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When watching Irish politics and religion, it helps to come from Missouri

May 10, 2013

I check LifeSiteNews everyday. If you’re pro-life but you don’t get their daily news feed, you should subscribe. That said, though, they can make missteps, too. Like this one, I suggest.

Reports from Ireland re canonical consequences for Catholics supporting pro-abortion legislation are, I grant, unsettling, but in terms of what Cdl. Sean Brady (Armagh) actually said on this matter—and as a lawyer I think what a man said is more important than how others heard what he said—they are not, not yet anyway, as bad as the LifeSiteNews headline “Irish bishops will not refuse Communion to pro-abortion Prime Minister Kenny” paints them.

For starters, Prime Minister Kenny (who has serious problems in terms of his Catholic identity) is not even mentioned in White’s article, so what’s the source for that part of the LSN headline? Second, exactly who says that Irish bishops “will not refuse Communion” to so-and-so under such-and-such circumstances? No one in this article says anything like that.

Cdl Brady is alleged (but not quoted) to have said that the Irish bishops ‘have not considered barring’ politicians from receiving Communion if they vote to legalize abortion; but is “have not considered barring” the same as “have considered and declined to bar” pro-abortion Catholic politicians from Communion? Clearly, no.

Cdl. Brady told politicians that “there would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist.” Fine. No one, least of all the Catholic Church, wants to “politicize” the Eucharist, though of course, enforcing canonical consequences for obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin (c. 915) is not to “politicize” the Eucharist; it is rather to comply with long-standing norms for sacramental administration. The prelate further states: “I say that [politicians] have an obligation to oppose the laws that are attacking something so fundamental as the right to life and they would have to follow their own conscience.” Again, all true, no?

Even when asked whether politicians voting for the bill ought to refrain from presenting themselves for Communion, Brady replied, “That is down the line at the moment, as far as we are concerned.” Sure it is. The vote has not been called yet. And besides, not presenting oneself for Communion (likely in accord with c. 916) is not the same thing as withholding Communion from a public sinner (c. 915), so again I ask, where is the language supporting that part of the LSN headline?

I’m not naïve. I know that too many prelates lack the understanding and/or the will power to enforce Eucharistic discipline and that such failures cause scandal to the faithful and weaken the Church’s efforts to protect innocent human life. But we need not make the news worse than it is, and we certainly should not proclaim in a headline what is—how to put this?—demonstrably un-demonstrated in an article over which the headline sits. Neither Prime Minister Kenny nor withholding the Eucharist were even mentioned in the article that featured both subjects in its headline.

If and when we get to the point where verifiable assertions are made regarding points of canon law in this matter (or it becomes clear that necessary assertions are not being made) then one would be free to weigh in for or against those claims, as circumstances warrant.

But until then, when it comes to assessing Irish politics and religion, I’m from Missouri.

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