.- In a long statement to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland announced that he would not deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, stating that the altar is “not a place for confrontation.”
“The view of refusing Communion to politicians who support keeping abortion legal is not part of the pastoral tradition of the Church,” he wrote in his statement. “Given the longstanding practice of not making a public judgment about the state of the soul of those who present themselves for Communion, the pastoral tradition of the Church places the responsibility of such a judgment first on those presenting themselves for Holy Communion.”
The former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that no one should misunderstand reservations about refusing Communion “as ignoring or excusing those who clearly contradict Catholic teaching in their public roles.”
Politicians and others, who act in opposition to fundamental Church teachings, “should not underestimate the seriousness of this situation,” said the bishop. “They must study Catholic teaching, recognize their grave responsibility to protect human life from conception to natural death, and adopt positions consistent with these principles.
“However, in my view,” he continued, “the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail, but in the public square, in hearts and minds, in our pulpits and public advocacy, in our consciences and communities.
“The altar is a place of unity, healing, nourishment and grace,” he stated. “It is not a place for confrontation.”
Citing Fr. John Courtney Murray, a controversial theorist on the engagement of Catholics in political life, Bishop Pilla defended a politician’s right to use the democratic process and the right of free speech to persuade public opinion in favor of his or her position on a public moral issue, such as abortion. “This cannot reasonably or justly be alleged as imposing one’s personal views on others,” he said.
“As Catholics, we have the religious and moral responsibility of advocating social policies and laws that safeguard the rights of the unborn and the well being of the mother,” he said.
But he emphasized that he is not suggesting that “Catholic public officials are obligated to incorporate all precepts of divine and moral law in civil statutes,” or that they “are not free in conscience to disagree with their bishops on public policy questions.
Bishop Pilla’s full statement: www.dioceseofcleveland.org/bishop/politicsstatement.htm