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Ask a Priest - Can a Public Figure Who Has Voted on Anti-Life Legislation Be Denied Communion?

Last edited 5th March 2012

Ask a Priest - Can a Public Figure Who Has Voted on Anti-Life Legislation Be Denied Communion?

Can a public figure who has voted on anti-life legislation be denied communion?

This is a much-debated issue, particularly in the United States, and as yet there is no consensus on it.

One thing that is clear is that politicians who profess themselves to be Catholic should defend human life and oppose any laws that endanger this. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith spelt this out in its 2003 note on Catholics in political life.

Paragraph 4 quotes what John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life. “John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that 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 following paragraph also explains:
“ Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements. This is not a question of «confessional values» per se, because such ethical precepts are rooted in human nature itself and belong to the natural moral law.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has so far not made a declaration on whether anti-life Catholic politicians should be denied communion. There is disagreement among the bishops on this matter. Some of them prefer to deal with politicians and the matter of communion in private discussions and not to be some kind of policeman at the altar rails.

Nevertheless, a number of bishops are in favour of denying Communion to politicians who are notoriously anti-life. The most complete explanation of this position is an essay by Archbishop Raymond Burke, who at the time when he wrote the article was archbishop of St Louis.

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