ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.
It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.
The Pope was asked whether he supported Mexican Church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.
"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said.
"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church… which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".
Under Church law, someone who knowingly does or backs something which the Church considers a grave sin, such as abortion, inflicts what is known as "automatic excommunication" on themselves.
The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future".
"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life…life is a gift not a threat."
|Jester Hat Tip:||Oswald Sobrino|
The Pope’s comments are of course quite consistent with what he has said before. Though Reuters totally gets the automatic (latae sententiae) wrong. If a politician was automatically excommunicated for voting for abortion then there would never had been any real argument about withholding Communion in the first place. Though nothing stops a Bishop from formally excommunicating them after exhausting all prudential attempts to help them to repent on this issue.
Update: Canonist Ed Peters posts on this story and gives light to it and some possibilities of what could be happening. One interesting part is this:
First, the pope’s remarks might have been misunderstood and/or misreported (gee, can that really happen today?) We know, for example, that there are reportorial ellipses in exactly the places that canonists would most want to see the pope’s exact words.
Or, maybe, the pope is legislating in mid-air, issuing what canonists must take as an "authentic interpretation" (1983 CIC 16) of the scope of Canon 1398 on abortion, one that dramatically extends the reach of the canon beyond what (I and virtually all other canonists suggest) is the long-accepted interpretation of this penal law (pace Canons 18, 1323, 1324, among others), and at the same time reminding the world that even papal comments to reporters’ carry the force of law in the Church whenever, that is, they are supposed to carry the force of law.
My guess: Pope Benedict XVI takes his law-making authority more seriously than that.
PS: About Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi later telling reporters that the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated themselves by their actions, well (assuming that report is accurate), it must be simply stated that Vatican press secretaries have no authority to issue binding interpretations of canon law. None. 1983 CIC 16 and Pastor Bonus 154-158.