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CFFC in the News - 2004

religion news service

Most Dioceses Lack Formal Sanctions for Prochoice Politicians

21 May 2004

A survey by an abortion rights group shows that nearly two-thirds of Catholic dioceses have no formal policy about restricting Communion for pro-choice politicians.

Research by Catholics for a Free Choice showed that 62 percent of dioceses have an informal policy on how to treat politicians who dissent from the church’s opposition to abortion, and half have unwritten policies that include various sanctions.

Only one diocese -- La Crosse, Wis. -- has a formal policy denying Communion to pro-choice politicians. Archbishop Raymond Burke, who instituted the policy last year before he was transferred to St. Louis, has not said whether he will issue a similar formal policy in his new post.

Bishops in Lincoln, Neb., Camden, N.J., and Colorado Springs, Colo., joined Burke to say they would deny pro-choice politicians Communion, while 14 others have publicly encouraged dissenting politicians to abstain from the sacrament.

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said research shows that bishops who publicly deny sacraments are a distinct minority.

“Even though there’s been an enormous amount of publicity given to the bishops who have instituted draconian policies, the fact is that most bishops are loath to use the sacraments as a political tool,” she said.

The study included responses from 133 of 178 U.S. dioceses; researchers did not include Eastern Rite eparchies. Eighty-five dioceses had informal policies, while 67 had used unwritten sanctions including a ban on bestowing honors on politicians, or public speaking bans.

At the same time, conservatives who support sanctions have criticized Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington for hesitating to use Communion as a “sanction.” McCarrick is heading a task force of bishops who are drafting guidelines on how to handle dissenting politicians.

A full-page newspaper ad sponsored by the American Life League said McCarrick’s hesitation is “comforting words” for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, but “cold comfort for the 1.3 million babies surgically aborted every year.” A spokeswoman said McCarrick would have no comment on the ads.

This article courtesy of Religion News Service.