Monday, April 26, 2004
A Barbarous Time  

In a Zenit interview with American theologian Father Thomas Williams, dean of the School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, Father Williams discusses the grave reasons why pro-abortion politicians might be denied communion.

The section below in bold is a serious indictment upon on our times. It is a sobering thought for each of us to consider as we discern what God would have us to do to promote a culture of life. When I think of his comment, I think not only of future generations rising up in judgment upon the peoples of this time, I think of our God judging us for what we did to protect the least of these.

Q: So in the case of pro-abortion politicians we would be dealing with a situation of manifestly grave sin? What does this mean?

Father Williams: The technical language of the code which refers to those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" must be carefully parsed.

Four essential elements come into play, all of which are necessary to fulfill the conditions laid out in Canon 915.

The first element is "gravi peccato," or grave sin. This can only be taken to refer to the matter of the action -- or omission -- without necessarily implying a judgment of subjective culpability. "Grave sin" in this case simply means objectively evil conduct of a serious nature.

The second requirement specified by Canon 915 refers to the "manifesto," or overt, character of the sin. This stipulation limits the sanction to sins of a public nature, and reiterates the public and ecclesial dimension of Holy Communion, which signifies moral, spiritual and doctrinal union with Christ and with his Church.

Thirdly, to be refused Communion a person must persist -- "perseverantes" -- in this openly sinful behavior. To say that a person persists in a public sin means that he somehow makes it known that he plans to continue engaging in his sinful behavior.

Finally, the code speaks of obstinate persistence. The Latin adverb "obstinate" here means that the person has been duly informed of the evil of his behavior but deliberately chooses to persist in it anyway.

There is such a thing as inculpable persistence in evildoing, when a person is unaware that a certain habitual activity is sinful. But once the evil of his actions has been brought to his attention, his persistence qualifies as obstinate.

Judging from the foregoing considerations, it seems clear that a politician who votes in a way that fails to defend innocent human life on a consistent basis and gives every indication of his intention to keep doing so despite warnings from ecclesiastical authorities can be said to obstinately persist in objectively evil behavior of a public nature. And in this regard he fulfills the requirements of Canon 915.

Q: Is this issue really that important? Should bishops really risk their moral authority on the question of pro-abortion legislators?

Father Williams: A glance at the past may prove instructive. History tends to be severe in its judgments of Church leaders who failed to use all the means at their disposal to put an end to egregious sins against human rights.

It is sufficient to recall events of the past centuries such as the African slave trade or apartheid or Hitler's Germany to bring home this argument.

Situations which appeared complicated and multifaceted at the time take on a peculiar starkness when viewed with historical hindsight.

A dispassionate analysis of the facts may show that the current situation with legalized abortion is no less grave than the greatest human rights issues of other times.

Though we may be inured to the grim reality of abortion, it seems likely that once civilization has comes to its senses, future generations will look back on our time as one of the most barbarous in history, not merely for our wars and terrorism, but especially for the antiseptic extermination of the most defenseless members of our society, the poorest of the poor, precisely because they have no voice.

Furthermore, the mere magnitude of the crisis -- now more than 40 million planned deaths of unborn children in the United States alone since the legalization of abortion in 1973 -- is sufficient to make abortion the greatest social justice issue of all time.

Posted by David at 10:30 PM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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