Catholic Obama Adviser Chides Archbishops for Not Taking a 'Catholic Approach' Toward Pro-Abort Politicians
May 30, 2009 - 2:35 PMDouglas Kmiec, a prominent Catholic and law professor, said bishops and priests have no right to withhold the Eucharist from Catholic politicians who support abortion.
He also said bishops and priests who deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians are engaging in “intimidation.”
“Let me tell you that to be separated from the body of Christ even once is intimidation,” said Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
Kmiec--a campaign advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008--was barred from communion by a priest in California last year. Kmiec wrote a book, “Can a Catholic Vote for Him?” which promoted the idea that pro-life Catholics could support Obama, who supports legalized abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex unions.
“But it is not just an isolated case of a mistaken priest who thankfully, with the discipline of the local archbishop (Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles), wrote a letter of apology, which of course, is accepted," said Kmiec, speaking of his own case, on a panel at the National Press Club last week.
“It is instead that since 2004, it has been the teaching of at least some bishops that this is something that should be readily advertised and pursued,” said Kmiec.
Kmiec, a former dean of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America, cited these examples:
“‘Mr. Kerry, don’t come to St. Louis.’ ‘Mr. Biden, if you’re in town, in Denver, and you’re attending mass, you should think twice about coming to the altar rail.’ ‘Kathleen Sebelius, because we disagree with how you have discharged your responsibilities as you’ve been advised by your legal counsel, stay away. Publicly confess.’
“I suggest that is not either an effective or a Catholic approach,” Kmiec added.
Kmiec was referring to the actions of three bishops:
-- In 2008, Archbishop Raymond Burke, who was then the archbishop of St. Louis, Mo., warned Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 that he would deny communion to Kerry if the abortion-rights Catholic showed up at mass in St. Louis.
In 2007, Burke indicated he would do the same to pro-abortion Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Burke is now the head of the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial body in the Catholic Church.
-- In 2008 in Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput said Catholics who disagree with the church on "serious, sanctity of life issues" should not present themselves for the Eucharist--and called on the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), not to partake of communion when he was in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
-- Former Kansas Gov. Sebelius, the new U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, was instructed by her bishop in Kansas, Bishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., not to go to the communion rail because of her public support for abortion and her opposition to pro-life legislation.
A conservative Catholic group, meanwhile, challenges Kmiec’s assessment that requests to refrain from partaking the Eucharist amount to intimidation.
“When the church properly and justly instructs a Catholic to not receive Holy Communion, it is a very serious matter--but it's not intimidation,” Joshua Mercer, communications director at Catholicvote.org, told CNSNews.com.
Mercer said that the Church occasionally refuses to grant access to communion for many reasons, including promoting assisted suicide.
“The church likewise asks people to not receive communion if they publicly support intrinsically evil policies like abortion, euthanasia, or counterfeit marriages,” Mercer said.
In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a policy statement-“Catholics in Political Life”--which directly condemned support for abortion and attempts to make abortion legal.
“It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified,” the bishops wrote.
“If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace,” they added.
“To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong,” the document says. “The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law.”
The Catholic bishops took note of the fact that, in the U.S., “abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court.”
“Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice,” the bishops added. “Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.”
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, wrote:
“I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being,” the pope said.
“This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium," John Paul wrote.
Mercer, meanwhile, challenged Kmiec’s assertion that safeguarding the Eucharist is a “Catholic approach.”
“These Catholic officials have created confusion among Catholics by claiming it's permissible to be Catholic and support legal abortion,” he added. “The bishops are right to counter this lie.”
The May 28 discussion, which was sponsored by the Catholic University of America, was designed to “explore common ground” between the church’s position on the sanctity of life and the positions of the Obama administration.
Participants included Kmiec and Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, was the moderator.