(CNSNews.com) – Catholic members of Congress who vote for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) could face “automatic excommunication” if the act is determined to be “formal cooperation” in the evil of abortion.
When asked last week whether a Catholic politician voting for the FOCA – which would impose nationwide abortion on demand and government funding of abortion – would incur automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the question would need to be discussed once the actual language of the bill was known.
George is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In order to be considered in the next Congress, which convenes in January, the Freedom of Choice Act needs to be reintroduced. In the current Congress, it has been sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
At a press conference at the fall meeting of the USCCB held in Baltimore last week, CNSNews.com asked Cardinal George if the language in the Catholic Catechism that says “formal cooperation” in abortion incurs the penalty of excommunication would apply to a Catholic member of Congress voting for FOCA.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense and the church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life,” CNSNews.com asked.
The CCC actually goes on to say right after this "A person who procures a completed abortion
incurs excommunication latae sententiae," and Canon 1398 says the same. It has not been an interpretation of this canon that it extends further than those directly involved in a "successful procured abortion."
“If openly Catholic politicians vote for this Freedom of Choice Act, which would pretty much allow unfettered access to abortion in the United States, would it be an automatic grounds for excommunication? But even if it’s not automatic … could you just explain the process of the excommunication?” CNSNews.com added.
“The excommunication is automatic if that act is in fact formal cooperation, and that is precisely what would have to be discussed once you would see the terms of the act itself,” responded George.
I would love this to be true, but I seriously doubt that regardless of how the law is written and how ardent it is in supporting abortion that it will result in an automatic excommunication. Certainly those who voted for abortion including partial-birth abortion have ever been seen as excommunicated by their own action. I would certainly loved to see Rome broaden the Canon to mean precisely this (which I think would be possible). Though Canon 915 certainly applies to those who "obstinately persist in
manifest grave sin" could be denied Communion. Individual bishops though could certainly excommunicate those politicians who would vote for FOCA.
“The categories in moral theology about cooperating in evil, which make you complicit in the evil even though you don’t do it yourself, are material cooperation, which is usually remote and therefore doesn’t involve you in the moral action except in a very auxiliary and minor way, and formal cooperation, which would involve you even though you are not doing it, in the way that makes you culpable,” said George.
“So we would have to take a look at each case, and at each law, to determine whether or not the cooperation is material or formal. We’ve never done that,” he added.
Not sure how a vote for FOCA could result in only "material cooperation" with evil.
Fr. Frank Pavone of the Priests for Life told CNSNews.com: “Any legislator who would vote for such an extreme piece of pro-abortion legislation [FOCA], and any executive who would sign it or judge who would uphold it, or even a citizen who would lobby in any way in favor of it, would be committing a serious sin, objectively speaking. It is cooperation with evil in a totally unjustified way.”
Totally agree with that.
Pavone said that the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law lays out multiple conditions which must be met before an automatic excommunication occurs. “This really becomes a legal question that would require analyzing those conditions in an actual situation, and it is a step removed from the more clear-cut case of a person actually performing or undergoing the procedure [of abortion],” he said.
Dr. Mark Miravalle, a theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, said of a Catholic politician voting for FOCA, “I think you would have to conclude that it would be a formal act, a formal cooperation [in the act of abortion].”
The purpose of FOCA, he continued, “is to ensure the right of a woman to have an abortion.”
One theoretical case where it would not be formal cooperation, but material, he said, was if the politician was pro-life at heart but did not favor legislation as the way to overturn abortion. Miravalle said, however, that such a case would be an "extremely rare and almost entirely theoretical impossibility, given the gravity of the legislation."