Prohibition is worthless without enforcement

By Barbara Kralis
Jesus Through Mary Foundation
© Catholic Online 2004. All Rights Reserved.

The bishops should have stuck to their original plan to have a prayerful retreat. The eventuating ëStatementí was one big disappointment.

Prohibition is worthless without enforcement[1]

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met recently in Denver for their June plenary conference. This yearís meeting, originally said to be a retreat, was held behind closed doors. The usual visitors and observers were not invited. Each bishop was warned not to respond to reporterís requests to give interviews.

It is well known that a large number of Catholic faithful have petitioned their bishops to address the scandal of sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist by manifest sinners who obstinately persist in their grave sin. They asked why c. 915 of the Code of Canon Law is not being enforced in all dioceses.

The bishops agreed to address the scandal of the Eucharist. A ëCommitteeí [2] presented their ëStatementí to the entire Conference.

The Statement was put to a vote. Overwhelmingly, 186 bishops gave it their support, with six bishops abstaining. However, because of what the Statement failed to say, it is not clear whether the six abstaining bishops were in support of denying the Eucharist.[3]

The bishops should have stuck to their original plan of having a prayerful retreat, instead of just ëretreatingí from public view. The prayers would have done more good than the disappointing ëStatementí will do.

Only one part of the Statement will be discussed here and it can be summed up in one conspicuous sentence:

ìBishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.î

The Bishops leave the impression that one of the options of a bishop is to permit or ëadmití a manifest sinner to Holy Communion. However, this is not correct. This sacrilege is forbidden by Canon Law c.915. (See A Primer on Canon 915 for details)

Insofar as the bishops did not state this clearly, they failed the people of God in professing the truth.

This is no small matter, especially in light of the persistent obstinacy of most bishops to apply canon law c.915.

No matter how each bishop reads c.915; it still says the same thingÖmanifest persons who obstinately persist in their grave sin must be denied Holy Communion.

Dear bishops, your recent Statement has not convinced the faithful, how can you convince those committing manifest mortal sin.

The sacrilege and scandal will continue and become more blatant.

The ëStatementí has given pro-abortion ëCatholicí politicians, campaigning throughout the U.S., the ëoptioní to continue to receive sacrilegious Communion in most any 19,000 parishes nationwide. Only two bishops[4], as of this writing, have issued canonical notifications saying they cannot receive sacrilegiously in their dioceses.

The Conference was not ëunitedí on this matter. Issuing a compromising statement to appear ëunitedí is a false unity.

Let us look closer at this lack of ëunityí by examining some prominent U.S. bishopís faulty statements as to why they will not stop the sacrilege:

Cardinal Mahony said he would welcome pro-abortion Sen. John Kerry to Communion in his diocese.

ìThe Archdiocese will continue to follow church teaching which places the duty on each Catholic to examine their worthiness to receive Holy Communion. That is not the role of the [minister of the Eucharist] distributing the Body and Blood of Christ,î[5]

The Cardinal is incorrect. It is not church teaching to place the duty on the ëmanifest sinnerí as to his worthiness, especially when the sinnerís conscience is dead to truth. Instead, Church teaching (c. 915) places the responsibility on ëthe ministerí ñ in Latin the canon reads ëne admittanturí ñ who, in some canonistsí opinion, could be punished himself according to canon 1389 ß2, should he unlawfully administer the sacrament with the consequent danger of scandal.[6]

Archbishop OíMalley, bishop to pro-abortion ëCatholicí Senators Kerry and Kennedy, has issued the same ineffectual statement, saying, ìThe Church presumes that each person is receiving in good faith. It is not our policy to deny Communion. It is up to the individual.î

The Archbishopís presumption is also faulty.

Cardinal George of Chicago and Cardinal McCarrick denied the Eucharist to sodomites wearing Rainbow sashes only because they were wearing the sashes. If the ëgaysí and ëlesbiansí took the sashes off, he said, he and his priests would not deny them Holy Communion.

However, the same two Cardinals said they would not deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion ëCatholicí Senator John Kerry.

McCarrick said[7], ìI have not gotten to the stage where Iím ëcomfortableí denying the Eucharist.î Cardinal George said he was instead considering an appropriate response to these pro-abortion politicians.[8]

This is an incorrect analogy. Who could refute the fact that Senator Kerry (as well as over 500 other U.S. ëCatholicí pro abortion politicians) has ëworn the abortion sashí by writing, endorsing, encouraging pro abortion and pro sodomite legislation for too many years.

Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, former President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he would not deny Kerry the Eucharist. Pilarczyk asked, ìWhat about the people who do not like the Churchís teachings on the death penalty or on homosexual marriages? Are we going to refuse them?î[9]

Using the same flawed theology, Albanyís controversial Bishop Hubbard said he would not deny a pro-abortion politician Holy Communion because he would also then have to deny people who favored the death penalty and war, and who neglected care of the poor and the hungry.

This is incorrect. The Church has never condemned war and the death penalty (yet wishes them both to become rare). Instead, the Church teaches ìprimus est vivere!î The first thing is life! Life is the right that trumps all other rights. Without the right to life, no other rights are possible!

Jolietís Bishop Imesch expressed disagreement with Church law, saying: ìBoth the good and the wicked can approach the table. You donít question people when they come up here.î[10]

This is incorrect. Canon 915 does not say the ëminister of the Eucharistí is to question people when they approach the altar. Canon 915 does say, however, the minister must deny those who are manifest (known), obstinate and persistent in their grave sin.

Perhaps the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops should hold a catechetical class at their next November plenary meeting and study Canon Law, especially c.915.

If the bishops really believe abortion is evil, then why is it acceptable to their Conference that ëbishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action?î[11]

Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told a Vatican news conference that a pro-abortion politician is "not fit" to receive the Eucharist.[12]

There is a wise old mediaeval scholastic axiom that teaches in Latin: ëQuidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.í In English, ëLessons are received according to the nature of the recipient.í Some persons are obstinately resistant to revealed truth.

The law is a ëmedicinal remedy.í It is a discipline, which calls the sinner to repentance and brings him back to full union with the Church.

If the bishops give the sinner the Eucharist, they risk his eternal salvation. If they deny the sinner, they are saving the sinner from condemnation, from eternal damnation.

ìLet everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected.î[13]

The over 500 ëCatholicí pro-abortion legislators are not without intelligence (even though some may act otherwise). They are not all ignorant of the Churchís timeless teachings on matters of life of the unborn. Instead, their nature or disposition is what has rejected Church teaching and law.

The bishops cannot, in their warning and counsel, try to convince pro-abortion politicians, adulterers, fornicators, people using contraceptives, murderers, drug lords, sodomites, mafia dons and others that the church recognizes they were probably ëin good faith,í or being ëhonest,í in their sinfulness, in order to win the sinnerís friendship and societyís approval.

This is grossly misguided compassion. The Church does not recognize such dishonesty. This would lead the manifest sinner to rationalize that if he continues in his sin, he must still be in good faith and ëhonestí in his sin.

The applause of this world should not be the goal of any bishop.

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis is leading the ëCall to Battle.í He is the new John Fisher! As a bishop and canon lawyer, he recently wrote:

ìThere has been a general failure in the church to teach effectively the truth about the holy Eucharist and what is required to approach the sacrament worthily.î[14]

Archbishop Burke has stated he will never back down on his responsibility to deny Holy Communion to manifest persons who persist and remain obstinate in their grave sin.

"The duty of Catholic legislators to respect human life," said Burke, "it is not [a] personal opinion I have arbitrarily decided to impose. It is not Burke's law, but God's law, which Burke, as a shepherd of God's flock, is bound to teach and uphold, also by admonishing those who violate it. As bishop, I am a guardian of the faith and its practice. If I remain silent while the faith, in one of its most fundamental tenets, is openly disobeyed by those who present themselves as sincere adherents of the faith, then I have failed most seriously and should be removed from office."[15]

St. John Fisher, bishop and St. Thomas More, Chancellor of England, were the only two major officials in England who refused to take the oath affirming Henry VIII as the ultimate authority on faith and morals. Both lost their heads for their fidelity to Christís true Church.

The ministry of the bishop is "courage and readiness to suffer for the truth."[16] You must risk losing your head rather than hand Jesus over to sacrilege.


Phrase written by publisher/writer Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., 6/21/04,, ìMix Reactions to Catholics in Political Life.î
The committee was comprised of Cardinal George, Bishop Wuerl and members of the ëtask force,í including Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Galante, Bishop Wenski, Bishop Trautman and Bishop Ricard.
There are only six dioceses that said they would deny the Eucharist and they are St.Louis, Mo., La Crosse, WI, Lincoln, NE, Trenton, N.J., Camden, NJ, Colorado Springs, CO. Two of these dioceses share the same bishop, Archbishop Burke of St. Louis, formerly of La Crosse.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, St. Louis, Mo., and in his former diocese of La Crosse, WI. Issued a diocesan ëcanonical notificationí 12/2/03. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, NE., on 5/15/96 issued a diocesan synodal law, still enforced today, which carried an automatic penalty of excommunication. On 5/6/04, Bruskewitz stated his entire diocese would refuse Holy Communion to any manifest, obstinate, persistent sinner, ref. c.915, ìWe agree completely with Archbishop Burke in the action he has taken and we would take the same action in the diocese of Lincoln, regardless of which diocese the manifest sinners are from.î
Denver, ìLocal bishops given final say on tying rite to abortion stance,î by Eric Gorski, 6/19/04.
Canon Law n. 915.
USA Today Newspaper, 5/20/04,îHouse group warns church about denying Communion,î Associated Press.
Catholic World News, 4/9/04, ìChicago cardinal would not withhold Eucharist.î
[9], 5/11/04, ìCincinnati archbishop urges caution in denying communionÖgive Kerry ëbenefit of the doubt,í Pilarczyk says,î by John L. Allen, Jr.
Joliet Diocese ìCatholic Explorer Newspaper,î 6/18/04
USCCB statement in Denver, CO, ìCatholics in Political Life.î 6/18/04
Washington Post Newspaper, 4/24/04, ìPro Choice Politicians Not Fit for Communion,î by Williams and Cooperman.
ëRedemptionis Sacramentum,í 4/23/04, Cd. Arinze, Prefect of The Congregation for divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ß183.
6/21/04, America Magazine, ìCatholic politicians and bishops,î by Raymond L. Burke, D.D., J.C.D.
Dr. Charles Rice, 2/25/04, ìArchbp. Burke deserves the Laetare Medal,î The Observer Newspaper, Notre Dame.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 10/6/01, International Fides Service, Synod of Bishops, Synod Hall, Rome.

Barbara Kralis, the article's author, writes for various Christian and conservative publications.  She is a regular columnist at Catholic Online,, Life Issues, The Wanderer newspaper, New Oxford Review Magazine, Washington Dispatch, Catholic Citizens, Illinois Leader, NewsBull, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Phil Brennanís WOW, ChronWatch and others.  Her first journalism position was with Boston Herald Traveler, 1964.  Barbara published and edited 'Semper Fidelis' Catholic print newsletter.  She and her husband, Mitch, live in the great State of Texas, and co-direct the Jesus Through Mary Catholic Foundation.  She can be reached at:

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