Posted on 14 November 2020 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
A good and timely question. And a dangerous one to answer.
I think we have to recognize the precarious nature of the times we live in – but at the same time, recognize that the times have always been precarious and the Church has an obligation to preach the same Gospel in season and out of season.
The short answer, of course, is we have to follow ALL of the teachings of Christ and His Church, lest we end up in the situation that Mr. Biden and others of similar mind find themselves in.
Our pattern should not be the greatest sinners and the greatest dissenters from Church teaching, but the greatest saints. Would St. Francis advocate for abortion on demand up to the moment of birth? Would St. Thomas More officiate at the “wedding” of two men? Would St. Therese of Lisieux promote suing the Little Sisters of the Poor to try and force them to pay for contraceptives?
Of course not.
That those who advocate for these positions, which are totally contrary to the teachings of the Gospel, have not been warned by canonical penalties to step back from the brink and consider the fate of their eternal souls is a troubling.
That they have, largely, not even been publicly scolded for their heretical and evil public positions is a scandal.
That some members of the hierarchy have even gone so far as to praise them is gut-wrenching.
The Church has, with varying degrees of success and failure, exercised Her right to excommunicate malefactors with great liberality and with great caution. The prudential judgment that is part and parcel of the decision to utilize this and other canonical penalties is open to legitimate debate.
Would the condition of Catholics in England have been better had St. Pius V not excommunicated Queen Elizabeth in 1581? Would the status of the Church have been better had the Venerable Pius XII excommunicated Hitler in 1940?
These are open and reasonable questions. Certainly, the excommunication of Elizabeth did not cause her to turn from her heresy and repent, nor did the failure to excommunicate Hitler make him any better disposed to the Church.
Whether excommunicating Mr. Biden and his fellow partisans would have a positive effect is an reasonable question to ask.
It is clear by any fair reading of canon law that such persistent, public, and prominent support for abortion, redefining marriage, and pushing contraceptives falls within the realm of “obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin” (cf. canon 915), which make them ineligible to be admitted to Holy Communion, as Cardinal Burke and other wise canonists have noted.
In the end, for all the scandal, we need to be attentive to the state of our own souls.
God will not open the doors of paradise to us if we merely point to another and say, “He was worse than I was.”
We know the fate of the obstinate sinner. It should strike us with holy and reverential fear. We should do all we can to avoid that fate ourselves.
We should cling closely to Christ and strive our best to keep His commands – all of them.