Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(3) August 2021


Should pro-abortion Catholic Politicians receive Holy Communion?

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Author - Pravin ThevathasanIn 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger, who at the time was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a very important memorandum to the American Cardinal McCarrick on this issue. Ratzinger would later be made Pope Benedict, while McCarrick was to be dismissed from the priesthood for sexual abuse. Upon receipt of the memorandum, McCarrick suppressed most of the information and distorted the rest, claiming that bishops may continue distributing Holy Communion to those who manifestly and obstinately oppose Church teachings.

In fact, Ratzinger clearly stated that abortion and euthanasia are grave sins. Christians can never formally cooperate in promoting legislation of such evils, either by invoking respect for the free­dom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. A Catholic who "ob­stinately" persists in this "manifest" grave sin should first be instructed by his priest on why he is doing something gravely sinful and that he should not present himself for Holy Communion until he rejects these unjust laws. If he does not and if he presents himself for Holy Communion, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse him Holy Communion. Very obviously because the person is not in communion with the Catholic Church.

We should not limit this matter to politicians only. It applies to all Catholics. A well known American priest is not happy with this memorandum. What, he asks, about the many Catholics who reject Church teachings on a variety of different issues? Is not the Church becoming obsessed and rigid on this one issue of abortion? Is the Church not being hypocritical, rigid and pharisaical?

The key words in the memorandum are "obstinate" and "manifest." To take an example, if a person has same-sex attraction, he should certainly see himself as in communion with the Church. If he makes a public declaration that he totally disagrees with the Church on this matter, he is "manifestly" not in communion with the Church. He should not receive Holy Communion.

But are we not all sinners? Does Eucharistic worthiness not mean that we who receive Holy Communion see ourselves as a cut above the rest? Rather like the Pharisees in the New Testament? No, the "Domine non sum dignus" applies to all of us. But we still have to be in communion with the Church to receive Holy Communion. President Biden may be a better person than all of us. But he is manifestly not in communion with the Catholic Church. He should not be creating a scandal by receiving Holy Communion.

There is a real danger when Catholics want to become popular with the world. They may consider themselves "consistently pro-life." By this, they mean that they will only support the pro-life cause when there is no abuse of any person in the world, of any race, of any gender, of any orientation. The word "pro-life" is thus made quite meaningless. A catholic may say that abortion is "the least worse option" in a given situation or that the law must respect the "choice and autonomy" of the mother. By making such statements, a Catholic will be well received by the world. But he ceases being Catholic.


  • The content of the Ratzinger memorandum is discussed in the book "Under Siege" by Austin Ruse (Crisis Publications)