Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cardinal Rodriguez on Communion and Excommunication

Rocco Palmo links to an excellent interview with Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalapa in Honduras, and possible future pope. He was asked about the recent furore over Benedict's reiteration of basic canon law concerning the eucharist, that was so misunderstood by the press. But Cardinal Rodriguez makes a brilliant distinction between the application of canon law, and the more crass political attempts by some on the American right to deny communion to certain politicians (see here for my take). Here's his distinction:

"Q. Do you agree with the Pope's statement that pro-choice Catholic politicians merit excommunication?
A. It is canon law that everyone who works for abortion is excommunicated. It's not something the Pope invented. If you favor abortion, you are outside the communion of the Church. And it was necessary to say that. There are people in Mexico saying I am Catholic and I support abortion rights. This is a contradiction in its very essence. As a teacher of the Church, the Pope has a responsibility of teaching when something happening is wrong.

Q. Do you agree with bishops who deny giving Holy Communion to the these politicians?
A. This is a different point. For who am I to deny Holy Communion to a person? I cannot. It's in the tradition of moral theology that even if I know a person is living in grave sin, I cannot take a public action against him. It would be giving scandal to the person. Yes, he should not seek [communion], but I cannot deny it from him...."

Excellent answer!


Anonymous said...

If it is true that, as St Paul says, he who eats and drinks unworthily at the table of the Lord eats and drinks damnation to himself, how uncharitable to not prevent that if one is certain of unworthiness. Would you say that such unworthiness is only a subjective determination (in the inner forum)? Is it possible for anyone but the individual to know for certain of such unworthiness (and I assume that means a state of mortal sin - full willing, full knowledge, grave matter)?

Probably the judgment that one is in a state of mortal sin is not relevant here.

Take for example one who intends to use the Host for a satanic rite, or merely to put it in his pocket out of mere curiosity: If the Cardinal knew this were the reason (let us take it as a given that he did know this intention somehow), would he not be obliged to refuse communion in such a case? I think so, in my anonymity.

paul zummo said...

For who am I to deny Holy Communion to a person?

Ummm, a Roman Catholic Cardinal invested with the power to do so. I'm not one who necessarily is pushing for mass excommunciations, but the Cardinals' response is a little disheartening. It may seem "mean" or intemperate, but it is nonetheless appropriate to deny communion to those who are unworthy of reception.

paul zummo said...

The more I look at the Cardinal's response, the more theologically dubious it appears to me. But I'm not alone. >Here's a good breakdown of some of the problems with the Cardinal's comments.

margaret said...

I strongly believe that it would be inappropriate and arrogant for me, a Catholic lay person, to sit in judgment of the church hierarchy. Those who are in grevious and DELIBERATE error will be dealt with accordingly when the time is right. Let us pray to St. John Vianney, patron of priests, for all of our clergy.