U.S. Bishops are taking a new confrontational approach with Catholic politicians who have taken pro-choice positions on abortion. The conservative Catholic Crisis magazine (April) reports that a “new generation of bishops is rising” to enforce discipline on dissenting politicians, even to the point of denying them communion.
The new approach was first taken last year when Sacraemento’s bishop William Weigand “issued the canonical equivalent of a cease-and-desist order” against California’s former governor, Gray Davis, warning that if he didn’t renounce his pro-choice position he should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.
Inspired by Weigand’s example, other bishops, such as Boston’s new Archbishop Sean O’Malley, warned pro-choice politicians to refrain from receiving communion. Most notable among these bishops is now St. Louis’ Archbishop Raymond Burke who publicly ordered diocesan priests to refuse communion to three Wisconsin legislators last fall while serving as bishop of La Crosse.
When Democratic candidate John Kerry visited St. Louis in January, Burke advised him not to receive communion. Conservatives hope the new confrontational style will eventually “teach the laity about their obligations as Catholic citizens,” who can then exert pressure from the polling booth on Catholic politicians who don’t follow the church’s line, writes Michael Uhlmann.
(Crisis, 1814 1/2, N St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036)