At one time, a bishop’s public denial of communion to a pro-choice politician could be costly. It has been suggested that Cardinal Raymond Burke’s public insistence that communion be withheld from Senator John Kerry might have cost him the 2004 presidential election. Pope Benedict later sent the USCCB a private letter supporting Burke’s position.
In April of 2008, however, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States, what occurred at two papal Masses might have tipped the scale in the other direction:
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Edward M. Kennedy received Communion at Nationals Park in Washington, as did former mayor Rudolph Giuliani at Yankee Stadium in New York. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, invited them. Given choice seats, they took Communion as a matter of course.” (Robert Novak)
But I don’t think the Archbishops were trying to send a message to the Holy Father, but rather to Catholics inclined to vote democrat. It was an election year and at the time Hilary and Obama were battling for the nomination. I believe Weurl was trying to sideline the abortion question as a voting issue.
Later that year, the Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput stated publicly that the pro-abortion vice presidential candidate Joe Biden should not present himself for communion (the democratic convention was in Denver that year). Yet Obama and Biden prevailed, and even winning with a slight majority of the Catholic vote.
Since the beginning of the current pontificate the battle has moved on to admitting to communion those who are divorced and remarried (and who do not abstain) and Protestant spouses of practicing Catholics. This pattern of progressive debasement of Sacrament should be troubling to conservative Catholics.
During the recent failed meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore, retired Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan told a journalist that the current crisis in the Church with respect to sexual abuse was the result of the large numbers of actively gay priests as well as a general decline in spirituality, “Priests stopped praying and going to confession” (Link).
One wonders what this might lead to; priests take communion at least several times a week. While participating in the Eucharist in a state of grace has a positive spiritual outcome; presenting oneself when not will produce a negative one. St. Paul states this very clearly in his warning to the Church of Corinth:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning 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” (1Cor. 11:27-29).
Paul is referring here to individuals, but in the verses that follow we learn that the punishment can be collective and intended as a purification of His Church:
“That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1Cor. 11:30-32).
Note that the chastisement Paul describes is a physical one, which could be manifested in many forms: war, civil unrest, pandemic, persecution, etc. It is not the sins committed by the members of the Church of Corinth that brought about the judgment, but their defiling of the Eucharist, the physical body of God’s Only Begotten Son who was put to death for our salvation.