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 CNS Story:

OBRIEN-COMMUNION Oct-28-2004 (540 words) xxxn

Military prelate says dissenting politicians shouldn't take Communion

By Catholic News Service

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CNS) -- Catholic politicians who "choose to disregard (the) tenets of their professed faith and, in fact, actively promote opposite ones" should refrain from receiving Communion, the head of the U.S. military archdiocese said at a Mass for judges, law enforcement officers and attorneys in southern New York state.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services delivered the homily Oct. 26 at the annual Red Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in White Plains.

Speaking a week before the Nov. 2 election, Archbishop O'Brien said "a campaign-weary nation" had experienced "sharp, daily divisions" in the months leading up to selection of a president, vice president, most members of Congress and local officials.

"Religiously committed citizens as well as those who have no formal allegiance to an institutionalized faith should by now feel comfortable that they have been welcomed by their fellow countrymen in expressing their deeply held convictions on every issue of importance," he said. "Indeed all should do so without intimidation or defensiveness."

The debate over Communion for Catholic politicians who disagree with the church's position on abortion and other life issues "is not simply a hot campaign 2004 distraction," the archbishop said.

"In Roman Catholic practice and theology, it has a profound resonance, echoes of which would be perceived throughout the 2,000-year history of our communion," he added.

Quoting from Pope John Paul II's encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), Archbishop O'Brien said it is a principle of natural law that "the direct and voluntary killing of a human being is always gravely immoral."

He called that statement "a natural law principle complemented by Western religious tradition, with which all but the tyrant must agree."

The archbishop said a non-Catholic faith leader in a non-Catholic house of worship "would be permitted freely and without threat or intimidation to apply these principles more specifically to today's public debate on abortion."

"Such, however, is not my desire or intention," he said. "I simply wish to plead that our reasoned position be studied, known, respected and be permitted to be applied in the public debate that will long be with us.

"Meanwhile, might fair-minded people begin to ask why those seeking public office are permitted freely to enter any house of worship other than Catholic, and speak of any topic they desire, without restraint or fear and without any hint of violating the principle of separation of church and state?" he asked. "How long must Catholics be muzzled by such a double standard?"

On the question of Catholic politicians, Archbishop O'Brien said those who "freely choose" to be Catholics "should, in good faith, seek to live up to the basic truths of that faith as far as reasonable civil law permits."

If they decide not to, he asked, "should not honesty strongly dictate that they refrain from taking part in our most sacred and public proclamation of our unity with the church and teachings, the reception of holy Communion?"

"Let other faith communities adhere to their own traditions and beliefs in the matter. We will respect them," the archbishop added. "And please, let all permit us to do so without that criticism and denunciation that is too often commonplace."


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