Judge: Counselor would you like to cross examine his Eminence?
Counselor: Yes, indeed. Thank you, your Honor. Bishop we all know how difficult your responsibilities are and the many challenges you face each day ministering to your flock. Even Solomon would be sorely tested.
Bishop: Thank you, counselor.
Counselor: I am going to ask you a series of questions. None of these are trick questions They all have clear and unambiguous answers. All I ask of you is that you respond to each question truthfully.
Bishop: Certainly, I would not do otherwise.
Counselor: I am sure of that. As a Bishop in the Catholic Church, do you believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches?
Bishop: Absolutely – “every issue on faith and morals that is doctrinal in nature and is solemnly or formally proposed by the Church.”
Counselor: You would feel bound to follow Scripture I assume?
Bishop: Without hesitancy.
Counselor: You would consider the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and the Code of Canon Law to be authoritative and binding also, am I correct?
Bishop: Of course.
Counselor: In fact, when you were ordained a bishop, you took an oath, did you not, to “maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law”?
Bishop: Yes, I did.
Counselor: Now let us get a few essential Truths of the Catholic Faith on the record before we proceed further.
Counselor: Am I correct that the primary mission of the Catholic Church is the salvation of souls?
Bishop: Yes. That tenet is embodied in the Code of Canon Law in Canon 1752.
Counselor: Would I be accurate to conclude then that nothing is more important to you as a Bishop than the salvation of every soul?
Bishop: You would be one hundred per cent correct.
Counselor: Next to the salvation of souls, you are most concerned about protecting human life from the moment of conception to natural death, am I correct?
Bishop: Most certainly.
Counselor: You would never intentionally do anything that would place your soul or the soul of anyone else at risk of eternal damnation just to be “pastoral” would you?
Bishop: I would not be fulfilling my primary obligation as a Bishop if I acted in such an irresponsible manner.
Counselor: Sin is a personal matter, correct?
Counselor: But you and I, do we not have a “responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate with them: by participating directly and voluntarily in them; by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; and by protecting evil-doers?”
Bishop: I see you have done your homework, counselor. Right out of Section 1868 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Counselor: Yes, indeed your Eminence, a book you and faithful Catholics no doubt frequently turn to when in need of direction. Doesn’t Scripture also tell us that we will be held accountable for our silence if we do not warn someone of their sinful acts?
Bishop: Yes, Ezekiel makes that clear. If you give me a Bible, I can find the exact quote for you. [Handing a Bible to the witness, who thumbs through it and says:] Yes, here it is. Ezekiel 33.8-9.
Counselor: Can you read that Scripture to us your Eminence?
Bishop: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will certainly die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way so that he may live, that wicked person shall die for wrongdoing, but his blood I will require from your hand. However, if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die for wrongdoing, but you have saved yourself.”
Counselor: No ambiguity there!
Counselor: Killing a child in the mother’s womb is a grave, mortal sin, is it not?
Bishop: Without a doubt.
Counselor: Abortion is always intrinsically evil, am I correct?
Counselor: It would be a mortal sin for an elected Catholic official to, among other things, support abortion, or extend the length of time in which abortions may be sought or requiring public funding of abortions?
Bishop: Yes. That conclusion is beyond dispute.
Counselor: So, the “I am personally opposed to abortion but can’t impose my religious beliefs is not a “get out of hell card”?
Bishop: No. Unless that sin is confessed and absolved through a sacramental confession during that politician’s lifetime, it is a ticket to eternal damnation.
Counselor: Should a Catholic who engages in the conduct I just described and who has not gone to confession and received absolution receive Holy Communion?
Bishop: No. He would receive no spiritual benefit from such an egregious act. To do so would be to receive Communion unworthily – a mortal sin. It would also be a sacrilege, an additional mortal sin. Quoting St. Paul, Section 1385 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) makes that clear: “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. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” The reception of Holy Communion by those who publicly and obstinately violate the moral law is a particularly grave form of sacrilege.
Counselor: That is what St. Paul taught, am I correct?
Bishop: Yes, Section 2120 of CCC states that “Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present to us.” Such an act constitutes a serious scandal for others and only merits eternal punishment for the one who receives unworthily.
Counselor: Is it true, your Eminence, that Canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law forbids the administration of Holy Communion to those [among others, my emphasis] who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.
Counselor: Withholding Communion then to one who obstinately persists in manifest grave sin is not optional, but is mandated by Canon Law, am I correct?
Bishop: Yes, you are.
Counselor: In fact, withholding Communion under the circumstances we have been discussing is not a political act but an act of charity, an attempt to save a soul, right?
Bishop: Yes, undeniably.
Counselor: Does Canon Law provide any exception to this mandate to withhold Communion from those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin?
Counselor: Can it ever be considered “pastoral” to facilitate the commission of a mortal sin and a sacrilege?
Bishop: Certainly not.
Counselor: Under the circumstances we have been discussing then, it would be a sacrilege – a mortal sin – both for the person receiving Communion unworthily and for the person who knowingly distributes Communion to one who obstinately persists in manifest grave sin?
Counselor: Your Eminence, is there any possibility at all that anything you have said today is not true?
Bishop: Every syllable I uttered today contains only the irrefutable and unchanging Truth – God’s Truth – which all professing to be Catholic must accept.
Counselor: One final question, your Eminence.
Bishop: Yes, sir.
Counselor: With no intent to embarrass you or other silent bishops, but solely in hope of saving souls, I must ask: Why then not publicly and fraternally correct your errant brother bishops who refuse to follow Canon Law and are thereby facilitating sacrilegious Communions and the loss of souls?