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Madison bishop prays for pro-abortion Catholic politicians

Bishop Hying Diocese of Madison

A second U.S. bishop last week publicly supported the Archbishop of San Francisco’s challenge to Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion.

“We pray for those leaders who pursue government policies and laws which seek to further entrench abortion rights and other assaults on innocent human life,” Bishop Donald Hying of Madison stated on May 7. “St. John Paul II opined, ‘A nation that kills its own children has no future’.”

Bishop Hying recommended a May 1 pastoral letter of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, “Before I Formed You in the Womb, I Knew You.” The letter outlines the Church’s teachings on worthiness to receive Holy Communion, and the necessity for Catholics to assent to the Church’s teachings, especially on the life issue.

In the letter, Archbishop Cordileone said that Catholics who cooperate with the “evil” of abortion – including pro-abortion politicians – should not present themselves for Communion. The Church has long taught that formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation with grave evil, such as the evil of abortion, precludes one from receiving Holy Communion.

“It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly,” he wrote.

He included a section on pro-abortion Catholic politicians. “You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing,” he said. “Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil – one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right – is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith.”

Hying called the letter a “timely reflection on the moral evil of abortion, the need to challenge political leaders who are pro-abortion — especially those who profess Catholicism — and the linkage between the Eucharist and communion with the Church in her doctrinal and moral teaching.”

“I encourage you to read and pray over this pastoral letter,” he told Catholics in his diocese.

Hying was the second U.S. bishop last week to publicly support Cordileone’s letter. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix on May 6 called the letter “a powerful defense of the Church’s teaching on the dignity of all human life.”

In his statement on May 7, Bishop Hying recalled how he came to be involved with the pro-life movement, emphasizing the importance of the pro-life cause.

“As a young priest, I encountered many people, men and women both, who were profoundly wounded by abortion,” he said. “Their painful experiences led me to get involved in the pro-life movement, as I came to realize in a deeper way the personal and societal effects of abortion.”

The previous day, Bishop Olmsted exhorted bishops to speak out clearly against cooperation in abortion.  

“Woe to us bishops if we do not speak clearly about the grave evil of abortion, and the consequences of any Catholic who participates in the act or publicly supports it by word or action,” Bishop Olmsted said, calling silence on the issue “a false patience and pastoral concern.”

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“Such ‘patience’ is false because it is bereft of love and truth, and thus unmasks rather a deadly apathy towards one who professes the Catholic faith but whose public embrace of abortion puts his or her eternal soul at risk of damnation, and risks dragging untold numbers into hell by their example,” he said. 

Archbishop Cordileone issued his letter as the U.S. bishops are expected to address the topic of “Eucharistic coherence” this year, either at their spring meeting in June or at their fall meeting in November.

The bishops reportedly planned to discuss the broader teaching of Catholics’ worthiness to receive Holy Communion, not limiting their discussion only to Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

President Joe Biden is only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, but has taken policy positions at odds with Church teaching on serious issues, such as abortion, marriage, and religious freedom. He has pushed for taxpayer-funded abortion and supports the Equality Act, a bill which the U.S. bishops’ conference has warned would “punish” religious groups opposed to the redefinition of marriage and transgenderism.

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After Biden’s election to the presidency in November 2020, the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) convened a working group on his presidency. USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles noted the “unique” circumstances of Biden’s faith and his problematic policy positions as reasons behind the formation of the working group.

One of the conclusions of the working group – which met twice and made two main recommendations –was the need for a teaching document on the Eucharist. Such a document should instruct the faithful about worthy reception of Holy Communion, the group said, as well as about the responsibility of Catholic public officials to uphold the Church’s teachings in public life.

Officials who contradict the Church’s fundamental teachings, and who do so despite a pastor’s warnings, should not present themselves for Communion, the working group said.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently sent a letter to Archbishop Gomez, calling for “serene” dialogue among the bishops when considering how to proceed on the matter of Communion for public officials who contradict the Church’s teachings.

Any “national policy” on Communion should only “help the bishops to maintain unity,” and, the Vatican added, could “become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger Church in the United States.” So that such a policy would not produce discord, the bishops must “dialogue” among themselves and then with “Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

The bishops should first dialogue among themselves “to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic,” the Vatican said, and to “agree as a Conference that support of pro-choice legislation is not compatible with Catholic teaching.”

Then local ordinaries “would reach out to and engage in dialogue with Catholic politicians within their jurisdictions who adopt a pro-choice position regarding abortion legislation, euthanasia, or other moral evils, as a means of understanding the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching,” stated CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria.

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 “If it [the U.S. bishops’ conference] then decided to formulate a national policy on worthiness for communion, such a statement would need to express a true consensus of the bishops on the matter, while observing the prerequisite that any provisions of the Conference in this area would respect the rights of individual Ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See,” the CDF stated.

Cardinal Ladaria 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.”

Some bishops have spoken out against denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

“I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders the Eucharist, based on their public policy stance, can be interpreted in our society as anything other than a weaponization of the Eucharist and an effort not to convince people by argument, and by dialogue and reason, but rather, to pummel them into submission on the issue [of abortion],” said Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego at a February online panel.