament that signifies and brings about disunity. Zeal to protect the Eucharist from profanation by sinners can unwittingly lead to an even greater profanation by transforming the Eucharistic celebration into a continuation of politics by liturgical means."
Bill Roth, an official with Catholic Democrats, commented, "At a time when the Church is so much in need of healing, using Communion to attack a heroic public official like Governor Sebelius, because you differ with her approach to solving the abortion problem, is pastorally divisive beyond belief. And pitting Republican Catholics against Democratic Catholics cannot possibly be consistent with our Gospel values as Christians."
Additional significant background can be found at www.CatholicDemocrats.org.
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Catholic Democrats is an association of state based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans.