Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Toward clarity on abortion, excommunication, and the Eucharist

UPDATE: May 17. The Catholic News Agency is reporting that Honduran Cdl. Rodriguez Maradiaga has revised his earlier comments on the impact that pro-abortion activity can have on one's right to receive the Eucharist. His second statement seems to be a great improvement over his first.

As I read it, His Eminence leaves no doubt now but that Canon 915 can be invoked, given the requisite circumstances, to prevent reception of the Eucharist by those whose pro-abortion activities warrant that disciplinary response. True, the canonist in me would like to see, consistently, a sharper distinction between "being excommunicated" and "being prevented from communicating" (to adapt a phrase), but the lingering confusion we see on this point might be the result of the etymological similarities between these two notions in Romance languages. We can (and will) deal with that issue in other ways.

For now, let's welcome this solid statement on an important social and moral issue by one of Latin America's leading prelates. (See a few follow-up notes on my webpage).

ORIGINAL POST: May 16. Prescinding for a moment from who said it, a recent interview with a conscientious priest on the subject of abortion, excommunication, and denial of the Eucharist, illustrates well just how widespread is the confusion in this area. In my opinion, these fundamental points must be sorted out, once and for all, so that those who must apply the norms to real cases can do so responsibly. I make some suggestions toward that goal here (the analysis chart is easier to read on my website).

And be sure to see Phil Lawler's broader comments in his recent CWN Forum post, "Clarity, please, on excommunication".