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May 09, 2007



DEAR AMY...Have you looked at our coverage so far? We have already posted 6 things - 4 hours into the papal flight, including a videolink of the departure - the Pope looked great! - and a translation of the statements he made on the plane!

Sandra Miesel

Today's WSJ has a front page story on the situation in Brazil. Why exactly won't the Pentacostals sweep all before them? They offer non-stop Sign & Wonders, emotional exhilaration, and personal involvement. But Catholics have their Marian shrine and "holy pills."


Hi Amy,

As a Brazilian and frequent reader of your blog, I am very happy with the Pope´s visit to our country and anxious on his reaction to our "dear" liberal and communist president, Mr Lula, favorable to abortion.

Please support my blog also!

God bless,


Fr. Dan Andrews

Alitalia - Always Late In Takeoffs, Always Late In Arrivals.

Except maybe in this instance.



I think Yahoo's Papacy and the Vatican photostream might be better than searching by "pope brazil", because the results of that search lead into all different categories.

Patricia Gonzalez

I pray for God's protection of the Holy Father while he's in Brazil, a fruitful visit there, and his safe return home. God bless BXVI!

John V

As usual, Ed Peters puts it in perspective over at his blog http://www.canonlaw.info/blog.html

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Legislating in mid-air? First thoughts: possible, but not likely.

Responding to a reporter's question during his flight to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI said that he supported the Mexican bishops' threat to take canonical action against the politicians who were involved in the effort to legalize abortion in La Ciudad. The English version of his comment reads: "Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by canon law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ."

Now, the very first thing to notice about this quotation is that, as reported, it is susceptible to the chronic confusion that wearies discussions of the ecclesiastical consequences for involvement in abortion: "excommunication" and "denial of the Eucharist" are not, not, not, the same thing. Understanding the difference between the related but quite distinct institutes of "excommunication" and "withholding the Eucharist" is a prerequisite for any productive commentary on the pope's remarks.

Excommunication is a canonical penalty, imposed for certain specific crimes, one consequence of which is the denial of the right to receive the Eucharist. 1983 CIC 1331. As a penalty, excommunication can only be imposed, enforced, and lifted, in accord with a canonical process at a fairly high level of Church authority.

Denial of the Eucharist is a sacramental disciplinary norm, invoked in response to personal sins that meet certain criteria. 1983 CIC 915. As a sacramental norm, denial of the Eucharist can be invoked by ministers of the Eucharist down to at least the parish priest level, who need follow no specific process but must nevertheless verify that conditions for withholding the Eucharist have been met.

Very briefly, I see two things that could account for the pope's remarks.

1. Politicians who support the legalization of abortion generally meet the conditions for denial of the Eucharist under Canon 915. Such a comment would be interesting (though to me, not surprising) in that it lends support to the position that I and some other canonists and bishops have promoted for many years. Such political behavior is objectively gravely wrong and, if engaged in obstinately, merits, in my view, withholding of the Eucharist.

2. The Mexican bishops, using particular law or precepts (1983 CIC 1315-1319), have made support for the legalization of abortion an excommunicable offense in Mexico, and the pope supports their actions. I don't have access to the original documents, so I can't verify whether that has happened, but if it has happened, that too would not surprise me. I have already reminded people of the ability of canon law to respond to new crises over time, and the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians surely merits a strong response by the Church.

Note that interpretations 1 and 2 are not incompatible; they both could be happening. But to be complete, there are, admittedly, two other things that could explain what is being reported today:

First, the pope's remarks might have been misunderstood and/or misreported (gee, can that really happen today?). We know, for example, that there are reportorial ellipses in exactly the places that canonists would most want to see the pope's exact words.

Or, maybe, the pope is legislating in mid-air, issuing what canonists must take as an "authentic interpretation" (1983 CIC 16) of the scope of Canon 1398 on abortion, one that dramatically extends the reach of the canon beyond what (I and virtually all other canonists suggest) is the long-accepted interpretation of this penal law (pace Canon 18, 1323, 1324), and at the same time reminding the world that even papal comments to reporters' carry the force of law in the Church whenever, that is, they are supposed to carry the force of law.

My guess: Pope Benedict XVI takes his law-making authority more seriously than that.

PS: About Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi later telling reporters that the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated themselves by their actions, well (assuming that report is accurate), it must be simply stated that Vatican press secretaries have no authority to issue binding interpretations of canon law. None. 1983 CIC 16 and Pastor Bonus 154-158.

John Jansen

I'm heartened to hear the Holy Father say that Archbishop Romero's cause proceeds apace.



Tambem sou brasileiro, qual e seu blog?

bill bannon

The automatic excommunication for abortion as applied to politicians being made public by the Mexican bishops is new and therein I disagree with the Pope. Without such public specific announcements, these automatic excommunications have little effect on powerful figures and thus on people...witness the US where a handful of bishops (14) can't get the others to agree to withhold Communion from said pols let alone declare that they are excommunicated.


I sure wish the LA Times would use its access to the Pope. Judging from its coverage of the Brazil trip one gets the impression that it has access only to dissent priests and dissent theologians.


I read somewhere that B16 was trying to put the cabosh on the "pills" phenomena, but the nuns who are making them won't listen. I wonder if there is going to be some fireworks like JPII admonishing Jesuit priests in Nicaragua?

But also - Check out the AP story that goes with a photo of joyous YOUNG Catholics at Mass in the Cathedral at Rio. [link at bottom]

Are these reporters related to the folks who posted such nasty stuff about the Church on Beckwith's blog?

"The Protestant congregations "tend to generate a very strong sense of community with a much higher percentage of Pentecostals who participate in small activities like Bible study, outreach, providing financial help, finding jobs," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

At a Sunday service in the massive God and Love Pentecostal Church that looms over several elevated Sao Paulo highways, thousands of blue-collar workers and their children waved their hands, shouting "Hallelujah!" and spontaneously speaking in tongues as pastors promised Jesus would solve their earthly problems and guarantee them passage to heaven.

Hundreds stuffed money into small envelopes, checking boxes requesting prayers to give them jobs, prosperity or health.

Less than a mile away, several hundred mostly middle-aged and elderly Catholics sat in the Our Lady of Consolation church amid ornate stained glass windows and pews hewn decades ago from Brazilian hardwood.

They dutifully rose to recite the rosary and sing hymns, then sat in silence as a priest urged them to seek salvation by being obedient sheep in God's flock."



c matt

Well, that's better than Russian airline's slogan:

Aeroflot - at least we hope to!

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