Denver Newsroom, May 10, 2021 / 15:16 pm
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote Friday to the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding admission to Communion, affirming the centrality of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic’s participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.
A 2004 memo from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the same congregation, should “be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note,” read the May 7 letter by Luis Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, which was obtained by CNA.
Archbishop Gomez had written the congregation in March to inform it that the US bishops will be addressing the situation of Catholics in public office who support permissive legislation regarding abortion, euthanasia, or other moral evils.
Cardinal Ladaria opened his reply by emphasizing that the 2004 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick about the same problem “was in the form of a private communication to the bishops” and that “insofar, therefore, as these principles are not published by the Conference, they may be of assistance in the preparation of the draft of your document.”
He said Cardinal Ratzinger had “offered general principles on the worthy reception of Holy Communion in order to assist local ordinaries in the United States in their dealings with Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions. Cardinal Ratzinger’s communication should thus be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note which provides the teaching of the Magisterium on the theological foundation for any initiative regarding the question of worthy reception of Holy Communion.”
The cardinal noted that the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life was discussed during the 2004 US ad liminas, during which “it was clear that there was a lack of agreement regarding the issue of communion among the bishops,” and that “the development of a national policy” was not then under consideration.
He added that the problem arose again during the 2019-20 US ad liminas, and that the congregation “advised that dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic. The formulation of a national policy was suggested during the ad limina visits only if this would help the bishops to maintain unity.”
“This Congregation notes that such a policy, given its possibly contentious nature, could have the opposite effect and become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger Church in the United States. Thus, we advised during the ad limina visits that the effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”