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SPECIAL: A Twelve Step Program for Bishops

10/5/2004 - 5:00 AM PST

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By Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, D.D.
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
©Catholic Online 2004

My recent essay entitled “Denying Holy Communion, A Case Study” has prompted a number of people to suggest that the procedure which I followed in issuing a decree of Interdiction forbidding the reception of Holy Communion by a pro-abortion Texas State Representative is outdated. Some have suggested that such was fitting for 1994 but that it is no longer appropriate for 2004. They say that the times have changed. I agree that the times have changed – for the worse!

Now we have candidates for the Presidency and Congress publicly professing to be a practicing Catholics who, although supportive of many of the Church’s teachings on social issues, on the most important issue – the inalienable right to life – are diametrically opposed to our Holy Catholic Faith. The most important issue facing the world today is the assault on the sanctity of human life.

The highest teaching Authority of the Magisterium, Pope John Paul II and his Predecessors, as well as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, have taught repeatedly that the right to life is the foundation of all other rights in civil society. The denial of this basic right leads eventually to the denial of all others rights.

All other grave social issues, such as war, poverty, health, economic justice, immigration, etc. are of secondary importance and indeed pale in comparison to innocent human life under systematic annihilation. This is not simply a matter of one’s personal faith, it is a matter of reason.

The human intellect knows intuitively that the innocent person’s right to life has a greater priority than other social issues which are concerned with the quality of life. By magisterial teaching it also happens to be an article of Faith. Christ Himself instructed the Apostles and His Disciples to uphold the Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” Ex. XX, 13. Bishops, as Successors to those Apostles, are charged with doing the same in Christ’s name.

In 1994 the greatest assault on innocent human life was being waged then, like now, by the abortionists. Euthanasia had begun to emerge as a growing concern, but cloning, embryonic stem cell research and even infanticide had not yet assumed the magnitude of the tragedy or danger that they pose in common today.

In that year of 1994, I felt that limiting Interdiction in the internal forum was important not only for the spiritual well being of the person being interdicted, but also for the spiritual good of the community. I had not felt that way about the three decrees of excommunication (latae sententiae) which I had issued earlier for one simple reason: they were directed at three Catholics who were directly involved in procuring murder by abortion - two women who each administered an abortuary and one doctor who performed the unspeakable evil of abortion himself.

Their cases, clearly constituting formal cooperation in evil, that is, the direct immediate and voluntary participation in the physical taking of human life, demanded the infliction of the gravest of public ecclesiastical penalties, excommunication. On the other hand, the case of a politician who publicly protested a “personal opposition” to abortion, all the while publicly defending a right to choose abortion as allowed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, at that time did not appear to impel the public declaration of the gravest of censures.

In 1995 Pope John Paul II concluded that it was urgent to promulgate the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Some 12,000,000 abortions later, it has become crystal clear that the politician who actively engages his political skills to maintain abortion-on-demand and who protects the ongoing genocide by voting for legislation in favor of abortion formally cooperates in the evil of abortion itself. In reality, the distinction between the abortionist and the politician is almost nominal: One, a murderer, is guilty of directly procuring abortions; the politician, makes it legally possible for the genocide to continue unabated.

Critically, now, without doubt, the integrity of the Christian Faith is under attack not just from without, but worse, from within the Church. It is under attack by Catholic politicians who publicly and obstinately support what in all truth is nothing less than Heresy. By heresy I mean an obstinate denial or doubt of a core, non-negotiable dogma of the Faith proposed by the Magisterium as revealed doctrine, as set forth in Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 and amended in 1998. In my recently published essay, “The Arian Heresy Revisited,” I tried to show that the heresy of the Fourth Century which denied the divinity of Christ, is the mirror-image of our modern heresy which denies the ...

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