Mind! I was Right the First Time
Thomas A. Droleskey
a month of confusion that caricatures the confusion of the entire conciliar
and postconciliar eras in the history of the Catholic Church, Joseph
Cardinal Raztinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, has once again thrown the matter of denying Holy Communion
to pro-abortion Catholic politicians into an absurd farce of all that
is wrong with the Church in her human elements today. Here is the timeline
of an incredible, but sadly predictable, series of events that has made
a lot of Catholic writers, including me, look like monkey's uncles.
June 4, 2004:
The Most Reverend Donald Pellotte, the Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico,
reported that Cardinal Ratzinger had told a group of American bishops
during their ad limina apostolorum they should "proceed
cautiously" in the matter of denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion
June 17, 2004:
A Catholic World News report indicated that Cardinal Ratzinger had sent
a private letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington,
D.C., and Bishop Wilton Gregory, the President of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, that provided guidelines for the American
bishops on the matter as they deliberated on it during their semi-annual
meeting, held in Englewood, Colorado. The initial report was sketchy,
but it indicated that Ratzinger had seemed to side with the stands that
had been taken by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke and Colorado
Springs, Colorado, Bishop Michael Sheridan. The details were shrouded
in mystery. It appeared that Ratzinger's remarks could have served either
side of the issue, typical of the conciliarist penchant for ambiguity
June 17, 2004:
The American bishops voted overwhelmingly to adopt a statement of "Catholics
in Political Life" that was essentially an agreement for the bishops
to disagree with each other, stating that each bishop had to approach
the matter of denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholics in public
life on his own.
July 3, 2004:
The text of what is purported to be Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to the
American hierarchy is published by a well-respected Italian reporter
of Vatican affairs, Sandro Magister. The statement, though raising a
lot of questions, seems to indicate that Catholic pro-abortion politicians
must be denied Holy Communion after an undefined period of "instruction"
on the part of their pastors (although who specifically is defined as
"pastor," whether a parish priest or a diocesan bishop). Apart
from a very important and much needed clarification between the issues
of abortion and the imposition of the death penalty, the statement contained
a horrific Note Bene which basically undermined the likes of
Archbishop Burke and Bishop Sheridan, who had said that Catholics could
never for a pro-abortion candidate, stating that Catholics could vote
for a pro-abortion candidate for public office if they did for "proportionate
reasons" despite that candidate's "permissive" pro-abortion
stance and not meaning to endorse such a stance. In other words, it
was the status quo ante.
July 4, 2004:
Thinking I had gotten the story wrong, I did a mea culpa and
wiped the egg off of my face to apologize to His Eminence for suggesting
in Catholic Family News that he had sided with the likes of
Cardinal McCarrick and Roger Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop of Los
Angeles, both of whom had said that they would not deny Holy Communion
to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. I did raise a number of questions
about the ambiguities contained in the statement. However, I thought
that the Ratzinger statement was released to make the American bishops
look bad and to give a sort of back-handed endorsement to the approach
taken by Archbishop Burke and Bishop Sheridan. Sandro Magister's article
was entitled, "What Ratzinger Wanted, but Didn't Get."
July 6, 2004:
Cardinal McCarrick says that the Ratzinger statement, which he said
at the time that he had not seen, was not the whole story, that the
Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith had sent a cover letter to
the statement (never mind the apparent contradiction between McCarrick
saying that he had not seen the Ratzinger statement and that a cover
letter had been sent with it) that gave the American bishops great leeway
to decide the matter for themselves. McCarrick implies that a series
of phone conversations with Cardinal Ratzinger had given the American
bishops the same impression.
After July 6, 2004:
A series of articles were published by prominent Catholics to praise
Cardinal Ratzinger's firmness and to criticize most of the American
bishops for failing to follow the Ratzinger statement. Several of these
Catholics strained at gnats, trying to convince themselves that the
Ratzinger statement was more or less binding on the American bishops,
that His Eminence's statement that Catholic pro-abort politicians "must"
be denied Holy Communion was an absolute mandate. Others overlooked
the problemmatic Note Bene, wherein Ratzinger basically gave
Catholics carte blance to vote for pro-abortion politicians, something
that I pointed out in an article posted on the Daily Catholic
website on July 9, 2004. The matter had become a typical postconciliar
mess. Bishops arguing with each other. Well-meaning Catholics attempting
to grasp at straws to prove that their hero, Cardinal Ratzinger, was
defending the integrity of the Eucharist.
July 13, 2004:
After more days of confusion and contradictory statements, Cardinal
McCarrick released a letter, dated July 9, 2004, by Cardinal Ratzinger
which stated the following:
With your letter of June 21, 2004, transmitted via fax, you kindly sent
a copy of the Statement "Catholics in Political Life," approved by the
members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their
The Congregation is grateful for this courtesy. The statement is very
much in harmony with the general principles "Worthiness to Receive Holy
Communion," sent as a fraternal service-to clarify the doctrine of the
Church on this specific issue-in order to assist the American Bishops
in their related discussion and determinations.
It is hoped that this dialogue can continue as the Task Force carries
on its important work.
With fraternal regards and prayerful best wishes, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
June 17, 2004, statement of Cardinal Ratzinger, "Worthiness to
Receive Holy Communion," was merely sent "as a fraternal service
to clarify the doctrine of the Church on this specific issue--in order
to assist the American bishops in their related discussion and determinations."
It was not binding on the bishops. It does not have the force of law.
It is simply another empty "white paper" from the Vatican
that has been trumped by the machinations of those bishops in the United
States of America who do not want to stand with Archbishop Burke and
Bishop Sheridan. Once again, a threat to the novelty of "collegiality,"
which has done much to undermine the good of the Church and thus of
souls, had to be resolved by the papering over of differences between
the Holy See and many of the American bishops, including Cardinal McCarrick
and his allies.
In other words,
I was right in my July article in Catholic Family News. Cardinal
Ratzinger is neither a defender of the Faith or of the Eucharist. He
is a propagator of many doctrinal (Jews look "expectantly"
for the Messiah) and pastoral errors that are symbolic of the entire
state of confusion ushered in as a result of the Second Vatican Council
and its aftermath. If apologies are owed to anybody, they are to be
given to Cardinal McCarrick, of all people, who turns out to have been
telling the truth, evidently, when he said last week that Cardinal Ratzinger
had affirmed privately what the American bishops had decided in Englewood,
Colorado. McCarrick is wrong on the stand he has taken with respect
to this issue. Then again, so was Cardinal Ratzinger's June 17 statement.
The only fitting way to deal with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
is to excommunicate them all, not to engage them in more "dialog"
as babies are killed both chemically and surgically.
the blame for all of this rests with the Vicar of Christ. As the Church
figuratively burns, he is busy writing a book on existentialism, something
that will certainly be of benefit to the salvation of souls and to the
right ordering of the Church and the world. While we pray for the Holy
Father always, the confusion that is being generated during his pontificate
has resulted in a catastrophe for the Catholic Faith and thus for the
ability of the Church to confront the errors of Modernity and Modernism
in the world that her leaders have embraced so uncritically.
for my July 4 apology. I was right the first time. Enough said.
Help of Christians, pray for us.