Regarding the canonical dimension of 'CommunionGate,' upon which much of Church policy largely depends, some of you may be aware of Fr. John Beal's recent article in America magazine, which appears in full here.
Beal, a close friend of mine, and whose credentials as a canonist no one dares dispute, demonstrates a few characteristics in the current conversation on this subject which I find troubling. As I hesitate to venture into a field in which I have absolutely zero training (though that's never stopped me before), I'm thankful that the equally-superb canonist Ed Peters has provided a response, which can be found on his blog.
Everything here hinges, of course, on the much-disputed Canon 915: "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion." The problem in the contemporary conversation is that many canonists (and I think Beal may be included here) define 'obstinately,' 'manifest,' and 'grave' in terms which are so extreme that, as a result, one can include almost no one in this category (except, perhaps, a voracious serial killer, although some might dispute whether his crimes were appropriately 'manifest').
Beal, in his article, states, "For a sin to be manifest, it is not enough that it be public or even notorious; it must also be so habitual that it constitutes an objectively sinful lifestyle or occupation." A multiple-homicide could probably make a pretty good case that five or six murders hardly constitutes a 'lifestyle' or 'occupation.' Peters, for his part, makes an interpretation which bears much more the marks of common sense: "I suggest that 'manifest' here describes actions that are obvious, apparent, or otherwise quite clear to a community of observers."
And Peters includes a fine observation, in response to the tendency of many to put the blame upon the bishops for failing to teach Church doctrine adequately, which allegedly makes such politicians 'invincibly ignorant.' Says Peters, "For some decades, American bishops might well have been remiss in setting out Church teachings on many topics, but the right to life is not one of them. The presence of pro-abortion Catholic politicians signals, therefore, not the failure of Catholic bishops to teach, but the refusal of certain Catholic politicians to be taught."
# posted by Jamie : 1:24 PM