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 CNS Story:

RATZINGER-MCCARRICK Jul-6-2004 (740 words) xxxn

Cardinal McCarrick says leaked Ratzinger memo is not whole story

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said July 6 that the leaked text of a recent memo he received from a top Vatican official, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on Catholic politicians and abortion appeared to be "an incomplete and partial leak" not reflecting "the full message I received."

The memo outlined principles of moral and sacramental theology that should be taken into account in determining whether Catholic politicians who take public policy stands contrary to fundamental church teaching in areas such as abortion and euthanasia should be allowed to receive Communion or asked or ordered not to receive the sacrament.

Cardinal McCarrick is head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' task force studying how bishops should deal with Catholic politicians in those areas.

In his July 6 statement he said the task force's June 15 report to the bishops, published on the USCCB Web site long before the leak of the memo, "conveys both the substance of Cardinal Ratzinger's observations as well as our own interim conclusions."

He said his actual communications on the topic with Cardinal Ratzinger, who is head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, were private and he would not release them.

The six-point memo from Cardinal Ratzinger was published online July 3 by L'Espresso, an Italian magazine.

Only the memo was published. No cover letter or other written materials that the Vatican official may have sent to the Washington prelate were included.

Cardinal McCarrick was out of town on business July 6. Through his communications officer, Susan Gibbs, he issued a brief statement saying he had not yet seen the report in L'Espresso, but "from what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received."

"Our task force's dialogue with the Holy See on these matters has been extensive, in person, by phone and in writing," he added.

He said that at Cardinal Ratzinger's specific request he would not release the "written materials" the cardinal had sent him -- terminology clearly suggesting some form of additional written communication besides the memo on the moral and sacramental principles to be considered.

In the task force's discussions with the Vatican, he said, "the Holy See has constantly emphasized it is up to our bishops' conference to make prudent pastoral judgments in our own circumstance."

In his own June 15 presentation to the bishops, Cardinal McCarrick had summarized the points of Cardinal Ratzinger's communications with him.

"The first is a recognition that it is up to us as bishops in the United States to discern and act on our responsibilities as teachers, pastors and leaders in our nation," he told the bishops. "He (Cardinal Ratzinger) expresses his respect for the role of our conference and the bishops in the United States in carrying out these responsibilities."

That point was not part of the memo but was apparently part of the context in which Cardinal Ratzinger had placed the memo.

The memo itself outlined the gravity of abortion and euthanasia and classical distinctions in moral theology between formal and material cooperation in evil, and the church's norms for who should and should not receive Communion.

It said that for a Catholic politician "consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" involves "formal cooperation" in those grave evils. It said a bishop dealing with such a politician should meet with him, instruct him on the church's teaching, inform him that while he persists in that position he should not receive Communion, and ultimately, if necessary, warn him "that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."

The memo did not address the question of the prudential judgments local church authorities must make in determining the facts and the appropriate course of action in any particular case.

In his report to the bishops, Cardinal McCarrick said, "I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders whether to pursue this path. The Holy See has repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors. The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent.

"It is not surprising that difficult and differing circumstances on these matters can lead to different practices," he added. "Every bishop is acting in accord with his own understanding of his duties and the law."


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