The Politics of Communion

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 12, 2008 | Categories: Bishops, Politics

For Pepperdine law professor Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional lawyer who often writes on religion in the public square, the situation had uncomfortable echoes of the last presidential election cycle –a priest  refusing to give Communion to someone based on their political views.dkmiec.jpg

This time, though, the stunned Massgoer turned away by a priest was Kmiec himself.  

 The former dean of Catholic University Law School was  an architect of the Reagan administration’s stance against abortion. His pro-life credentials include serving as a keynote speaker at March for Life’s annual Rose Dinner a few years ago.

The story begins with Kmiec’s March 2008  endorsement of Barak Obama for president in an article published in Slate magazine.

“I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation from beyond its religious and racial divides and that he wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights,” Kmiec wrote. He noted that he and Obama disagree on “important fundamentals” including legislation about traditional marriage and that life begins at conception.

He followed up that piece by writing May 15 for Catholic Online.   There Kmiec said his Obama endorsement “baffled my political pals; it infuriated some of my fellow Catholics.” Some bloggers declared he was “self-excommunicated,” he wrote, and Kmiec went on to describe being denied Communion at a meeting of a Catholic business group.

At the event, Kmiec wrote, the priest “excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of Communion.”wafer.bmp

He said he was pleased to hear that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony had weighed in on the matter, in comments by his spokesman, Tod Tamberg, first included in a National Public Radio report.

Tamburg told Catholic News Service that the priest’s action in refusing Communion to Kmiec “was absolutely indefensible” both as a matter of canon law and the policies and practices of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “The archbishop’s office is well aware of the situation and will be responding in an appropriate manner,” he added.

Kmiec has drawn attention as one of the nation’s leading “Obamacons”-conservatives who find Obama’s call for a new approach to politics appealing.

Kmiec started life as a Democrat, but like many Catholic Democrats, he said he was profoundly attracted to Ronald Reagan. For Kmiec, five words in Reagan’s 1980 acceptance speech summarized the essence of a Catholic view of politics: “family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom.”

But Kmiec has expanded that original view: “To think you have done a generous thing for your neighbor or that you have built up a culture of life just because you have voted for a candidate who says in his brochure that he wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade is far too thin an understanding of the Catholic faith,” he said.

A  critic of the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy, Kmiec added that Catholics should heed “the broad social teaching of the church,” including its views on war.

Kmiec said his pastor convinced him not to let the Communion incident go unanswered.

“He told me, ‘You may be resilient, but another person to whom this happens, it may destroy their entire faith,'” Kmiec said.

By a vast majority, he said, most U.S. bishops and church leaders are consistently good teachers on the range of political responsibilities expected of Catholics. However, he added, “if we continue to use religion as a political weapon than we’ve failed.”

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