Saying What Needs to be Said
As our polity begins to whip itself into a frenzy over the upcoming 2008 elections, it is important for faithful Christians to stand firm in their convictions. This can be particularly difficult for Christians who, for whatever reason, find themselves supporting politicians whose political views fly in the face of what Christians know to be most important. In the 2004 election year there was a small amount of worry that Christians would begin to hold politicians accountable for their views on matters such as abortion, stem cell research, and other important issues, but those worries proved to be unfounded. That's why one may rejoice, in a limited way, that the Pope is willing to say what ought to be said: politicians who cooperate in abortion - - even if that means nothing more than voting for policies that make abortion a little easier - - by that very act excommunicate themselves. Mike Liccione of Sacramentum Vitae puts it particularly well:
The pope, the bishops, and even some among the lower clergy can say until they're blue in the face that people who formally cooperate in abortion are unworthy to receive the Eucharist; but many bishops and priests will give the Eucharist to such people all the same, citing as justification that they can't be sure, in individual cases, whether the communicant is unworthy at that moment. That is a tiresome, hypocritical, and highly destructive dodge. Most such politicians are utterly unrepentant and make no bones whatsoever about that fact; so until most bishops and priests actually withhold the Eucharist from such people, the Church's claim that such people are unworthy to receive the Eucharist will not be taken seriously, and they will be understood to be "excommunicated" only when decrees of EFS are actually issued to that effect. Thus the clash between the good news and the bad news generates a huge amount of confusion, for which the bishops have only themselves to blame.
The solution is simple: withhold the Eucharist from those who, by their public actions and statements, formally cooperate in abortion. A scattering of bishops, both in the U.S. and abroad, do just that. But spreading that solution is not easy because it requires a courage that is in relatively short supply. We witnessed the lack of such courage during the coverup of the sex-abuse scandal. When will they learn that, in matters spiritual, clarity requires integrity and credibility requires both?