I agree completely with His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who called the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “appalling.”
Fourteen Catholic senators voted against the bill that would have prohibited abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization, including Sen. Richard Durbin, whose residence is in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. In April 2004, Sen. Durbin’s pastor, then Msgr. Kevin Vann (now Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, CA), said that he would be reticent to give Sen. Durbin Holy Communion because his pro-abortion position put him outside of communion or unity with the Church’s teachings on life. My predecessor, now Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, said that he would support that decision. I have continued that position.
Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” In our 2004 Statement on Catholics in Political Life, the USCCB said, “Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.” Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin. This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart. Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life.
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