Politicians and excommunication

Hi, maybe someone can clear my confusion

As someone who wasn’t born into a Catholic family, I feel like I’m missing out when I go to Mass because I can’t go up for the Eucharist. Now, I’m not complaining about this, because I understand the reasons why. I even think this helps give me a greater appreciation for what it is. But it makes me feel very upset when people who publicly promote evil are allowed to receive it, apparently in opposition to Cardinal Burke (Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura), who has stated multiple times that this is unacceptable :mad:

Obviously, I’m talking mostly about politicians and activists who promote abortion, fornication, homosexuality, etc. If I am not mistaken, Cardinal Burke, by virtue of his position, is the highest authority for canon law in the Latin Church, outside of HH Pope Francis himself. He has stated multiple times that Canon 915 denies politicians the ability to receive the Eucharist. Why then, after supposedly “Catholic” politicians promote these evils, are they allowed to continue their “Catholics in good standing” position? I can’t speak for other countries, but here in the US, it seems the USCCB has really dropped the ball on this one. How is it that Nancy Pelosi has not been excommunicated? Or Joe Biden? Or Andrew Cuomo? The list can go on and on.

Am I missing something here? Where am I wrong? Why is it that Bishops are so willing to provide photo-ops for these politicians? These people clearly don’t live up to their duty as Christians in the government. They’re supposed to do the right thing, and they simply refuse to, despite knowing what Church teaching is. Are the Bishops being too timid, or am I not understanding something?

I think that there will always be confusion when worrying about someone else’s state of grace and their examination of their own

You may not have all the facts and they are probably not your business. I understand that you might feel scandalized by what you think they believe or stand for but you may not have the entire story.

When it comes to Catholic politicians, how can we not know where they stand when they broadcast their views to millions on TV?

I’m grateful that such decisions aren’t in my hands – part of being Catholic is trusting the Church. I struggle with this myself but I think one of the worst ways in which to fail in trusting is to assume what bishops, for example, “should” do.

I also want to offer a gentle suggestion to dial it down a bit: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=762798

I understand completely what you are feeling.
In my own faith journey, I have struggled with this very question, especially when there was a chance that I may not be able to receive the Eucharist due to a marriage issue, but that is a whole other story. :stuck_out_tongue:

I was lucky to have relationships with a couple of different priests, one of which was a Canon Lawyer. Between these 2 men, they helped me come to this understanding of the whole thing. That doesn’t mean I necessarily “like it”, and I still struggle sometimes. :o

I think the flaw is in the misunderstanding of what “excommunication” really means. Many think of it as a “judicial penalty”, one that strips you of your “Catholicity” ,if that’s a word :shrug: when it is actually a “medicinal penalty”. One who is excommunicated is still bound by their “obligations” and will only commound their problems if they don’t meet them. But ultimately, it is between them, their priest and/or Bishop, and God.

I think we tend to want to live in a “black & white” world, but there are way too many shades of gray…, and since that is how God made us, I think that Philomeena said it best in post # 2! :thumbsup:

After a sometimes rough faith journey, I’ve come to the conclusion that the path to holiness is to worry about my own holiness first and above all, and let that of others be between themselves and God.

God knows I have so much to work on myself to become holy that I simply can’t gather the energy to worry about others’ holiness. :blush:

Scandal, in the Church and out of it, will be with us until the end times. Once it was so bad that the result was the Reformation. In more recent times, the sex abuse scandal and the breech of trust it caused is, IMHO, many times worse than the scandalous ramblings of Catholic politicians.

Jesus promised us that the Church would survive all of this, and He promised us his Mercy and Grace. Mercy and Divine Grace is something we all need, not just wayward politicians.

However I can understand where the OP is coming from. It’s the zeal of the newly converted, something I too felt when I reverted after a long absence from the Church, and something that’s a natural part of one’s faith evolution.

The parable of the wheat and the weeds comes to mind.

***He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’" *(Matthew 13:29-30)

At the end of the day it is God himself who will toss us into the fire or gather us into his barn.

I had to ask for confession tonight before Mass. As OraLabora said, I have enough to worry about.


To be clear, I tend to think that it makes sense to deny communion to politicians (or anyone) who so publicly contradicts Church teaching.

But the argument is that while they may not be eligible, and should themselves not go forward to receive, and indeed may (emphasis on may - full knowledge etc.) be committing grave sin when they do so, having the minister deny the sacrament rather than the person refrain from presenting himself is a big deal. The idea is that such should be reserved for very rare cases, to refrain from refusing the sacrament to those who shouldn’t be refused. I don’t buy these arguments, because I think the clarity exists.

There is also the fact that some think this would appear to be the Church endorsing one political party over the other with the sacraments - which I think is silly and gets the order of things wrong. Beliefs are more fundamental than party affiliation, and if it so happens that decisions regarding publicly expressed opposition to Catholic teachings affect members of one party more than another, then so be it.

So again, I agree that communion should be withheld from those who publicly express such obviously wrong beliefs. But I’d figured I’d try to say why it sometimes isn’t, to the best of my abilities.

I don’t think it’s accurate to equate withholding the Eucharist with pulling up weeds. Pulling up weeds would be more along the lines of execution - totally giving up on someone. Denying someone communion (or even explicitly excommunicating someone) leaves open the possibility of repentance, while expressly stating the (in this case, clear and obvious) fact that the person is doing something objectively wrong.

It is not a condemnation to Hell. It is not “de-Catholicification”. It is a simple “what you are doing is contrary to the will of God and you should stop.”

You are not missing anything. Canon Law is clear. I think we can make the general statement that all bishops have a positive duty to excommunicate pro-abortion politicians, and that, almost without fail, the bishops have failed to carry out that duty. Period.

However, it is not for me to judge the reason for their failure, nor their culpability. I don’t have any authority over my bishop; I don’t have to evaluate him for re-election the way I do a Senator. Their failures are a great injury to their flocks – but it is God who made them bishops, and God to whom they are accountable. So I cannot justify speculating on the bishops’ timidity or anything else about the state of their souls. Perhaps they are not timid at all, but have only made an error of judgement, or are being deliberately made derelict by God for some reason in His Providence.

I can only state that, for some reason, the U.S. bishops have, almost without exception, demonstrably failed in their duty to the Church, to their flocks, and to the lost souls in question, and that it’s unfortunate that that has happened. And I must even allow for the possibility that I have made an error of judgement, not them.

So, that means that either Cardinal Burke is wrong, or the Bishops who allow these politicians to Holy Communion are wrong. Both can’t be right at the same time, and somebody needs to change. Either Cardinal Burke needs to retract what he said, or the Bishops need to start listening to him and deny Communion to politicians who publicly promote grave sins such as abortion and gay “marriage”.

My guess is that Cardinal Burke is right… And I guess Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (before he became Pope Benedict XVI) was right, too, when he said the same thing that Cardinal Burke is saying.

I’m not trying to say that I know better than the bishops, or anybody else for that matter. Far from it. I just want to understand why they have adopted a seemingly countrary position to canon law on this matter. If I’m wrong in my assumption, then I’m wrong. I will obey the bishops whether I want to or not. That doesn’t mean I can’t ask for answers to serious questions does it?:shrug:

I’m not trying to be uncharitable or disobedient, and if I came off that way then I apologize for my poor choice of words.

I know how great my own sins are. I’m not trying to condemn anyone like the pharisees when I have my own issues to worry about. Thats not the point though.

I’m talking about politicians who very publicly promote evil, are unrepentant, and are still allowed to go right on and receive communion when canon law specifically prohibits them to do so. At least thats what Cardinal Burke and formerly Cardinal Ratzinger have said. Correct me if I’m wrong.

These people aren’t just affecting themselves. They’re poisoning the minds of entire generations against the Church. For instance, Catholics are now more likely to support “homosexual marriage” than the average american is. In fact, a majority of Catholics support it. And I’m not just talking about people who don’t go to mass. I know more than a few mass goers who support the gay agenda. Similar things can be said regarding other major moral issues. :frowning:

I can’t help but be concerned about what these politicians have done, without so much as a gentle public correction by their bishop in most cases. I just want to know why this is the case. I’m not saying I’m better than they or anyone else. I’m the last person who can claim that. I want to know if there is a logical explanation as to why the bishops of this country have seemingly contradicted canon law. I could be completely wrong, but at least tell me why :confused:

I just want to make it clear that I’m not whining and complaining about what the bishops do. I just want to know why they don’t utilize this part of canon law more. Seems to me it’d be a rather expedient way to protect the Church from subversive politicians, and maybe get them to repent. I’m just asking a question!

If I came off as disobedient to the bishops, then I apologize. I’m sincerely confused about this though :confused:

well, I don’t know…sometimes we feel very sure about what someone else thinks or what they stand for based on our own interpretation. For instance. I am Pro-Life. but for me Pro-Life means the whole gospel of life,…not just unborn fetuses. (it includes but is not limited to unborn fetuses). So when I express my displeasure at my governor who says that he “always comes down on the side of life” after we executed our 500th inmate, my “pro-life” friends try to take me to task and make assumptions that I do not care about abortion. Which is not true at all.

Also, there may be positions that politicians you support have that go against Catholic Social Teaching, or the gospel messages that care about the poor and marginalized and the “alien”. Or go against church teaching on war. (BTW, these are life issues, too).

My point is this: be careful about judging, forgive those who sin differently than you do, and just work on your own journey. Every one has their own journey that may or may not include reception of the Eucharist. But your politician receiving has nothing to do with you not receiving. Pray for EVERYONE to have more clarity and understanding on ALL church issues and teachings.

One last note…I was at a Catholic ministry conference and one of the speakers said, " If you identify too closely with any one political party, it is time to make an examination of conscience."


Joe Biden has said that he is personally opposed to abortion because of what the Church teaches but that women have a constitutional right to it. Supreme Court Justice Scalia has said that he would not be in favor of a law banning abortion across the country because it is a decision that constitutionally should be left to the states. I do not see a reason for excommunication in either circumstance.

Where does a person stand who personally believes that a person has the legal right to an abortion even though they do not encourage or promote the practice?

For that matter, what about a catholic who is personally in favor of gay civil marriage but does not promote or encourage the act?

Excommunications are not meant to handed out like halloween candy.

While I can understand your argument, I must respectfully disagree. Abortion is not something you can disagree with but allow. Its murder. Would you say that you disagree with rape, but believe it’s up to individuals to make their own decisions on the matter? I would hope not. Both acts are violent and commited by a person with power over an innocent who cannot defend him/herself. We don’t condone the murder of adults, so why should children be any different? Those in power have a duty to protect the innocent.

Any Christian in office, especially a Catholic, should understand this. If they don’t, I would hope they are informed by their priest or bishop, as I’m sure most of them have. I just wonder why they are allowed to continue asserting a right to infanticide and not suffer any sort of public repercussions. Maybe excommunication is a bit too far, but I trust that Cardinal Burke and the former Cardinal Ratzinger knew what they were talking about in regards to canon law.

I should’ve mentioned this in my last post: I’m talking about Catholic politicians who promte evil. I’m not talking about those who may believe contrary to Church doctrine, but don’t promte their beliefs. What you have described is not what I’m talking about.

Until a law or constitutional ammendment is passed defining life in the womb as deserving equal rights of a person who has been born we have to deal with a difference between a civil constitutional right and a religious moral right. Right now, abortion is not legally murder and I don’t think ever has been. It is our religious belief that it is murder and that religious belief is clearly not shared by others, especailly the Supreme Court.

A person who is raped has rights that a child in the womb does not. It seems the breath of air in the lungs is required for those full rights. I think it should be up to the federal government rather than the states to make that change.

Then your previous post was not to the point. In any event, Michael has perfectly stated my position.

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