Monday, March 25, 2013

Biden and Canon 915: When?

I am glad today was not one of those days where I came up with a great reflective piece, but it gets interrupted by Catholic news...that happens far more often than I'd like. But, c'est la vie.

I have often posted about Canon 915. For new readers or for a refresher, it is this. Canon 915 is the legal tool of the Catholic Church to prevent the improper and sacriligious reception of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and to prevent scandal, which is, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (2284) is "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil."

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.
I like reading a legal text with the plain meaning in mind, either through the ordinary definition or the one provided. Granted, the official text of the Code of Canon Law is Latin, and being the world's oldest system operating today, it is inquiry-based and thus different from American common law. It also likes to provide its own definitions on a frequent basis. But this one isn't too hard. It would seem that obstinately persevering means to continue without regard to change in any form made public. Manifest means to be made known objectively after an examination of the behavior whether a quick one or a more careful study. Grave means serious. Sin of course means something that is against the law of God.

Now, I understand the coincidence of all 4 conditions is the key. But, if support  for abortion, same-sex marriage, and other intrinsically evil actions (such as euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research, or human cloning) in which one publicly presents himself or herself as publicly defying the doctrine of the Catholic Church especially when still saying that one is still in good standing with the Church, IS NOT obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin, then I ask: WHAT IS? This is an example of Joe Biden's position. [NB: I don't endorse Paul Ryan's positions per se, but I certainly like his reasoning; at least he tries to integrate Catholicism into his public policy statements without denying 'de fide' doctrines which Catholics must accept at every time and place. Also, Joe Biden et al. should be canonically charged with something that addresses their support of the HHS mandate.HERE

Apparently, Joe Biden received Holy Communion from Cardinal Dolan himself at Mass yesterday for Palm Sunday at St. Patrick's in New York City. This comes after -allegedly- he received Holy Communion with Nancy Pelosi- yet another flamboyantly pro-abortion Catholic politician- at the Inauguration Mass for Pope Francis. The fact that he received from the cardinal is somewhat irrelevant if he shouldn't be receiving anyways. But, it puts him on the big stage, and also gives his position legitimacy.  Also, it is in stark contrast to the position of his venerable predecessor, His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, who ordered Rudy Giuliani to refrain from receiving not only for his pro-abortion views but because he was divorced and remarried. The media released photos of the former mayor receiving Holy Communion at the Yankee Stadium Papal Mass, and Cardinal Egan was rightfully upset. An act of legislation must be undone with another one, and anyways, there is Canon 916 (which Andrew Cuomo thankfully observes it seems, because he is not only trying to expand abortion in NY but has a live-in partner):
 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental Confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.
Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke.jpgThat applies to all Catholics, by the way. It should apply in the cases of these and other politicians, but Canon 915 needs to be applied because one can get away on Earth with making a sacrilegious Communion...the punishment is not vengeful, or a weapon, as Cardinal Wuerl seems to think. I cannot presume to know his mind and education, but I respectfully say he is dead wrong.
 "One is the pastoral, teaching mode, and the other is the canonical approach...'' 
Why is canonical not pastoral? Cardinal Burke is one of the best pastors, ever, in the Church. Canonical penalties are designed to get us to return to the Church in proper standing so that we might be saved.
"I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon was never intended to be used this way.''
The aforementioned cardinals, the bishops emeritus of New York and St Louis, as well as Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas do not believe that (Kathleen Sebelius was also asked not to receive Holy Communion).  Now, I get his point that the canon is hard to enforce universally. Dr. Peters says that it is not a yes-or-no answer. But, when Cardinal Burke imposed it in St. Louis, he made sure that he published the canonical notice in the diocese and that it was to be enforced elsewhere under those proper conditions. It can be done. It needs to be done.

I think Cardinal Burke is quite frankly the expert, and in the most simple, charitable way possible, on this canon...I am inclined to support his judgment. Google has a host of resources on what he has said. Some commentary is downright nasty, but hey. Fr. Z once said Cardinal Ratzinger told him that he made an examination of conscience if he didn't see that in the press. Fr. Z has a good article HERE. It is about Irish politicians, but the point remains.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a memo to Cardinal McCarrick, then-archbishop of Washington, in 2004 in response to a question regarding priests and bishops who would not let John Kerry receive in their dioceses or parishes. The issue at the bottom, on voters, is another story....but clearly he lines up with Cardinal Burke on this. I trust the judgment of the former CDF prefect and (gosh!) Bishop of Rome on this as well.

Also, why do we focus on Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius, Kerry, et al.? The answer is thus: they are publicly known to be Roman Catholic and are America's most famous Catholics. Now, this goes for all of us in public life: Cardinal Burke was prepared to use the canon against Rick Majerus, the St Louis University basketball coach. Yes, a basketball coach. He should have also taken action against SLU's canonical status...

It is even more important to consider this issue since it is Holy Week. Everyone by their sins is guilty for the death of Christ, regardless of who physically ordered his arrest and punishment and who actually tortured Him. Every time we receive Christ unworthily in the Eucharist, we commit a sin directly against His Body and Blood.

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