If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion. To publicly affirm the Catholic faith while at the same time publicly rejecting one of its most fundamental teachings is simply dishonest. Heeding this perennial call to conversion is the only way to live the Catholic faith with integrity.
Such are the words of a recent pastoral letter of Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco. The statement applies to every Catholic in every profession and vocation. It is consistent with Catholic Church teaching and practice rooted in Tradition and Scripture.
The Archbishop quotes from the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament regarding the role of a shepherd of souls, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked, you must die,’ and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood” (Ez 33:8). I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.
Archbishop Cordileone also cites New Testament passages that apply to the reception of Holy Communion worthily.
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” [1 Cor 11:27–29].
To eat and drink “without discerning the body” means not discerning the reality of the Body of Christ. This refers both to the sacramental Body of Christ, the Eucharist, and to His mystical Body, the Church. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from His Body; to receive His Eucharistic Body and Blood while repudiating essential doctrines of His Mystical Body is to eat and drink judgment on oneself. St. Paul urged the members of his communities temporarily to exclude serious wrongdoers from their midst (e.g., 1 Cor 5:1–5), the First Letter of St. John invoked this practice (1 Jn 1:10), and Jesus Himself speaks of this in the case of those who refuse to listen to the Church (Mt 18:17). The purpose of such exclusion is medicinal: it is intended to help the wrongdoer realize that he or she has wandered from Christ’s fold by their ongoing evil behavior.
Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix also wrote the following:
It is a false compassion that treats the killing of an innocent child in the womb as “help” for a mother in need. It is a false courage that condemns the sins of the past while the gravest evil of the present is treated as an “issue” of legitimate disagreement among Catholics. And it is a false patience and pastoral concern that, year after year, stays silent or speaks in abstractions while the slaughter continues with the full endorsement of Catholic politicians under our spiritual care as bishops. Such “patience” is false because it is bereft of love and truth, and thus unmasks rather a deadly apathy towards one who professes the Catholic faith but whose public embrace of abortion puts his or her eternal soul at risk of damnation, and risks dragging untold numbers into hell by their example.
Abortion, as Pope Francis has reminded us, is the pre-eminent social issue in the world. Archbishop Aquila of Denver reminds us,
When the church minimizes the danger of an unworthy reception of the Eucharist, she fails to properly love those who continue to jeopardize their souls. Trading “civility” and “engagement” for eternal life is not a good trade, and it is especially negligent for me, as a bishop, to remain quiet when people I am called to love may be endangering their eternal souls. This is a danger to them and a danger to me.
Poignant words for our time.
God bless FRVW