Cognitive Dissonance in the Church?

10-17-2021Weekly Reflection

The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as follows: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

On the plane from his trip to Slovakia Pope Francis held a press conference and he said the following:…(A)bortion: it's more than a problem, it's homicide, whoever has an abortion, kills. No mincing words. Take any book on embryology for medical students. The third week after conception, all the organs are already there, even the DNA... it is a human life, this human life must be respected, this principle is so clear! To those who cannot understand, I would ask this question: Is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hitman to kill a human life?

Scientifically, it is a human life. Is it right to take it out to solve a problem? That is why the Church is so harsh on this issue, because if it accepts this, it is as if it accepts daily murder. A Head of State told me that the demographic decline began because in those years there was such a strong law on abortion that six million abortions were performed and this left a decline in births in the society of that country.

When the issue of denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians came up, the Pope hedged and went on that he’s never denied Communion to anyone and asked the question how can the bishops handle this pastorally? There has been an approach in the Church where some to this day define being pastoral as avoiding correcting the sinner through using medicinal penalties in the face of obstinacy. They point to Pope John XXIII in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council where he eschewed the use of penalties and spoke about using the medicine of mercy. Several council-fathers wondered about this since in Catholic teaching correcting the sinner is one of the spiritual works of mercy and the penalties used in the past were and are called medicinal!

To be pastoral is to be beholden to the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ’s Church and the conversion of the sinner. (See both letters of St. Paul to Timothy!) It’s one thing to say we are all weak, imperfect, and sinners, and we have to keep striving to live the Gospel and the teachings of the Faith one day at a time. Hence there’s the importance of the Eucharist as remedies along with Confession. It’s quite another thing to say that, because we are all weak, imperfect, and sinners, we should not be confronted and corrected when we remain obstinate in that sin especially on the public level actively cooperating with the destruction of innocent human life, while claiming to be a good Catholic.

If it is true, as the Pope said, that abortion is homicide, and it is, how can those who actively, publicly, and unrepentantly, support, and promote abortion be given Communion, while the person remains publicly obstinate in that serious sin? There is the issue of sacrilege in receiving the Eucharist unworthily. St. Paul says “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” (I Cor. 11:27-30) This passage has been left out of the current Lectionary used at Mass when the liturgy was revised by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council. Why? Is it because of the notion that saying such things –and here it is the word of God (!)- is not pastoral?

Does not giving Communion to pro-abortion politicians undermine the teaching that abortion violates the 5th Commandment and give the impression that the Church is not serious about this teaching and or does not really believe it? The Second Vatican Council, in the “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” #51 describes abortion and infanticide as “unspeakable crimes.” That was not meant to be rhetoric. What if a Catholic politician were actively supporting and facilitating racism? Would churchmen be so hesitant to deny that person Holy Communion? America magazine noted that in April 1962, Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans not only denied Communion to three Catholics in his archdiocese; he went a step beyond. At 86 years of age and in ill health—he would die two years later—he formally excommunicated the three, who vehemently opposed his efforts to desegregate Catholic schools. Jackson Ricau and Una Gaillot, two of the people excommunicated by the archbishop, were leaders in segregationist organizations. The third, Leander Perez, was the political boss of Plaquemines Parish, La., a judge and a powerful figure in state politics.

The point of excommunication and/or denying Communion is medicinal: to impress on the person the seriousness of his/her departure from the Catholic Faith because he/she is cooperating with great moral evil; he/she is endangering his/her salvation; and the need to amend his/her life. This was done in the past because of the sin of racism. Should not this be done for the sin of active, unrepentant Catholic facilitators and promoters of what the Pope rightly calls homicide? Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law of the Church says: Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. (emphasis added) It is manifest grave sin to publicly, unrepentantly, and actively promote and facilitate homicide which is what is happening in the case of pro-abortion politicians.

In 2004 then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, (later Pope Benedict XVI) in a memo to the U.S. bishops, in his role as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that Catholic politicians who are “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” are considered to be formally cooperating in the grave sin of abortion, and in a “manifest” way. In such cases, Ratzinger said, the pastor of the officials must meet with them and admonish them, instructing them that they cannot receive Communion. If the politicians persist in their pro-abortion advocacy, the minister of Communion “must refuse to distribute it,” he said.

Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, recently opined on this issue: “If you say somebody cannot receive Communion, you are basically doing a judgment that you are in a state of sin,” he said. A reporter asked: “It sounds like you don’t think that should happen in the case of President Biden?” “No,” said Turkson. “You know, if, a priest who’s distributing communion sees-- unexpected all of a sudden somebody he knows to have committed murder, he’s meant to protect their dignity and the respect of that person.” The reporter: “So it’s for extreme cases?” “Yeah those, for extreme cases, okay.” Turkson replied.

In response to Cardinal Turkson, isn’t a person unrepentantly voting for, promoting, and facilitating homicide extreme? How does that promote anyone’s dignity? Moreover the Cardinal needs to be more specific about a priest seeing someone he knows committed murder. Did he know this from Confession, which then involves the seal of confession, and might indicate the person repented, and the crime was not public? Or did he know that the person is publicly, unrepentantly and actively supporting killing the most innocent of human life, like President Biden, while claiming to be a good Catholic? Do not such politicians, who do this, while claiming to be devout Catholics, mock God? Years ago Bishop Austin Vaughn reminded the Governor of New York that he was endangering his salvation by promoting abortion. God will not be mocked.