A Cautious Man
May 14, 2004
Wielding Love as a Lethal Weapon
This post is about denying the Eucharist based upon political beliefs. More specifically, about why the Eucharist should not be denied based upon voting. The latest entrant in the contest is Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, who has advised his flock that his position goes beyond simply denying the Sacrament to politicians. Instead, he is stating that a vote for the "wrong" politician subjects a Catholic to denial of the Eucharist. As he wrote in a recent pastoral letter (link is a .pdf):
There must be no confusion in these matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.
Apparently, it doesn't matter what you do in your own life, or even how you support your faith community; and it doesn't seem to matter why you chose to vote for a particular politician, even if that choice had nothing to do with the issue of abortion. So, for example, the Bishop's position would deny the Sacrament to someone who voted for, say, pro-choice Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, over a pro-life primary opponent. I suppose it would especially apply to someone who not only voted for him, but actively encouraged others to do so as well:
Senator Specter's re-election is very important to our Party and our country. I know we can always count on Arlen Specter when it really matters.

Arlen is with us on the votes that matter to move our agenda forward for this President and for the country. I am proud to endorse Arlen Specter.
The enthusiastic Specter voter quoted above is Senator Rick Santorum. Does this mean that, according to Bishop Sheridan, even Senator Santorum separated himself from the Church, based solely on a vote in an election?

I'm sure that Senator Santorum could explain why he believed that Senator Specter was, overall, a better candidate in his view, and that it was not immoral to vote for him. But couldn't any voter also do that, especially in a constitutional democracy made up of people with different backgrounds and beliefs? Maybe it would be better if the sacraments are not used as political weapons at all. Then we could avoid theological disputes about which votes constitute the "greater sin".



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