Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Communion Ban an Ineffective Tactic

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Communion Ban an Ineffective Tactic

Article excerpt

If former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, now George W. Bush's secretary of Health and Human Services, were to return to his native Elroy in the diocese of La Crosse, Wis., he wouldn't have to hesitate to join the Communion line at St. Patrick's Parish.

After all, he considers himself to be a faithful Catholic and in the eyes of his bishop, pro-life, meaning he supports restrictions of and a ban on legalized abortion. As HHS Secretary, he has been at the forefront of Bush administration efforts to restrict abortions, including a ban on late-term or partial-birth abortions.

So when La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke, who moved on from Thompson's diocese last month to become archbishop of St. Louis, ordered that legislators who support "procured abortion or euthanasia" be barred from Communion, Thompson, admittedly not a legislator, had no apparent reason to think he should be included in that ban.

However, should Thompson ever venture to New Orleans, he might have to think twice about receiving Communion.

"When Catholic officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the church and should not partake of holy Communion," Archbishop Alfred Hughes wrote in a recent newspaper column.

Thompson currently oversees the federal laboratories where stem cells from human embryos frozen prior to August 2001 are being extracted.

NCR's John Allen asked Thompson about the issue last year.

Replied Thompson: "Our position does not encourage other destructions, and it does not encourage people to have babies solely for building a supply of stem cells. I feel morally correct. I think it's in line with church teaching that instead of throwing valuable resources away we make use of them."

Thompson, sounding very much like a pro-choice Catholic legislator, continued: "I have to minister to the needs of citizens, the majority of whom are not believers in the Catholic church. I can't do my job, carrying out the policies of this administration and previous administrations, by solely relying on Catholic teachings."

Legislators who support "procured abortion or euthanasia" are engaged in "manifest grave sin," Burke said in a "notification" last year.

What about those who support embryonic stem cell research? How far does one go?

One can also rightly ask: What about politicians who do not actively support other life issues? What about politicians who demagogue the death penalty? What about those who consistently oppose programs that would assist pregnant women and reduce the number of abortions? What about politicians who support war, even preemptive war?

The inconsistencies here discredit the admonishers.

That said, what insight might be found in Burke and Hughes' positions? …

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