8

According to this article,

"Any Catholic accomplice in the act of procuring an abortion, even though not specifically mentioned in Canon #1398, receives the same penalty of automatic excommunication. Here an accomplice is one who assists in such a way that the heinous act would not have been committed without his assistance."

If a politician votes for legislation that passes, say, that legalizes abortion in some capacity, is that politician therefore automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church?

1
1

Are politicians who are integral to passing pro-abortion laws automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church?

The short answer is no, but it does not end there.

Catholics who procure a completed abortion are subject to a latae sententiae excommunication. That means that the excommunication is not imposed by an authority or trial (as with a ferendae sententiae penalty); rather, being expressly established by canon law, it is incurred ipso facto when the delict is committed (a latae sententiae penalty). Canon law states that in certain circumstances "the accused is not bound by a latae sententiae penalty"; among the ten circumstances listed are commission of a delict by someone not yet sixteen years old, or by someone who without negligence does not know of the existence of the penalty, or by someone "who was coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience."

According to a 2004 memorandum by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Catholic politicians who consistently campaign and vote for permissive abortion laws should be informed by their priest of the Church's teaching and warned to refrain from receiving the Eucharist or risk being denied it until they end such activity. This position is based on Canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and has also been supported, in a personal capacity, by Archbishop Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church after the pope himself. Pope Francis reaffirmed this position in March 2013, when he stated that "[people] cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.

During the Year of Mercy (2015) Pope Francis granted priests the grace of absolving the sin of abortion, without going to the local bishop to receive permission to first lift the automatic excommunication incurred by the abortion in the first place.

  1. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year,[14] is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation. - Apostolic Le Misericordia et misera of the Holy Father Francis.

As Peter Turner mentioned in his answer the sin of such politicians who vote or publicly endorse abortions are guilty of scandal, which is not an excommunicable offence.

A politician who votes for evil laws, like expanding people's rights to kill babies, may in some people's eyes be accomplices to abortion, but the particular sin they're culpable for before the congregation is scandal.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible." - CCC 2286

Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine Faith say politicians who publicly support abortions should be refused communion. That implies that such politicians are a serious source of scandal, but are not officially excommunicated. It is a fine line, but there it is.

Cardinal Ratzinger—in his official capacity as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—sent a memorandum (July 2004) to Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, regarding the worthy reception of the Eucharist. He writes:

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.

Citing a declaration from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Ratzinger continues:

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….” This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

In light of these teachings, it is likely that Archbishop Cupich either misspoke or was not sufficiently aware of Cardinal Ratzinger and Bergoglio’s teaching.

First, it is clear Catholic politicians who support abortion “cannot receive holy communion” due to their “objective situation of sin.” Moreover, the minister of Holy Communion “must refuse to distribute it” to them (emphasis added).

Second, while Archbishop Cupich is correct in saying the communion rail is not the place to discuss a person’s worthiness to receive Holy Communion, this is not what the Church in fact proposes. Rather, the Church instructs pastors to meet privately with the politician, instruct him on the Church’s teaching, and warn him that he will be denied the Eucharist unless “he brings to an end the objective situation of sin.” Thus, while the communion rail is not the place to have conversations, it is the place to refuse communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion. - On Giving Communion to Pro-Abortion Politicians

Canon 1398 is a norm of canon law of the Catholic Church which declares that "a person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

Canon 915, applies to Catholic legislators who make abortion legal, does not impose excommunication, but instead imposes on the minister of Holy Communion the obligation to refuse the sacrament to those who "obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin".

The July 2004 document of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has an interesting ending note that is truly an eye opener:

N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons. - Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles

1
  • 1
    @jongricafort The then Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the highest ecclesiastic Congregation at the Vatican would never have published such a memorandum without Pope John Paul ii being aware of such a document. It engages offical teachings of the Church from thee head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To think otherwise would be absolutely nonsense. Cardinal Ratzinger had always been known as Pope John Paul ii's right hand man and one of his closest advisors. Besides Pope John Paul ii never ordered it to be retracted or altered in any form.
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 14 at 6:28
7

Excommunication is not exactly the same as recognizing grave matter. Excommunications can't simply be overturned by going to confession. A politician who votes for evil laws, like expanding people's rights to kill babies, may in some people's eyes be accomplices to abortion, but the particular sin they're culpable for before the congregation is scandal.

Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

CCC 2284

That Catechism passage had the word "grave" in it twice, which means it is very bad. It's the thing that Jesus said you'd be better off at the bottom of a lake than doing.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible."

CCC 2286

So, not to let anyone off the hook, creating conditions where people want abortions is bad too.


However, to answer your question, it is not excommunication to be guilty of grave matter, but it is scandal upon scandal to allow people who are guilty of something like this to present themselves for communion.

And, for the record, at least one priest has denied Joe Biden, communion. The episcopacy just hasn't been using excommunication as a tool to tell people how to vote. I'd imagine they have reasons and I can only hope that they're being guided by the Holy Spirit.

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Church’s doctrinal office, wrote a memorandum to the U.S. Catholic bishops, explaining the application of canon 915 to the question of pro-choice politicians.

The case of a Catholic politician who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” would constitute “formal cooperation” in grave sin that is “manifest,” the letter explained.

In such cases, “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,” Ratzinger wrote.

If the individual perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

CNA News - Analysis: Will anything change on pro-choice politicians and holy communion?

But in the end, the US Bishops said each diocese is going to decide how to approach it.

Bishop Strickland in Texas would be on the side of the communion deniers but he might have it easy since the number of notable pro-choice Catholic politicians in the diocese of 55,000 people is pretty small.

3
  • I'm referring here to automatic excommunication, though. Can you explain how we know they aren't automatically excommunicated? Mar 11 at 17:52
  • I'm not a canon lawyer, just a sometimes lay catechist, so I hate to comment on canon law. I think excommunication is a matter of canon law. Seems like if there's nothing saying they're excommunicated that they're not excommunicated.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 11 at 17:56
  • My understanding is that the whole point of automatic excommunication is that no one needs to say they're excommunicated, though. Mar 11 at 17:57
4

If a politician votes for legislation that passes, say, that legalizes abortion in some capacity, is that politician therefore automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church?

The answer is NO.

That is according to Pope Francis the Supreme Interpreter and Legislator of Canon Law. Why? The sin of abortion can now be pardoned directly by a Priest, as Pope Francis gave them faculties to pardon the sins of abortion, not only for politicians who are indirectly involve in act of abortion but even the Doctors who performed it and even the Woman who consented to it.

Source: Pope Francis tells priests to pardon women who have abortions

On final note, abortion is not mandatory, even if all the politicians unanimously voted for it's legislation, the Woman can all say No to abortion. Remember the tagline of Pro-Choice is, "My body my choice".

Also, it's good to consider that if all the Pastors or Bishop had already formed the conscience and faith of their flock over the numerous decades had passed, then, all of them will express their strong faith and trust in God, thereby, saying No to abortion. But the sad reality is, the recent letter of the USCCB on the inaguration day of Pres. Biden seems to blame their Pastoral failure on the politicians. On which, Cardinal Cupich publicly rebuked the USCCB letter calling it "ill=considered" questioning the validity of the process how the letter was crafted.

In rare rebuke, Cardinal Cupich criticizes USCCB president’s letter to President Biden

We can liken the sin of abortion to Adam & Eve since it involves a choice between accepting or rejecting a sin. God had allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to choose or reject the sin by disobedience. Adam had freely chosen to reject God's commandment, but, in turn, put the blame on Eve for his failure, and Eve blamed the serpent for her failure. USCCB and other Bishops who keep on blaming the politicians for the sins of abortion are acting like Adam and Eve for blaming the old serpent for their own failure.

Additional Reference: Thanka to @PeterTurner

APOSTOLIC LETTER Misericordia et misera OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY Francis to all who read this Apostolic Letter mercy and peace

  1. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year,[14] is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20161120_misericordia-et-misera.html

11
  • 1
    So, has Canon Law #1398 been repealed or become defunct? The penalty is supposed to be latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication. Mar 11 at 12:50
  • 1
    @MikeBorden Priests being able to forgive abortions (essentially lifting excommunication) in confession was a temporary lifting of the sanction by Pope Francis for the "Year of Mercy" in 2015.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 11 at 13:49
  • 2
    "Remember the tagline of Pro-Choice is, "My body my choice"." That makes for a nice slogan, but just watch how quickly it breaks down when someone who "should have" had an abortion chooses not to!
    – Mason Wheeler
    Mar 11 at 16:52
  • 1
    @jongricafort that's true! I hadn't heard that before, I would have thought that would be bigger news - maybe it was but I just missed it. Mike, it's in an apostolic letter I don't think it's changing canon law, he's granting priests the permanent faculty to lift excommunication for that reason. I'd imagine Dr. Taylor Marshall has other opinions on the matter.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 12 at 14:17
  • 2
    @jong I think you should edit something from Pope Francis' apostolic letter since your linked article does say it was just a temporary allowance for 2015.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 12 at 14:19
1

The short answer is yes because the politician has committed heresy:

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same". CCC 2089

The politician who claims the Catholic Faith yet is in opposition to it in an active, extended and ongoing manner in regard to an infallible Catholic dogma (condemnation of abortion). A politician who espouses, advocates, promotes, funds and spreads legal abortion over a long period of time is in grave sin and is ipso facto excommunicated.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.