The cardinal added that “any statement of the Conference regarding Catholic political leaders would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholic, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament.”
He said that “it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.”
Cardinal Ladaria urged that “every effort” be be made “to dialogue with other episcopal conferences” so as “to preserve unity” in the universal Church.
Archbishop Gomez transmitted Cardinal Ladaria’s letter to each of the bishops in the US May 8, as requested. He noted that the prefect “has provided us with important background and insight that should prove helpful to us in our continued prayer and discernment of this matter.”
Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memo told US bishops that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.
In such a case, the politician’s “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,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, adding that if the Catholic perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
That 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Local ordinaries have in recent months been teaching about admission to Communion.
In March, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois told a regional conference of the Canon Law Society of America that Catholics who publicly and obstinately advocate for abortion, including politicians, can and should be denied Communion: “I'm talking about their external actions. If they're living in a way or holding positions that are contrary to church teaching, then the Minister of Communion has to deny them the sacrament.”
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix released Veneremur Cernui, an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in April. It says that “Holy Communion is reserved for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” This is why the Church “requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance,” Bishop Olmsted taught.
In an April 14 column on Eucharistic coherence, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver wrote that “the Eucharist is a gift, not an entitlement, and the sanctity of that gift is only diminished by unworthy reception. Because of the public scandal caused, this is especially true in the case of public officials who persistently govern in violation of the natural law, particularly the pre-eminent issues of abortion and euthanasia, the taking of innocent life, as well as other actions that fail to uphold the church's teaching regarding the dignity of life.”
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In a May 1 pastoral letter, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco taught that any Catholic formally cooperating with abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.
During his homily at the Vigil Mass for Life in January, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas taught that Catholics should not receive Communion if they are contradicting “fundamental” Church teaching.
Bishop McElroy of San Diego recently wrote an essay in America Magazine arguing that refusing Holy Communion to pro-abortion rights politicians politicizes the Eucharist, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago took issue with Archbishop Aquila’s column on Eucharistic coherence.
In October 2019, while campaigning for president, Joe Biden was denied Communion at a parish in the Diocese of Charleston. A Charleston diocesan policy, which is also that of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Charlotte, states that “Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance.”