By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told a reporter last week that U.S. bishops will discuss whether voting for pro-abortion legislation entails automatic excommunication at their November meeting.
“I think there are several issues to be discussed,” Bishop Kicanas told John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.
“One is, what is the level of cooperation involved in a legislator voting for legislation that encourages, or allows, intrinsically evil acts? Is that formal cooperation or isn’t it? That’s a critical question, because if it is formal cooperation, then serious consequences flow from it.”
When Allen asked, “You mean automatic excommunication?” Bishop Kicanas answered, “Right. That’s one question that has not been answered.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.” [CCC2272]
Examples of “formal cooperation” include a person who has an abortion and the doctor who performs it. However, there is much debate about whether more indirect roles such as voting for pro-abortion policies should also be included.
During the interview which took place in Rome at the North American College, Bishop Kicanas made it clear that there is no consensus in the conference about this issue.
He also admitted there is no consensus among bishops on another issue that will be raised at the November meeting – whether Communion should be denied to pro-abortion politicians.
Bishop Kicanas said the central question in this issue concerns what kind of response a bishop should make after dialoguing with a CAaholic politician who continues to hold intrinsically evil positions in terms of voting.
“As you know, some bishops are saying that communion should be withheld from those politicians. The bishops as a whole left that question open, and it’s still a question that is left to the prudential judgment of the bishop in the local area,” he said.
“I think what gets confusing for people is that the bishops aren’t of one mind on these questions. Therefore, they feel confused, and at times I think they try to pit bishops against one another, which isn’t helpful.”
He went on to say he doubted the conference would change their earlier position of leaving it up to local bishops to decide, and said he believed it was important for these discussions to take place after the election.
“If we did it beforehand, it could only be misused. That’s one of the difficulties, which is trying to state our teaching in a way that is not misused, or used in a partisan way, in a way that’s not intended by the teaching.”
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