“This conviction explains the Catholic church’s reverence for unborn life, our care for the hungry and homeless, our investment in comprehensive adoption services, our support for lawful immigration reform, and our advocacy among the poor and vulnerable in the community…I hold that the unborn child must be counted among the most vulnerable in our midst.”
The debate over whether Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion can be admitted to Holy Communion has become more acute in recent years with the election of Joe Biden, the second Catholic president and a supporter of legalized abortion.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Thomas said he “absolutely” believes Biden should refrain from receiving the sacrament as well.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a grave sin. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion”, while the following canon states, “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.”
Other bishops, such as Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, have said that Catholic public officials who publicly support permissive laws on grave evils such as abortion and euthanasia may not be admitted to Communion.
In February 2018, Bishop Paprocki said that “Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes 'obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,' the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin. This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart."
And in June 2019 he decreed that “Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, who facilitated the passage of the Act Concerning Abortion of 2017 (House Bill 40) as well as the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 25), are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois because they have obstinately persisted in promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion as evidenced by the influence they exerted in their leadership roles and their repeated votes and obdurate public support for abortion rights over an extended period of time.”
"These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor," Bishop Paprocki added.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.