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A couple notes on today’s DFP article on holy Communion and gay activists, esp in re Fr. Reese

April 8, 2013

There are a couple of technical slips in Niraj Warikoo’s article in the Detroit Free Press on the reception of holy Communion by gay activists (e.g., I hold a professorial chair at Sacred Heart Seminary, I am not a “chairman”, and one of my longer quotes is condensed to the point of confusing), but generally his presentation of my views (and I think of Abp. Vigneron’s) is well done.

Only the comments of Fr. Thomas Reese, sj, require, as per usual, contextualization, if not challenge. Per Reese: “Most American bishops do not favor denying either politicians or voters Communion because of their positions on controversial issues” and Peters’ views are “in a minority among American canon lawyers.

Re Reese’s first comment—and setting aside his transparent attempt to steer the Canon 915 discussion into the voting booth, wherein no one thinks it applies—Reese is commenting on how bishops act whereas I am commenting on how canon law expects bishops and others to act. Reese’s claim about bishops’ (in)action, even if true, would not make my views (actually, the 1983 Code’s views, resting on settled Church teaching) wrong, it would simply mark them as ignored. To be sure, the implications for me if my views are wrong, and for others if my views are right, are pretty obvious, but my hunch is, Reese knows that.

Re his second comment, Reese cites no canon lawyers who regard my position as “minority” (as if being in agreement with John Paul II, Cdl. Burke, then-Cdl. Ratzinger, and the PCLT could leave one worrying about one’s ‘minority status’) though a few canonists have expressed alternative interpretations of the law. That’s fine, of course, it’s what lawyers do, but that only pushes the real question—namely, whose interpretation of the law is the more sound—back a bit. Eventually that fundamental question pops back up and needs to be addressed.

Finally, it seems to me that most of those (rather few) canonists who do express alternative interpretations of Canon 915 do not, when one gets right down to it, disagree with my read of the law, rather, they hesitate over whether the facts of individual cases meet the criteria set out in Canon 915. Fact questions are very important, I grant, but they lend themselves to resolution based on objective information. I’ve always said that and so have the US bishops. What concerns me, and what I spend most of my time defending in this matter, is the basic point that Church law requires, upon the demonstration of certain kinds of facts, that canonico-sacramental consequences follow.

But again, I think Reese knows that; he just doesn’t like it.

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