This pontificate is rightly seen as a repudiation of the restorationist priorities of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than on the matter of long-neglected canon law. Discussions about it had intensified under those two previous pontificates. It appeared, for example, that the Church, after many years of laxity, was on the cusp of finally applying canon law to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Pope Benedict XVI, who was on record favoring a denial of Communion to them, spoke of the “pseudo-pastoral” claims made by progressive churchmen that had rendered canon law impotent. In retrospect, those comments read like a warning about his successor’s pontificate, which has been defined by that pseudo-pastoralism.
In its name, Pope Francis has relaxed sacramental discipline for the divorced-and-remarried. He often casts canon law in contrast to “mercy,” a distortion his predecessors called false mercy and said misrepresented canon law’s purpose. Canon law is not contrary to true mercy but a safeguard of it, said Pope Benedict XVI. “It is necessary to note the widespread and deeply rooted, though not always evident, tendency to place justice and charity in opposition to one another, as if the two were mutually exclusive,” he said in 2011. In other words, canon law exists for the salvation of souls. Hence, the Church cannot fulfill her mission by setting it aside. The consequences of doing so, among others, are sacrilege and scandal.
The self-consciously “pastoral” Catholicism of Pope Francis is a revival of the very sophistries his predecessor had condemned. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, therefore, that his Vatican has signaled to Joe Biden, despite presiding over the most pro-abortion administration ever, that he has nothing to fear from the Church. This last week the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in effect told the U.S. bishops to keep giving him and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians Communion.
Joe Biden is an active accomplice to abortion, directly facilitating abortions with his policies. He is nothing if not pro-abortion.
This CDF letter seeks to downplay Pope Benedict XVI’s previous canonical case against Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians. It treats that view as a mere opinion rather than a simple restatement of canon law that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent to the U.S. bishops in a “private communication.” (That 2004 letter to the bishops was suppressed by the now-defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.)
It is telling that the CDF letter refers to “pro-choice politicians,” thereby adopting the dishonest “choice” rhetoric of the Left. Joe Biden is an active accomplice to abortion, directly facilitating abortions with his policies. He is nothing if not pro-abortion. In another revealing line, the CDF letter frets that the bishops not leave the “impression” that abortion and euthanasia are the “only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching.” Notice how the CDF slips in “social” teaching, as if the amnesty advocacy and climate change activism of Pope Francis stand on the same level as opposition to abortion.
There is nothing in the CDF letter that addresses the central question: Why should pro-abortion Catholic politicians be given Communion? One would think an office formally dedicated to preserving orthodoxy and canon law might take an interest in preventing sacrilege and scandal. But those matters don’t figure in the letter at all. Instead, the letter focuses on comparatively trivial matters, such as whether or not attempting to form a uniform Eucharistic policy might threaten the “unity” of the bishops. The CDF also tells the U.S. bishops to “dialogue” with other episcopal conferences across the world. In other words, follow the lead of your liberal colleagues in Europe.
The CDF letter should thrill Biden. The letter undercuts the few bishops who had bothered to address the open scandal of his reception of Communion. It treats those bishops as the problem, not their lax confrères. At the very moment Biden’s boot is coming down on the necks of Catholics, the CDF calls the bishops off him. It “advises” those bishops not to focus on “one category of Catholics” in relationship to sacramental discipline.
Amazingly, the letter makes this crisis sound as if it is due to a lack of “dialogue” with a recalcitrant political class of bad Catholics. The CDF fecklessly says that the bishops should “reach out” to those “who adopt a pro-choice position” and seek “understanding,” both regarding “the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching.” To suggest the problem is one of comprehension is absurd. Biden knows the teaching perfectly well. He simply rejects it. He is out of communion with the teaching of the Church and thus shouldn’t receive Communion.
The previous pope had spelled this out convincingly. His common-sense application of canon law represented the only hope of flattening the tires on the political juggernaut of bad Catholics. Now Pope Francis is pumping air into them. Far from condemning Biden, he has borrowed some of his rhetoric (“build back better”) and run interference for him. The CDF letter is dismaying proof that the “pseudo-pastoral” claims Pope Benedict XVI decried have returned with a vengeance — great news for the wolves, bad news for the sheep.
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