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The latest excommunication call

January 23, 2013

Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that “Every generation is a new people.” Demographers reckon a generation at 20-25 years, so that means that every 20-25 years, a lot of folks need a lot of things explained to them that their parents and grandparents take for granted. No big deal, we just do it.

But on the internet, it seems that every month is a new generation, so that means that about once a month, questions arise that many of us have treated numerous times in the past. Problem is, these allegedly novel questions shoot through cyberspace with amazing speed, agitating a new ‘generation’ of readers whose awareness of history is also quite diminished. The result is confusion and clamor over things that have pretty well settled answers. This happens especially frequently in regard to canon law. A few weeks ago, for example, it was Let’s excommunicate Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn for supporting ‘gay marriage’. Now, it’s Let’s excommunicate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his latest push to expand abortion in what is perhaps the most pro-abortion state in the union. Sins, to be sure, these deeds, but canonical crimes? and ones punishable by excommunication at that? I suggest not, as many of us have discussed many times.

Some bloggers really should google a bit before they post. If they did so in the Cuomo case, they’d find out, among other things, that politicians are not subject to excommunication for abortion under Canon 1398 (the only canon remotely relevant to their situation), that Canon 915 is a much more appropriate response to the scandal of the prominent pro-abortion Catholic politico, and that Cuomo has already been the subject of an extensive discussion in regard to his eligibility for Communion; indeed, they’d probably find out that Cuomo is apparently refraining from approaching for holy Communion on his own.

Can the canonical ante be upped further? Sure, but not by blog-driven public pressure on Catholic bishops for politico-excommunications under a Code that at present does not punish activities such as Cuomo’s or Quinn’s with a penalty such as excommunication. So, those distressed, and rightly so, by Cuomo’s or Quinn’s politics and specifically desirous of seeing them excommunicated, have, as I see it, two options: either (a) petition the pope to rewrite one or more canons of Book VI of the Code to excommunicate them; or (b) petition the bishops of New York and Illinois to enact particular legislation leading to their governors’ excommunications. I think both ideas are, for several reasons, problematic, but they seem within the bounds of what a Catholic could suggest. As for exploring the mechanics of such papal or episcopal canonical drafting, that’s beyond the scope of this blog. For now I simply note the idea. Again.

In the meantime, may I suggest prayers and fasting for Gov. Cuomo’s and Quinn’s repentance? They stand in great need of turning from the evils they support, and such acts on our part would improve the state of our souls, as well.

Updated 25 Jan 2013: As for what else one might suggest in regard to Gov. Cuomo, go here.

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