The controversy over the memorandum sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, continued this week, when Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick issued a statement saying the document is “an incomplete and partial leak” that does not accurately reflect the Vatican’s position on the Communion/abortion controversy.
The memorandum addressed to Cardinal McCarrick as head of the Ad Hoc Task Force for Catholic politicians, offered six clear points explaining the Catholic doctrine about Communion and Catholic public figures who support abortion.
The issue was discussed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during their mid-June meeting in Denver, Colorado.
The full content of Ratzinger’s letter was disclosed on July 3 by Sandro Magister, a Vatican commentator from the Italian weekly “L’Espresso,” according to whom the Vatican memorandum was opposed to what the US bishops finally decided and especially to what Cardinal McCarrick’s task force said during the USCCB meeting.
On July 6, Cardinal McCarrick, who was “out of town on business,” reacted to the publication of Ratzinger’s memo through his communications officer, Susan Gibbs.
The brief statement, reproduced by Catholic News Service, saying he had not yet seen the report in L'Espresso, but “from what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received.”
“Our task force's dialogue with the Holy See on these matters has been extensive, in person, by phone and in writing,” he added.
John Thavis, Vatican correspondent of Catholic News Service, said yesterday, writing about Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum, that “a Vatican official said it was authentic,” but “it apparently was accompanied by a cover letter that has not been published.”
Thavis quotes the Vatican source saying that the Vatican was “generally pleased with the U.S. bishops' statement, and that Cardinal Ratzinger was not trying to dictate a policy to the bishops.”
“It is right to leave a margin for prudential judgment in these cases,” said Thavis, quoting his Vatican source.
Nevertheless, the source of L’Espresso, which provided Magister with the copy of the document, said yesterday that Ratzinger’s memorandum is a document in itself that “hardly requires a ‘context’ or further documents for interpretation.”
Magister’s source also acknowledges that the memorandum, in fact, came with a cover letter, but the source said “it does not modify a bit the full content of the memorandum” revealed by L’Espresso.
More over, Magister’s source said the cover letter didn’t give any indication about keeping the content of the memorandum secret, “especially from fellow bishops gathered at the Denver meeting.”
Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum clearly says that “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”
And “when these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.’”
Magister’s source said that Ratzinger’s memorandum is not opposed to the application of prudential judgment, “but clearly establishes the frameset in which such prudential judgment must take place.”