Thursday, August 28, 2008

Senator Biden excommunicated

It all sounds so utterly mediaeval, but the Archbishop of Denver has indeed ‘warned’ Senator Joe Biden not to take communion. And at the same time the Archbishop of Washington has publicly rebuked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ‘misstating church history’. She has also been reprimanded by Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Ms Pelosi ‘stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion’.

While there are many who would assert that a ‘pro-choice Catholic’ is as oxymoronic as a ‘gay Muslim’ - notwithstanding that there are manifestly numerous adherents of both – the principal contention is that both Ms Pelosi and Senator Biden are waving their Roman Catholic credentials ‘in a bid for swing voters’.


Is that not precisely what politicians in representative democracies have to do? Does the process not demand that they be all things to all people? How otherwise do they ever secure a majority, win sufficient votes to form a government, or persuade people to coalesce around their ideological cause if they do not parade their singular characteristics and loosely-held convictions, however mutually exclusive and contradictory they may be? When Senator Obama introduced Joe Biden as his running mate, both men made a point of mentioning Senator Biden’s Catholicism. It is manifestly true that Senator Obama has struggled to win over Roman Catholics, 52 per cent of whom voted for President Bush in 2004.

But the problem seems to be one of politicians playing pope. It is one thing to acknowledge the official teaching of one’s church whilst demurring to it; it is quite another to state that one’s church has got it wrong. This appears to be Ms Pelosi’s sin. She has appealed to the role of individual conscience: "God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions," she said. But this has been countered by one theologian, who insists that Ms Pelosi’s conscience ‘must be formed by Catholic teaching and philosophical insights’: she may not articulate ‘a personal opinion’ that she ‘came up with randomly’.

The allegation is that Ms Pelosi ‘claimed to be an expert on the church’s abortion stance’. She said: “As an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know.”

She is talking of Augustine’s discourse on the ensoulment of the foetus, which is manifestly theological conjecture.

But Archbishop Donald Wuerl said the teaching has never changed: “The current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago. From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

Cranmer believes this to be something of an overstatement, and somewhat aggrandising the status of the Roman Catholic Church. An archbishop really ought to know that at the time when Jesus was appointing Peter as the first pope, the issue of abortion was not part of the doctrine of the Church, and neither was it an issue centuries later during the earliest ecumenical councils. And just because a doctrine may have been held 2000 years ago, it does not make it immutable. If that were the case, Roman Catholics would still be flat-earthers who believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Rome does not have an infallible canon of teaching going back 2000 years, not least because the doctrine of infallibility was only proclaimed in 1870.

So Ms Pelosi does have a point when she says that such issues have been a subject of dispute, and she simply rejects her church’s settled position on abortion. Senator Biden, despite insisting that he is a 'committed Catholic', also disagrees with the catechism, as evidenced by a 2006 interview during which he said: “That debate in our church has not morphed, but changed over a thousand years. It always is viewed by the church as something that is wrong, but there’s been gradations of whether it was wrong. You know, from venial or mortal sin, as we Catholics say, and versions of it.”

But this view has raised the ire of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has previously expressed the opinion that neither John Kerry nor Rudy Giuliani should receive communion. He said of Senator Biden: “I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for communion, if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion.” And of Ms Pelosi, he said she was ‘a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them’.

But, in the absence of a papal bull, Ms Pelosi is of the opinion that these excommunications are ‘regional’ (which is itself a challenge to her church's claim to catholicity). She said: “It depends on the bishop of a certain region and, fortunately for me, Communion has not been withheld and I’m a regular Communicant, so that would be a severe blow to me if that were the case.”

There appears to be more than a few American Catholics with Protestant attitudes. And, whilst disagreeing with both the senator and the House Speaker on the issue of abortion, Cranmer would like to encourage them in their assertion that their consciences are their own, and the sundry bishops and archbishops should leave the believer to answer to God. Whether or not someone is allowed to receive communion is between them and the Lord: it is for them to search their own hearts.

It is written that a man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks of the cup (1 Cor 11:28). The bishops’ intervention into the realm of the political is humiliating the politicians and using transubstantiation as a tool of democratic manipulation. Let him who is without sin withhold the first wafer.


Anonymous Asian Colonial Subject said...

But surely Your Grace, you yourself have directed in the Book of Common Prayer penned by your own hand that,

"If a Minister be persuaded that any person who presents himself to be a partaker of the holy Communion ought not to be admitted thereunto by reason of malicious and open contention with his neighbours, or other grave and open sin without repentance, he shall give an account of the same to the Ordinary of the place, and therein obey his order and direction, but so as not to refuse the Sacrament to any person until in accordance with such order and direction he shall have called him and advertised him that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord's Table; Provided that in case of grave and immediate scandal to the Congregation the Minister shall not admit such person, but shall give an account of the same to the Ordinary within seven days after at the latest and therein obey the order and direction given to him by the Ordinary; Provided also that before issuing his order and direction in relation to any such person the Ordinary shall afford him an opportunity for interview."

So the ministers, even within the Church of England, do have a responsibility to withhold communion in the event of "open sin without repentence", and, at least according to Catholic dogma, abortion advocacy is such a sin.

Tsk tsk Your Grace, I believe you have become more low-church and after you vacated your body...

28 August 2008 at 11:00  
Blogger Unsworth said...

Your Grace

Sadly I'm not with the programme here, but has Biden been excommunicated or something?

If not, why is the 'Archbishop of Denver' (and there's a title to marvel at) exceeding his authority?

I quite like Denver and its people who've always struck me as being courteous, civilised and mostly decent. Is the Archbishop the grit in the oyster?

28 August 2008 at 11:13  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Asian Colonial Subject,

Low Church?

How dare you.

Of course it is for ministers of the church to exercise discernment, but it is also for ministers to exercise discretion when their own actions and words might influence the outcome of an election. The issue before us is abortion; and not even having procured one, but simply stating that there may be circumstances in which it may be justified, and highlighting the development of the teaching throughout church history. They have not themselves participated in the sin. This is hardly a 'grave and immediate scandal' except in the possible effect the inquiry has on the outcome of the election.

Although the issue is important, it is difficult for many to understand why it is so much more important than (say) an 'unjust' war with Iraq. Should politicians who supported this war (in which many thousands have died) be excommunicated? The answer, of course, will be no, because it is a matter of conscience, not an article of faith, notwithstanding the stated positions of two popes.

Cranmer is all for the pastors of the flock protecting the sheep, but he more than half suspects that these bishops and archbishops are not so much concerned with Senator Biden or Speaker Pelosi drinking judgement upon their own heads, as they are with humiliating them in order to damage their electoral prospects.

28 August 2008 at 11:28  
Blogger The Gentleman Loser said...

I'm confused. What about euthanasia, capital punishment, unjust war? Aren't these things part of the same culture of death described by John Paul 2 of happy memory? Why aren't presidential candidates sscrutinised in the same way over these issues? Why this fixation with abortion?

28 August 2008 at 11:47  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Your Grace surprises me that he should repeat the nonsense that Christianity ever held or taught the flat earth hypothesis. With extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat and that the prevailing view was of a spherical earth. Do you think St Peter thought the Earth was flat as he saw the land disappear over the horizon fishing on Galilee or the mast tops of other fishing boats get smaller and smaller? So please no more nonsense on the myth of the Flat Earth.

On abortion again when you’re trying to avoid being denounced to the local proconsul and ending up as Leo’s apperatif, its no wonder any documents retained should be restricted to the Gospels or forming the early Church. But extraordinarily enough we do have the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles in the The Didache or The Lord's Teaching to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles:

1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.

2 Now, this is the way of life:…

The second commandment of the Teaching: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery"; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; “do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant”…

Considered lost, the Didache was rediscovered by Philotheos Bryennios, a Greek Orthodox metropolitan bishop of Nicomedia in 1873 first published some sixty years before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls it is dated as early as around 70 or soon thereafter.

So Ms Pelosi and Sen. Biden should be aware that from the earliest apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or “ensouled.” But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong. Believing that uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology in the Middle Ages that led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy was an excuse for abortion is gravely in error. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church's moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development."
Both Pelosi and Biden would do well to read a bit more of Augustines pronouncements:

“Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, "I do not see that which you say must be believed" (Sermon 126, line 12).”

28 August 2008 at 12:21  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace says that he more than half suspects that these bishops and archbishops are not so much concerned with Senator Biden or Speaker Pelosi drinking judgement upon their own heads, as they are with humiliating them in order to damage their electoral prospects.

Is it possible to humiliate a politician? They are quite likely to try for a sympathy vote.

Catholics believe in the real presence, and that it is necessary to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace; otherwise you imperil your immortal soul. The Bishops are right to point this out and take the necessary steps. Otherwise, they themselves will have to answer to God.

Pelosi's diy theology and her spin on St Augustine has been nicely rebutted by Fr Z in his blog

By the way - I've just seen the recusant's comment. Nicely put!

28 August 2008 at 12:39  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Yes, nicely put recusant. His Grace seems to be more concerned with spin and politics than truth these days.

28 August 2008 at 12:50  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr McKenzie,

May they not be held in 'living tension'?


Mr Recusant,

His Grace ought to have put 'flat-earthers' in inverted commas, but he shall not redact because the dogmatic rejection of heliocentricity amounts to the same thing.

28 August 2008 at 12:54  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

And another thing your Grace. I am a Physicist and Astronomer and relatively speaking it doesn't matter whether the earth goes round the sun or vice versa. It certainly could not be proven either way in Galileos time.

It makes for easier mathematics to assume a heliocentric theory, and on this assumption, Kepler was able to show that the orbits of the planets were ellipses, not circles.

The real proof of the heliocentric theory came much later (1838) when Friedrich Bessel was able to measure the minute movement of one of the nearby stars as a result of the earth moving around its orbit. (The movement is less than one second of arc - that's about one two thousanth of the angular diameter of the full moon)

Galileo (a precursor to Pelosi?) thought he could engage theologians at their game - bad move! Willy Ley gives an amusing and I think a well balanced account of the Galileo affair in his book 'Watchers of the Skies'. So does Arthur Koestler in his book 'the Sleepwalkers'

28 August 2008 at 12:56  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Your Grace please provide proof that the RCC ever held the rejection of heliocentricity dogmatically. That is to say that heliocentricity is contrary to established Christian beliefs and doctrine and is to be authoritative held by the faithful and not to be disputed doubted or denied.

This line of argument always ends up with Galileo but for the sake of balance let us look at other contributors as well to this debate when it was ‘hot’.

Martin Luther: "There is talk of a new astrologer (Copernicus [Although not ordained, he made his living as canon of the diocese of Warnia and lived the life of a Roman Catholic priest]) who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must . . . invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth."

Melanchthon, opposed the doctrine and some years after the publication of De Revolutionibus John Calvin preached a sermon in which he denounced those who "pervert the course of nature" by saying that "the sun does not move and that it is the earth that revolves and that it turns".

Respected protestant theologian and Pastor Thomas Schirrmacher has stated "Contrary to legend, Galileo and the Copernican system were well regarded by church officials. Galileo was the victim of his own arrogance, the envy of his colleagues, and the politics of Pope Urban VIII. He was not accused of criticizing the Bible, but disobeying a papal decree." Other scientists, including Kepler were openly teaching Heliocentrism with no problem at the same time.

Galileo opposed eminent Jesuit astronomer Orazio Grassi over the nature of comets, he took the opposing view that comets are mere optical effects caused by vapours rising from the earth and not bodies moving in orbits beyond the moon.

When Galileo came to discuss the ebb and flow of the sea he was rejected the gravitational explanations of the idea that the Moon had a significant attraction and therefore influence on the tides. He rejected the supposed attraction between the Moon and Earth as part of his general objection to "occult properties" and sought a terrestrial, mechanical explanation.

The famous phrase "But it does move!" that he is supposed to have uttered has no solid historical evidence for it; it first appears in writing more than a century after Galileo's death.

A comment by Cardinal Bellarmine present at the trial of Galileo,

"I say that if a real proof be found that the sun is fixed and does not revolve round the earth, but the earth round the sun, then it will be necessary, very carefully, to proceed to the explanation of the passages of Scripture which appear to be contrary, and we should rather say that we have misunderstood these than pronounce that to be false which is demonstrated."

You might want to read the last sentence again You Grace, so will you now retract the charge of flat earthers or persist in the error contrary to the evidence (and I have loads more if you don’t)

Did you know?

The largest collection of meteorite samples held in the world is at the Vatican Observatory Arizona. The original observatory was ordered and build by Pope Gregory XIII (1572 - 1585) making it one of, if not the oldest observatory in Europe. Gregory XIII reformed and introduced the Julian calendar for catholic countries in 1578, rejected by Protestant countries who objected to adopting a Catholic invention; Britain eventually adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. Not bad from a bunch of flat earthers eh, you might catch up in 150 years or so Your Grace.

28 August 2008 at 16:25  
Anonymous oiznop said...

It's history, so it's bound to have more than one side! Here's another view:

"As for the Church's previous condemnations of Copernicanism and Galileo, here are the facts: The Inquisition of 1615 in Rome declared the position of
Galileo to be "scientifically false, and anti-Scriptural or heretical, and that he must renounce it" (Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 6, p. 344).
Following this was a decree from the Congregation of the Index on March 5, 1616, prohibiting various heretical works, and among them were those advocating the Copernican system. As for the Pope at that time, Paul V,
"there is no doubt that he fully approved the decision, having presided at the session of the Inquisition, wherein the matter was discussed and decided" (Ibid, p. 344). To Galileo's dismay, the next Pope, Urban VIII, would not annul the judgment of the Inquisition. The Encyclopedia
concludes: "That both these pontiffs [Paul V and Urban VIII] were convinced anti-Copernicans cannot be doubted, nor that they believed the Copernican system to be unscriptural and desired its suppression. The question is, however, whether either of them condemned the doctrine ex cathedra. This, it is clear, they never did" (Ibid, p. 345). So
despite what anyone says, the Catholic Church has never endorsed the Copernican theory and no pope has ever annulled the decrees of Paul V or Urban VIII. The only thing the Church has done is apologized for the treatment of Galileo in a 1992 address by John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Science."

28 August 2008 at 16:45  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Recusant,

His Grace appears to have irked you, which was not his intention. It is commonly known than the period was populated with theologians who held a rather more literalist view of such geocentric scriptures as Joshua 10:13, Psalms 93 and 104 and Ecclesiastes 1:5. Scripture is apparently clear on the matter, and the Church was simply upholding the traditional dogma.

These were the days before Sitz im Leben!

28 August 2008 at 17:11  
Blogger mckenzie said...



Jere 31:35-THE ORDINANCES (or decrees, or fixed order) OF THE MOON AND OF THE STARS.


The Bible further told thousands of years ago that planets existed.






28 August 2008 at 17:17  
Blogger mckenzie said...

It is written, Ro 1:25-WHO CHANGED THE TRUTH OF GOD INTO A LIE(?). The answer is people. The answer is Satan moving in the minds of people that do not have a good and honest heart. Heb 6:18-IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE. The Bible warns you, Ja 3:14-LIE NOT AGAINST THE TRUTH.

28 August 2008 at 17:28  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Mr oiznop

You cite in your post

“Following this was a decree from the Congregation of the Index on March 5, 1616, prohibiting various heretical works, and among them were those advocating the Copernican system.”

OK so far but why did you edit out what immediately followed it and pick up the dialog straight after:

“In this decree no mention is made of Galileo, or of any of his works. Neither is the name of the pope introduced.”

Why would you do this?

Pope Urban VIII was the same cardinal Barberini who was head of the inquisition that had examined Galileo, therefore I cannot agree your statement “To Galileo's dismay, the next Pope, Urban VIII, would not annul the judgment of the Inquisition”. The man as Pope would have reversed his own previous conclusions as head of the inquisition on the matter, sorry it just does not make any sense, no one would realistically expect that. It sounds like an excuse as to why Galileo in his later work ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ slated and publicly humiliated his old friend and supporter Pope Urban as the stupid Ptolemist in the satire even using Urban’s words against him. Galileo claimed to have demonstrated the truth of heliocentrism. Oddly enough, his proof turned out to be wrong. But the book amounted to a return to open heliocentrism, which he had agreed to avoid.

In 1633, Galileo returned to Rome, where he was again treated with respect. He might have prevailed in his trial, but during the investigation someone found Cardinal Bellarmine's notes in the files. Galileo had not told the present Inquisitors - he had not told anyone - of his previous agreement not to teach or advocate Copernicanism. Now he was viewed as having deceived the church as well as having failed to live up to his agreements. Even his church sympathizers, and there were several, found it difficult to defend him at this point.

As to your last point “despite what anyone says, the Catholic Church has never endorsed the Copernican theory” It’s not the job of the church to endorse particular scientific theories, the church has not endorsed black holes or the speed of light does that mean it denies them. Until it is sure about something, and there was legitimate reason to question the Copernican theory at the time, it generally avoids making pronouncements about any theories, preferring instead to preach the Gospel, unless some really pushy chancer out on the make insists on raising Cain.

28 August 2008 at 18:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'An archbishop really ought to know that at the time when Jesus was appointing Peter as the first pope'

When did this happen and where is the Biblical data to support such a rediculous contention ? Why would Jesus do such a thing when he was on earth at the time. Two heads of the church at the same time ( oh dear the anti popes). Did Jesus says 'I am making you pope'

I am saying that the apostolic succession is a hoax. An apostle was a man who had seen the risen Lord. When did any of the popes see the risen Lord ?

28 August 2008 at 18:40  
Blogger Gabriel Austin said...

It is tiresome to read discussions of the Galileo matter which do not include reference to Annibale Fantoli's book on the subject, published by the Vatican Observatory and including all the documents. Galileo's was a theory of numbers and not a theory of facts. He blocked science by rejecting gravity. His proof of the revolution of the earth upon its axis was no proof at all. Galileo should have stuck to his last - mechanics and dynamics. He was not an astronomer.

28 August 2008 at 19:02  
Blogger Gabriel Austin said...

To Anonymous, about the Apostolic Succession, one might ask if he had great-great grandparents, and when did he see them?

28 August 2008 at 19:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GA so you do not agree wth the succession either

28 August 2008 at 20:18  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

what interesting posts , i had often shyed at certain meetings because it would often be waved at me , that galileo was persecuted by the church , and supported the mindset of of the church enforcing authority by silencing (permantly) any form of rebellion .

i feel as though i have been liberated of a dogma, and i thank the roman catholic posters who have done their home work .

it reminds it of how dumbing down works in that a scrap of half truth fed to the starving , causes far more devotion than a banquet upon the well nourished .

it may do well for the churches to read the comments on hear and then they will understand what mis information has been fed to the unbelievers , to make them so hostile to the church.

all i had heard was that galileo was a brilliant man repressed by the church that didnt want there standing to be under mined and so be found to be false . This sets up in the young scientists mind the idea that the church is a power mad organisation inacpable of free scientific thought.

clearly this was not the case when the historical flow is represented properly and accurately , and i now greatly regret that i had n answer at these debates , when if better informed i could have illumiated the ignorance in my detractors minds .

28 August 2008 at 21:55  
Blogger Viator Catholicus said...

It's funny you should quote 1 Cor 11:28. Too bad a little before that in 5:1-5 the Apostle was not so enlightened as you are.
Perhaps the man living with his father's wife was a good Protestant and felt justified in conscience in doing so.

What Pelosi is free to do is to discontinue misrepresenting herself as a Catholic when she rejects Church teaching.

Concerning abortion in the Apostolic Era, ever read the didache or Epsitle of Barnabas?

Finally, your last line calling the Holy Eucharist a "wafer" is not surprising coming from a schizophrenic Communion in which some believe it is mere bread and others bow down to worship having believed our divine Lord could not lie.

30 August 2008 at 02:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus never annointed peter as pope.
This is a popular misconception.Peter said to jesus, "you are the son of the living God" Jesus said on this rock I will build my church. The rock being the revelation that jesus christ was the son of god, not peter.Jesus Christ is the head of the Body of christ,our high priest not any pope!

30 August 2008 at 23:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Peter's name means Rock. Both interpretations may be true simultaneously.

31 August 2008 at 01:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we disreguard Jesus christ, and build the church on peter?.

Jesus christ said I will build my church. not peter will build my church.

This is popes replacing Jesus christ as the head of the church, a clever misinterpreting of scripture.

31 August 2008 at 07:53  
Blogger Chalcedon said...

The teaching of the one true church (watch out you moslems) is that human mediated abortion is wrong, a sin etc etc. Any mealy mouthed politician who says they are Catholic and agrees with the liberal left decadent tendency on abortion shoukd be excommunicated for being the scum they are.

31 August 2008 at 18:24  

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