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Dear Bishops, Ban Them

We probably won’t know until later today what the American bishops voted to do about the grave scandal of wayward “Catholic politicians” who have become some of the most defiant supporters of abortion in the nation. Joe Biden, somewhere along his politically ambitious way, has been persuaded to say – against all evidence provided by “The Science” – that human life does not begin at conception. Nancy Pelosi, in the course of an eccentric “Catholic” education, was taught that God gave “women” the freedom and ability to decide right and wrong. Not to address these sowers of falsehood and infant mayhem in strong terms, backed by action, would add another scandal on top of the one that already exists.

It won’t be easy, but let’s pray that our good bishops find a strong voice. And act.

One of the advantages of belonging to a long tradition is that the Church has faced similar things in the past:

St. Ambrose excommunicated the Roman Emperor Theodosius for ordering a massacre of 7000 men, women, and children in Thessalonica in Greece. (The equivalent of about an average week’s body-count at Planned Parenthood USA, for decades.) Theodosius did public penance for almost an entire year before being readmitted to Communion.

Pope St. Gregory VII let the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV spend three days in the snow outside of Canossa when the king insisted that he, not the pope, should have the right to name bishops and other Church officials – in other words, as in China today, the ability to choose Catholic leaders who would be submissive to the regime. Gregory excommunicated Henry and gave him one year to repent, or be excommunicated permanently.

Then, as now, there were many other complex factors in both cases. But these great saints acted and stuck to their guns. They did not give political malefactors cheerful audiences, as if evil activities could be ignored in persons occupying high offices. The Church remembers these men as among our very greatest leaders.

In more recent times, the Latin American bishops met in Aparecida, Brazil, and issued a 2006 document, shepherded by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, which stated that politicians and medical personnel, “cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.”

By contrast, current defenders of our pro-abortion “Catholics” shrink from the “politicization” of the Eucharist. By which they do not mean that Eucharistic Coherence would have some political consequences. Pretty much anything the Church does – anything any person or group does – will have political repercussions. No, they mean that getting tough on abortion promoters would be some sort of partisan attack on Democrats.

But whose fault is that? Eucharistic Coherence doesn’t threaten the small number of pro-life Democrats (may their tribe increase!). And it would apply equally to Catholic Republicans who stubbornly support abortion and its public funding – should there be any. If you’ve chosen your political party over your Church, you really shouldn’t complain when the Church points that out.


Neither should anyone be much impressed with the argument that denying Communion to intransigent abortion supporters “weaponizes” the Eucharist. Does anyone really think that stone-cold, pro-abortion politicos would really feel threatened by such a move? And besides, if Eucharistic Coherence means you should not present yourself for the sacrament because of the choices you’ve made, who is threatening whom? You’re the one choosing to publicly challenge Church teaching by your words and actions, and demanding your own way. If the Church then takes it seriously that you don’t believe what the Church believes, is that being aggressive?

A formerly prominent American Catholic magazine, published by a once-dominant religious order, carried an article recently explaining that “Denying Biden Communion will not bring people back to Mass” – a pre-emptive warning to our bishops.

The periodical in question has also carried an article by an extremely young college graduate lately about how we can learn from the Satanism of Lil Nas X, a gay black rapper, and other such absurdities, among articles of saner purpose. But it’s right – in a way – that banning Communion for Biden won’t fix other problems in the Church. Still, it’s a bit like saying that if we ever get COVID under control, it won’t resolve all our other medical challenges. In other words, it’s a half-truth leading to an irrelevant conclusion.

Because banning Biden from Communion along with Pelosi and numerous other pro-abortion politicians will solve one problem: the problem of public Catholics distorting the faith and perpetuating scandal without pushback from the Church. Which is a good all its own.

And it will also lead to speaking truth to power, another good all its own.

Making decisions solely on the basis of the consequences of a moral action – a mistaken moral theory called consequentialism – can lead to sheer absurdity and self-deception. The extreme example of what then happens with this kind of thinking can be seen in Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin telling a journalist not long ago that the Vatican doesn’t criticize China’s repression of religion because it wouldn’t do any good.

Really? Maybe it wouldn’t make the Chinese slow down, even a little – but who knows? In any event, it would put the Church in the position of speaking the truth to an evil regime. Another good all its own.

So will denying pro-abortion public figures Communion lead to greater unity in the Church? Or fewer abortions? My guess is probably not, at least in the short run. But it may lead to fewer openly pro-abortion Catholics. A good in itself.

Catholics should want to be successful, of course, in every effort to do good – so long as they can be faithful doing it. Faithfulness is the only success that ultimately matters. Seek first the kingdom. The rest is God’s business.


*Image: Saint Ambrose Barring Theodosius from Milan Cathedral [1] by Anthony van Dyck, 1619-20 [National Gallery, London]

You may also enjoy:

David Carlin’s Pro-Abortion Snobbery [2]

Hadley Arkes’ The Misadventures of a Pro-life Senator [3]

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.