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MYERS-POLITICAL May-5-2004 (750 words) With photo. xxxn
Archbishop to dissenting politicians: Stop receiving Communion

By Catholic News Service

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Catholic politicians who dissent from fundamental church teachings in their public policy stands should be honest about the fact that they are not in full union with the church and should stop receiving Communion, said Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J.

"Receiving the Eucharist ... means that one is in fact in full communion with Christ and his church," the archbishop said in a pastoral statement published May 5 in The Catholic Advocate, his archdiocesan newspaper. "To receive Communion when one has, through public or private action, separated oneself from unity with Christ and his church, is objectively dishonest."

Archbishop Myers did not name any politicians, but his statement followed several weeks of national controversy over the church status of Catholic politicians such as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. The presumptive Democratic candidate for this fall's presidential election, Kerry holds positions contrary to the church's on issues such as abortion and fetal stem-cell research.

A number of New Jersey public officials who are Catholic hold similar positions contrary to church teaching. In late April, the new head of the Camden Diocese, Bishop Joseph A. Galante, told reporters Gov. James McGreevey would not be welcome to receive Communion if he attended Bishop Galante's installation.

McGreevey supports legal abortion and has advocated making New Jersey a leader in fetal stem-cell research, but Bishop Galante said his comments about the governor were based largely on McGreevey's remarriage without an annulment.

In his statement Archbishop Myers made a sharp distinction between issues such as abortion, slavery, racism, euthanasia and trafficking in human persons, on the one hand, and those issues on which "there are legitimate disagreements about the best way or ways" to achieve justice and equity.

"No Catholic can legitimately say, 'I do not care about the poor,'" he wrote. "If he or she did so this person would not be objectively in communion with Christ and his church. But those who propose welfare increases and those who propose tax cuts to stimulate the economy may in all sincerity believe that their way is the best method to really help the poor."

On issues such as abortion or slavery, however, "there can be no legitimate diversity of opinion," he wrote. "The direct killing of the innocent is always a grave injustice. ... Obviously, recognizing the grave injustice of slavery requires one to ensure that no one suffers such degradation. Similarly, recognizing that abortion is unjust killing requires one -- in love and justice -- to work to overcome the injustice."

Archbishop Myers noted that he has publicly addressed the issue of political dissent from fundamental church teachings in the past.

He quoted from a pastoral letter he wrote in 1990: "Catholics who publicly dissent from the church's teaching on the right to life of all unborn children should recognize that they have freely chosen by their own actions to separate themselves from what the church believes and teaches. They have also separated themselves in a significant way from the Catholic community.

"The church," his 1990 letter continued, "cannot force such people to change their position; but she can and does ask them honestly to admit in the public forum that they are not in full union with the church.

"One who practices such dissent, even in the mistaken belief that it is permissible, may remain a Catholic in some sense, but has abandoned the full Catholic faith. For such a person to express 'communion' with Christ and his church by the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist is objectively dishonest."

In his new statement, titled "A Time for Honesty," Archbishop Myers said, "I ask and urge that Catholic voters and Catholics in public life carefully consider their position if they find themselves in opposition to church teaching in these matters."

He recalled that the bishops of the world gathered at the Second Vatican Council called abortion and infanticide "abominable crimes."

"The fact that all too many U.S. citizens have grown comfortable with the ongoing injustice of abortion on demand is quite upsetting," he wrote. "That some Catholics, who claim to believe what the church believes, are willing to allow others to continue directly to kill the innocent is a grave scandal.

"The situation is much worse," he added, "when these same leaders receive the Eucharist when they are not objectively in communion with Christ and his church. Their objective dishonesty serves to compound the scandal."


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