Catholic League president Bill Donohue said the 18 House Democrats, who chided Pope Benedict XVI, “are twice a disgrace.” The Democrats took it upon themselves to correct the Holy Father for allegedly saying he agreed with the Mexican bishop who reportedly invoked excommunication against the Catholic lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.
The Democrats wrote: "Religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America -- it clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment and do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done."
The problem for the Democrats is that they got their facts wrong, thus disgracing them for the first time, said Donohue.
“What happened was at first confusing, but was quickly clarified,” Donohue acknowledged. First, no Mexican bishop ever invoked excommunication against any lawmaker for legalizing abortion. In fact, the Mexican bishop in question merely noted that support for abortion is incompatible with receiving Communion, and politicians who have done so should not attempt to receive it.
“On May 9, in his extemporaneous remarks aboard a plane going to Brazil, the Pope initially gave the impression that he favored excommunication of the lawmakers. Shortly thereafter—on that same day—his remarks were amended, making moot the idea that he favored such a penalty.”
“On May 10, the Vatican presented the pope’s official statement. That statement did not speak to excommunicating anyone—it simply restated Church teaching that Catholic legislators who advocate abortion rights should not go to Communion.”
“The Catholic Democrats who signed this statement had plenty of time to get their facts straight,” said Donohue. “But in a defensive rush to judgment, they decided to take their game to the Pope; thus did they disgrace themselves for a second time,” said Donohue.
Maggie Gallagher, a nationally syndicated columnist, wrote in a separate article that these 18 Democrats have it backward.
“Separation of church and state does not mean elected officials get to tell religious leaders to whom they must give religious sacraments, on pain of public excommunication from ‘the American experiment,’” she wrote.
Gallagher referred to the first GOP debate earlier this month and the response former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gave when asked what he says to Roman Catholic bishops who withhold Communion from Catholic politicians.
"I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops,” Romney said. “They can do whatever the heck they want. Roman Catholic bishops are in a private institution, a religion ... I can't imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. We have separation of church and state, and it's served us well."