Skip to comments.The latest excommunication call (A canon lawyer weighs in)
Posted on 01/24/2013 2:19:00 PM PST by NYer
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 Lets excommunicate Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn for supporting ‘gay marriage’. Now, its Lets 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, theyd 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, theyd 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 Cuomos or Quinns with a penalty such as excommunication. So, those distressed, and rightly so, by Cuomos or Quinns 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, thats 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. Cuomos and Quinns 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.
I’m not sure what’s the problem here - the reason for the outcry is well understood. People want them out because of their scandalous actions, which are quite recent and raw. As St. Paul said - “expel the immoral brother!” I realize there are proper steps that must be taken, but to argue that the ones calling for excommunication are flawed, isn’t just going to fly here.
Will Cuomo repent? We shall see. He’s been warned and given another chance to repent. But the outcry is just!
Thanks for that link, very imformative and too the point.
I guess I was absent that day in grade school, high school and college when Canon Law,abortions, politicians and excommunication were taught.I guess I need to do some reading.
Respectfully, Mr. Peters, I don't buy that for this reason. Cuomo--or at least his sycophantic press--is still trading on his Catholicism. I've seen several stories that say things like "Cuomo, the Catholic governor of New York...".
Something more public needs to be done.
Mr. Peters does some really good work, but he is too beholden to the bishops and that compromises his viewpoint on Canon law regarding politicians and the USCCB, IMHO. And his patronizing condescension towards faithful lay Catholics fed up with the malfeasance of many of those bishops REALLY rubs the wrong way at times.
The way many liberal politicians try to deceive voters into denying sin by claiming they are catholic truly sickens me. It is one thing to be blind to the truth oneself but to purposefully attempt to deceive others behind the cloak of false catholicism is abhorrent.
We must be careful when examining our desire for excommunication for other catholics. It should not be considered an act of vengeance to right a wrong.. vengeance belongs to God not to man. Perhaps the mercy of the church will be someone’s salvation. Bearing false witness against God will be judged by God
So I guess getting an opinion about politicians and abortions FROM THE POPE HIMSELF doesn’t count?
Catholic Dems protest Pope’s abortion comments
Updated 5/15/2007 10:27 PM | Comment | Recommend E-mail | Print |
By Daniel Burke, Relgion News Service
WASHINGTON A group of 18 Catholic House Democrats publicly disputed Pope Benedict XVI’s recent condemnation of politicians who support abortion rights, saying that “such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment.”
On his flight to Brazil last Wednesday (May 9), Benedict said Catholic politicians in Mexico City who recently voted to legalize abortion could consider themselves excommunicated from the church. The Vatican later said the pope was merely restating church policy, which calls for Catholics who participate in abortions to exclude themselves from taking Holy Communion.
The "problem" is understanding the church laws applicable to excommunication. Yes, we don't just toss politicians out of the church because they have 'politically' (as a representative of all the people) disagreed with church teachings. Hence, the links posted above to explain church positions on specific issues.
To put this into perspective, imagine you are a muslim and the governor of Michigan. The muslim community demands that you, as a follower of Islam, impose Sharia Law on all residents of Michigan. You disagree since you represent ALL constituents, including christians and jews. Should the muslims excommunicate you?
See my post #10.
I’m not saying I disagree with you but your analogy is flawed. The muslims would not excommunicate you they would behead you for apostasy.
That statement however is not a judicial action by the Pope.
One of the things that extremely difficult for most Catholics to understand is that their legal system is not like political legal systems.
Its origin is theological. It is therefore interpreted and applied in a way that differs from civil legal codes.
“That statement however is not a judicial action by the Pope”
It reads to me that the Pope was commenting on the very act of procuring an abortion DOES NOT NEED A PAPAL JUDICIAL ACTION for excommunication. It is automatic from the very moment the politician made up his/her mind to vote for it.
Since my quite simple research has proven the current excommunicated status of ALL PRO ABORTION politicians, I will change my statement to “The Pope needs to instruct his bishops to refuse all sacraments except confession to these abominations.”
This fact appears to be the exact opposite of what the original poster was claiming regarding excommunication for politicians.
I also don't see why someone like Coumo who is clearly among those who, "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin", and therefore someone to whom 915 applies, isn't included on some sort of regularly published list of "public figures" who have excommunicated themselves. A couple of Bishops, a few Nuns, a Priest here and there, and a lot of other politicians along with the entire faculty at a lot of schools that claim to be Catholic would be on the list with him so he wouldn't be unfairly singled out in any way. In fact, were such a list regularly published a lot of fascist democrat scum would probably be upset if their name were not on the list.
 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.
I’m in full agreement with you.
If Cuomo is "abstaining" from holy communion, he's probably doing so because of his unmarried living arrangement with his girlfriend Sandra Lee and NOT because of his stands on abortion or homosexual marriage.
I don’t know what the canons allow for and am inclined to give Mr. Peters the benefit of his expertise. But I think he needs to answer for the entirety of ecclesiastical history before he takes such a strict view of who can be excommunicated.
The assumption is “well, he hasn’t committed an excommunicatable offense.” But how much of that is because no one is being proactive about it and calling him to the carpet?
In prior days, the bishop would have sent a letter: “You appear before me by such-and-such a date on pain of excommunication to answer for your manifest and public support of a putative “right” to abortion. If you don’t show up...bye bye. If you do show up, then prepare to answer a charge of heresy. If you are repentant, you will be given public penance and all will be resolved. If you remain obstinate of such heresy, then bye bye.”
If he cannot be excommunicated without trial and due process, FINE...then HAVE THE TRIAL.
Read this list:
Notice at the end of the list: “All the Catholics and legislators who promoted the abortion law in Uruguay.” How and why were they excommunicated and this reprobate in New York goes free? Are the bishops of Uruguay under a different code of canon law?
That’s a good point and would actually be a somewhat weaselly out for the bishops. They wouldn’t have to do bell book and candle. They could just say, “These people have excommunicated themselves and are no longer Catholics in good standing”
Maybe by not recieving holy communion, it will help those not recieving to SEEK the mercy of God.
When half the troops are weasels you can’t employ tactics suited to lions.
Yes, he is patronizing, but on this issue of the law I am sure that he is technically correct.
The problem lies in the 1983 Code itself - it contains great lacunae which need to be filled. Politicians who actively promote immorality, genocide of the unborn, undermine and seek to destroy the Church, should be eligible for the prescription of the strongest medicine to call them to repentance.
When you read the Canons of the early Councils, people were excommunicated for far less. The fact that these politicians can proceed merrily on their path, claiming they are Catholics in good standing, without sign of any sanction from the Church, gives great scandal to the faithful and undermines the witness of the Church to the world.
While their actions may not incur the sentence of excommunication under the current Code, the heresy which underlies their actions might do so. The revival of ecclesiastical courts and heresy trials may be what they need to purge their souls.
Hello Dr Kopp,
Sorry, my account won’t let me post private replies to you!!
Yes, it has been a while since I’ve been on, but good to see that some of the old names are still around. I have been wondering how things have progressed for you since we spoke on the phone?
Things have been going much better on this side of the pond - we have actually been blessed to receive an orthodox bishop who has been the first to break the English bishops’ silence on Humanae Vitae - Deo gratias!
His Pastoral Letter, if you are interested, can be found here: