Archbishop Answers Critics on Communion for Politicians
Washington, May. 2, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, has responded to criticisms about allowing pro-abortion politicians to receive Communion.
In a column that appears in this week's edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic Standard, the archbishop argues that any decision to bar prominent Catholics from receiving the Eucharist should be made by the bishop in their local dioceses.
Archbishop Wuerl indicated that he would not bar a politician from receiving Communion unless the bishop of that politician's diocese had taken that step. He explained that he has "always respected the role of the local Church and the ministry of the individual bishop as shepherd of the Church entrusted to his care."
The archbishop was clearly responding to public protests that arose from pro-life Catholics after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Chris Dodd received Communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. None of those individuals is enrolled in the Washington archdiocese. Pelosi is from California; Kennedy and Kerry are from Massachusetts; Dodd is from Connecticut. In his column the archbishop did not indicate how he would respond to a pro-abortion Catholic politician who resided in Washington.
The column by Archbishop Wuerl appeared soon after New York's Cardinal Edward Egan had released a public statement criticizing former Mayor Rudy Giuliani for receiving Communion at a papal Mass in New York. Cardinal Egan said that Giuliani should not have received Communion because of his public support for legal abortion.
In his Catholic Standard column Archbishop Wuerl cited the policy approved by the US bishops' conference in 2004, leaving the question to the discretion of individual bishops, to be decided on a diocese-by-diocese basis. That approach drew some criticism during the papal trip from Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who indicated his uneasiness about what he called "territorial morality."
The archbishop's column put some demands on other bishops to admonish politicians who flout Church teachings. "A decision regarding the refusal of Holy Communion to an individual is one that should be made only after clear efforts to persuade and convince the person that their actions are wrong and bear moral consequences," Archbishop Wuerl wrote in the Standard. "Presumably this is done in the home diocese where the bishops and priests, the pastors of souls, engage the members of their flock in this type of discussion."