Bishop Barron on Biden

Bishop Robert Barron has only been a diocesan bishop for a month, but, on August 5th, he used his Word on Fire media platform to wade in to perhaps the most controversial ecclesial argument in the US Church; that of Eucharistic coherence.

I say controversial, but of course, it really shouldn't be. It is blindingly obvious where the Church stands on the issue and what she teaches. This argument is also obvious in natural law and reason. But Pope Francis himself has made the issue controversial by very personal interventions against US bishops who are standing up for the integrity of Church teaching by upholding it. Most notably, Archbishop Cordileone. In an extraordinarily vicious move by the Argentinian Pontiff who talks a lot about devolving power to bishops, while, in truth, running one of the most restrictive Pontificates in history, undermined the Archbishop's authority, by receiving Pelosi in the Vatican after Archbishop Cordileone banned her from receiving Holy Communion, and allowing her to receive at a Mass he presided at.

Pope Francis has consistently spoken about the values of collegiality and decentralization associated with the Second Vatican Council, including calling for a “healthy decentralization” in the Church during a 2015 ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops.

Yet it is hard to see this as anything but a decentralizing papacy. Instead, we’ve seen sweeping assertions of papal authority and central control on multiple fronts, especially when it comes to clerical sexual abuse and finances.

With powerful US prelates like Blaise Cupich and Wilton Gregory (both proteges of disgraced ex-Cardinal and friend of Pope Francis, Theodore McCarrick) backing Pope Francis in not with holding Holy Communion from politicians vocally and consistently calling for more abortion, Bishop Barron steps into the fray. You can read his whole article here.

He starts his argument by dismantling Biden's defence of his own position:

"Opposition to abortion is not a matter of doctrine in the strict sense of the term, but rather a conclusion drawn from moral reasoning and from the findings of objective science. It is an indisputable fact that human life—which is to say, a living human being with a distinctive genetic structure and identity—comes into existence at the moment of conception. It is furthermore a fundamental axiom of ethics that innocent human life ought never to be attacked. These insights and principles are the foundation of an argument against abortion that can and should be made in the public forum; they are decidedly not a matter of “dogma” peculiar to Catholicism. I fully understand that people might disagree with the line of reasoning that I’ve proposed. Fine, let’s argue the matter in the public forum and see which of us can garner majority support. But please don’t tell me that I’m imposing a dogma on you."

He smashes through Biden's line that he does not want to impose his belief on others:

"The same goes for tax codes, anti-trust regulations, minimum wage requirements, civil rights statutes, etc. Laws don’t suggest; they impose. And behind every truly just law, there is some moral principle: preserving life, establishing greater justice, protecting the poor, fostering the common good, etc. So if you were to ask me whether I was working to impose on the entire society a law that would protect the rights of the unborn, I would say, “Yes.” And then I would add: “And what’s your point?”"

He then moves on to the argument made by Mario Cuomo some 35 years ago and then oft repeated by all and sundry since: “I am personally opposed to abortion, but publicly I support it.”

"opposition to abortion, as we have just shown, is not a conviction born of “dogma” but rather of moral reasoning, it is utterly incoherent to claim that one can hold to the position privately but not defend it publicly. It would be precisely analogous to someone in the nineteenth century saying that though he personally finds slavery abhorrent, he will do nothing to eliminate it or even to stop its spread. It would also be precisely analogous to someone in the mid-twentieth century saying that though his personal conviction is that Jim Crow laws are morally repugnant, he will fight publicly to keep them in place."

Bishop Barron does not mince his words in this wonderful article, which puts him squarely at odds with the progressive bishops and the Pope on this matter. He finishes by describing the President's position as "repellent":

"In light of this, can you see why so many Catholics, including your humble scribe, find the President’s statements and actions in regard to abortion policy so repellent? The man claims that he objects to abortion, that he considers it morally wrong, and yet, time and time again, in the most straightforward, even strenuous manner, he strives, by word and deed, to make it more available, more acceptable, more legally defended. In the nineteenth century, the viscerally anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln did not pursue the extreme anti-slavery policy advocated by the abolitionists; rather, he took a more moderate position, endeavoring to hem slavery in, to limit its spread, in the hopes that he was setting it on course for extinction. This was, for the sixteenth president, a matter of prudential political judgment. If our current president, convinced as he claims to be that abortion is wrong, were to take steps in the direction of curtailing the practice, or if he could have found positive words to say about the Dobbs decision that at least gives individual states the right to restrict abortion, I might see him in the mold of Lincoln. But instead, he presses forward, advocating the most radical pro-abortion policy imaginable, seeking to codify into law the Roe v. Wade and Casey decisions that essentially made abortion up to the moment of birth a matter of legal impunity in our country.

President Biden speaks often of his Catholic faith, attends Mass regularly, and prays the Rosary. I have absolutely no reason to doubt the sincerity of his Catholicism. But I am sorry to say that, in regard to the most pressing moral issue of our time, he stands athwart both right reason and the explicit teaching of his Church."

I am deeply grateful for this article from Bishop Barron who has a reputation for common sense and reasonable argumentation. Frankly I am bemused as to why the Church cannot speak with one clear voice on this issue.

Speaking on the plane home from Slovakia, Sept 15, 2021, Pope Francis said this on the issue:

"I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone. No one. I do not know if anyone came [to me] who was in this situation, but I never refused the Eucharist. To this day as a priest never. But never have I been conscious of having a person in front of me as you describe. That is true. Simply, the only time I had a funny thing happen was when I went to celebrate Mass in a nursing home. And we were in the living room and I said: “Whoever wants Communion, raise your hand.” And everybody, they were elderly, raised their hands. And I gave Communion to one lady, and [afterward] she took my hand and she said, “Thank you, Father, thank you, I’m Jewish.” She took my hand. Even this one I told you about was a Jewish woman and yet, onward. The only strange thing. But the lady told me afterward.

Communion is not a prize for the perfect, think of [...], Jansenism, the perfect are able to take Communion. Communion is a gift, a gift, the presence of Jesus in his Church. It is in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot take Communion -- like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her and without my knowledge. Why [can they not take Communion]? Because they are out of the community, excommunicated, they are “excommunicated” it is called. It’s a harsh term, but what it means is they are not in the community, either because they do not belong, or they are baptized but have drifted away from some of the things."

I can't let this paragraph pass without some comment (sorry). It just strikes me that, here, the Pope is confused about what Church teaching on this matter is and so he misrepresents it with the intention of portraying the opposite of Church teaching as less "harsh" and a "gift". It seems to me this, in and of itself, is a great travesty and a complete betrayal of the office he holds. The Church teaches that the reason "those who are not in the community cannot take Communion" is because of 1 Cor 11:27:
Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink of the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself; and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eatheth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27–29).
In his final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II quotes St. John Chrysostom:
I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called “communion,” not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but “condemnation,” “torment,” and “increase of punishment.”
John Paul II explains the reason why:
The celebration of the Eucharist … cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. … Invisible communion, though by its nature always growing, presupposes the life of grace, by which we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and the practice of the virtues of faith, hope and love. … Keeping these invisible bonds intact is a specific moral duty incumbent upon Christians who wish to participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving the body and blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul appeals to this duty when he warns: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28). … I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, “one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin.” … Christ is the truth and he bears witness to the truth (cf. Jn 14:6; 18:37); the sacrament of his body and blood does not permit duplicity.
There is no way around it: Catholics are obliged to pay careful heed to “stern warning” of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27–29. Yet Pope Francis is clearly, vocally and openly in opposition to this teaching. What do we do when a Pope is opposed to the teaching of the Church and virtually none of the bishops or cardinals seem concerned? 

With the belief in the Real Presence among the laity (and likely clergy too) at record lows, does a Pope who contradicts Church teaching and promotes a Protestant "open table" sacramental theology help us or hinder us?

Anyway, back to the Pope on the plane:

"Second, the problem of abortion. Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder. Abortion, without hinting: whoever performs an abortion kills. You take any embryology textbook of those students that study in medical school. At the third week of conception, at the third, many times before the mother notices, all the organs are already there. All of them. Even the DNA. [...]

It’s a human life, period. This human life must be respected. This principle is so clear. And to those who can’t understand it I would ask two questions: Is it right, is it fair, to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. Second question: Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? I said this publicly [...] when I did, I said it to COPE, I have wanted to repeat it. And period. Don’t continue with strange discussions: Scientifically it’s a human life. The textbooks teach us that. But is it right to take it out to solve a problem? This is why the Church is so strict on this issue because accepting this is kind of like accepting daily murder."

Thanks be to God we can rely on the Pope for some things - be grateful for small mercies I suppose! The problem is, he doesn't back this up with any action; in fact, his actions appear, to all and sundry, to tacitly contradict his words here. For Catholics like Pelosi and Biden, how hollow do his condemnations sound when they are welcomed and rewarded by him?

"A head of state was telling me that the decline in population started with the age of abortion. Because in those years there was such a strong abortion law that six million abortions were performed and this left a very large decline in the society of that country.

Now let’s return to the person who is not in the community and is not able to take Communion because he is outside of the community. This is not a penalty: you are outside. Communion is to unite the community."

So that's nice and clear then.😕

"But the issue is not a theological problem, which is simple. The problem is a pastoral problem: how we bishops manage this principle pastorally. If we look at the history of the Church, we will see that every time the bishops have not managed a problem as pastors, they have taken sides about political life, about the political problem. For not managing a problem well they have taken sides on the political front."

OK so I think what he is saying is that if you're not in Communion you can't expect to be treated like you are in Communion, BUT, the way to deal with this as a priest is to do nothing. Is that right? Be pastoral and not to do anything. Which is the opposite of Canon 915. Is that right? 🤷 Canon 915: "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion."

"Let’s think about the night of St. Bartholomew: Heretics, yes, heresy is very serious [...] everyone, it’s a political fact. Let’s think about Joan of Arc, with this mission. Let’s think about witch-hunts. Always we think of Campo de’ Fiori, Savonarola, all these kinds. When the Church, in order to defend a principle, does not do it pastorally, it takes sides politically. And this has always been the case. Just look at history.

What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning, not condemning, but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and he has to shepherd them, and he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. The whole Bible says that. Closeness. Already in Deuteronomy, He says to Israel: What people have gods as close as you have me? Closeness. Compassion: the Lord has compassion on us. We read Ezekiel, we read Hosea, right from the beginning. And tenderness -- just look at the Gospel and the works of Jesus.

A pastor who does not know how to manage with God’s style slips and he adds many things which are not pastoral. For me, I do not want to particularize [...] the United States because I do not know the details well, I give the principle.

You can tell me: but if you are close, and tender, and compassionate with a person, you have to give Communion -- but that’s a hypothetical. Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he stops this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician. And you will see this in all the denunciations, in all the non-pastoral condemnations that the Church makes. With this principle, I believe a pastor can act well. The principles are from theology, the pastoral care is theology and the Holy Spirit, who leads you to do it with the style of God. I would venture to say up to this far."

So that's clear then. Maybe if we are looking for the source of confusion in the Church, we only need to look to the one who is causing so much of it on a daily basis?

Who gives clarity on this issue? Barron or Bergoglio?


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