Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Catholic bishops

I think the statement issued today by the Illinois Catholic bishops in response to Gov. Patrick Quinn’s formal cooperation with an organization committed to advancing the death of pre-born babies is good. The bishops spoke correctly, concisely, and quickly in their statement about an important matter. Three for three, in my opinion.

Yes, there is some consternation in the blogosphere that the bishops did not declare Quinn ineligible for holy Communion. And yes, I share the impatience of many Catholics for more direct action in accord with Canon 915 against the reception of Communion by the publicly unworthy. But, no, I don’t see the Illinois bishops’ statement per se as a failure in that regard. Rather, the issue simply did not come up. Whether it should have come up in this document, I cannot say (but probably not, given the negligible authority that state Catholic conferences enjoy under canon law); whether it will come up now in light of this statement, I cannot predict (but I would encourage prompt attention to the question). I only know that it did not come up, and so the status quo in this matter, for better or worse, remains unchanged.

Thus, individual bishops remain free to restrict Quinn’s access to holy Communion for so long as he remains publicly at odds with fundamental Church teachings on several grave issues; so, too, do individual pastors and other ministers of holy Communion, though I recognize that the bishops of Illinois are in a better position to establish a consistent approach to the governor than are individual ministers.They can also better explain, to the governor and to the public, how such conduct can be repented of, and how one can be welcomed back to the Table of the Lord. But nothing in the bishops' statement makes it less likely that the governor will, sooner or later, face canonical consequences for his conduct, and much of the bishops' statement suggests to me that it will be sooner, not later.

In short, even if the bishops could have and should have said more about how to deal with the scandal that Quinn’s conduct causes the Church, what they did say about it today was good and helpful.