Archbp. Carlson: “You cannot be “pro-choice” (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing”

Catholic politicians who promote abortion should not receive Holy Communion.

In the Saint Louis Review of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson has laid it on the line.

My emphases and comments.

Good Catholics cannot be pro-choice; The Fifth Commandment demands respect for life as God’s most precious gift

Submitted on July 06, 2010

By Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

God’s law in the Old Testament is clear and unambiguous: You shall not kill. Jesus is even more demanding: Every one who is angry is liable to judgment. [Hmmm… I think this a qualification: there is proper anger as well, as demonstrated perfectly by the Lord from time to time.  He is not subject to judgment for having been angry with the money-changers.  But… we know what H.E. means!]

Sins against the Fifth Commandment are easy to commit. Any time we think, speak or act out of anger or hatred or jealousy or revenge, we abuse God’s commandment that we respect His most precious gift, the gift of life — especially human life.

Human life is sacred because, from its beginning until its natural end, it involves the creative action of God. The Fifth Commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. God alone is the Lord of life. No one has the right to end arbitrarily what God has begun, and sustained, through the gift of His love.

In the account of Abel’s murder by Cain (Genesis 4:8-12), Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in humankind, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of recorded history. God declares this as wicked, and He asks the question to be answered over the ages: "What have you done?" Today this question is asked not only of those who kill someone, but also of those responsible for violence, anger, hatred and vengeance in any form.

It is a shame that there are so many violent words expressed between members of the same family day in and day out. Anger and intolerance are also pervasive in our Church and in society. Such attitudes are destructive and sinful. They are of the Evil One and not of God.

The Fifth Commandment does not stop someone from self defense, because someone who defends his or her own life is not guilty of murder. Legitimate defense can be not only a right but also a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or the security of a nation. We risk our lives to protect ourselves and others because we value human life and freedom so dearly. They are gifts from God that we are bound to cherish and defend.

Since the first century, the Church has addressed the moral evil of abortion and the killing of a defenseless baby in the womb. People who are casual about the sin of abortion and [Here we go!] who choose to view it as a political issue rather than the serious moral issue that it is are guilty of violating the Fifth Commandment. [AND….] You cannot be "pro-choice" (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing. That’s why the Church asks those who maintain this position not to receive holy Communion. We are not being mean or judgmental, we are simply acknowledging the fact that such a stance is objectively and seriously sinful and is radically inconsistent with the Christian way of life[And, if Communion should not be received, it should not be given.]

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said, "God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and human life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 51.3). [People forget about that citation.  Don’t forget it!] That’s why formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life (see canons 1398,1314, and 1323-1324).

The Fifth Commandment also directs us to work for justice and peace — avoiding war whenever possible — and to limit the use of capital punishment to the most extreme (and rare) circumstances required to protect human life. Only God has the right to take the life of another human being. When we take that action into our own hands — in self-defense or in defense of others — we had better be sure that all other options have been exhausted!

In addition, euthanasia or deliberately taking of the life of someone who is sick, dying, disabled or mentally ill is morally unacceptable. The Church calls for the ordinary care owed to a sick person, but medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous or extraordinary are not necessary. If you are unsure about the moral implications of health care procedures that are being proposed for someone you love, contact your pastor or the archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate[I don’t think the sister hospital administrator in Phoenix sought counsel from the Diocese of Phoenix.] They will be happy to help you consider approaches that are in accordance with our Church’s teaching about care for those who are sick or dying.

Taking proper care of our health, respecting others and showing respect for the dead are all matters covered by the Fifth Commandment’s demand that we reverence God’s most precious gift — human life.


WDTPRS kudos to Archbp. Carlson!

This is part of the effort toward the "new evangelization".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Emanations from Penumbras, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Gwen says:

    Father Z, I agree with you 100% on this. However, I am quite confused. Seems the Holy Father just appointed an auxillary bishop in San Francisco who doesn’t agree at all. Msgr McElroy has written a magazine article wherein he states his opposition to “Eucharistic sanctions.”

    Two bricks forward, one brick back, perhaps.

  2. Hieronymus says:


    If you read carefully, Carlson is not making any sanctions. As Father highlighted, he “asks” that they not receive. As much as he deserves credit for coming out and saying something, Carlson has really been a step backward for St. Louis in the militancy category. Abp. Burke was willing to enforce canon law and state that pro-abortion politicians would be denied Holy Communion.

    Carlson has made several unfortunate steps/comments [see here and here] toward “restoring the relationships” that he seems to think were wrongly harmed during Burke’s glorious reign (the latter was willing to use the charitable medicine of excommunication when the situation demanded).

    Clearly, though, he is a very outspoken voice for the pro-life cause, and that is to be commended.

  3. Peggy R says:

    This was good news from Abp. Carlson. In one of those links that Heironymous provided, we see that the Abp. implied that he doesn’t go out about town in his clericals. He made a point of saying that he wore them at first at the Cardinals games when he was new in town. This suggests that he doesn’t normally do so. I can’t understand how an archbishop of a major city (okay top 50) isn’t in clericals when he goes about town? I think my comments to this effect are in the comboxes also that heironymous linked.

  4. THis is an excellent statement, and deserves to be circulated as widely as possible, as an example of how to balance the ad intra and ad extra aspects of the message.

    One the one hand Abp. Carlson makes the Catholic position very clear to Catholics, and amkes it clear that he is speaking to the faithful, directly and specifically, saying: this is what our Church teaches on these matters, now and forever.

    Then, in paragraph 6, the archbishop explains that the Catholic teaching is not incompatible with the requirements of citizenship.

    He wraps it up very well, too.

    Well done, indeed!


  5. albizzi says:

    The priest who is fully aware that a person is in a serious mortal sin state and notwithstanding gives him the communion knowingly partakes in a sacrilege. He cannot plead ignorance while sometimes the communicant can, and in my opinion he bears the greatest part of the guilt.

  6. YadaYada says:

    [And, if Communion should not be received, it should not be given.]

    Couldn’t agree more. We can make an analogy with the situation described in the authentic interpretation of the relevant legislative text (canon 915), and then read:

    3. Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls. The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations. /// 4. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.

    See the full (short) document of the Pontifical Council.

  7. Wayne NYC says:

    Dear Fr.Z
    Why does the Church appear for all the world
    to be of two minds on this topic? Roe vs.Wade
    was 37 years ago…37 years ! Cardinal McCarrick
    misplaced Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter concerning
    this very same topic 6 years ago and yet it
    During a TV interview in Albany this past March
    NY’s own Archbishop Dolan said he would not deny
    the Eucharist to pro-abort polititions saying he
    was following Pope JPII and Pope Benedict’s example
    in this {??? !!!)HUH ? He also said he wouldn’t
    presume to know Andrew Cuomo’s views on abortion…here
    in NY even my dog knows Andrew Cuomo’s views on abortion.
    I seem to recall Pope Benedict’s letter to the USCCB
    as being short and to the point..follow canon 915.
    On the flight to Brazil didn’t the Pope answer a
    reporter’s question on this issue with a “yes” to denial
    of communion?
    Maybe I’m too blue-collar to get the nuance ,but
    this is too much like an alternative universe or
    Bizarro World Catholicism to me.

  8. The Egyptian says:

    where does this put McBrien and his ilk, just curious

  9. teomatteo says:

    This statement by the archbishop should be on the front page of Hells Bible… above the fold!!

  10. doanli says:

    Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, et al…keep yourselves in the pews like the rest of us!!! (I am awaiting an annulment and cannot receive Holy Communion. Yet, I hope.)

  11. bernadette says:

    Wayne NYC, I love your expression-Bizarro World Catholicism. You put a name to what I have been feeling and thinking lately.

  12. rakesvines says:

    The new archbishop of San Francisco holds the position of not disciplining pro-abort politicians because it was “too Republican”. For someone who came from Harvard, that was pretty dumb. Then again we see a lot of asinine decisions from Harvard grads nowadays – but I digress. So, this is a timely response. I was thinking about this yesterday from the aspect of Ecclesiology. Vatican 2 emphasized that the Church is a community engaged in pursuing justice and peace. When it came to defending the unborn in the public square during the last elections, the USCCB did not ask for a communitarian response but left it to the individual – leaving the moral possibility of choosing pro-aborts. Here is the post where I expounded about that and the pointed out the on-going threats that need to be addressed by the leaders of the community – the bishops.

  13. Leonius says:

    They are getting very good at talking about this now when are they going to lead by example and start taking some ACTION.

  14. boko fittleworth says:

    Another bishop misstates the Church’s teaching on capital punishment. I guess telling the truth about BOTH abortion AND capital punishment is to much to ask for. Maybe our betters feel it would be too “Republican”. Sort of like telling the truth about both abortion and socialized health care.

  15. rakesvines says:

    @boko: There is a fear that the Church will lose it’s pastoral effectiveness if it is perceived to be in bed with the GOP. Hence, these bishops censor themselves over political correctness – for the sake of not losing the Liberals and Democrats. IMHO – they are being remiss in their duties to praclaim the Truth and defend the community when they let polical correctness trump inconvenient and unpopular teachings. These bishops were supposed to be men of God first, yet their worldly concerns for approval makes me doubt that. I ellaborated on this with references in

  16. JosephMary says:

    I am glad that there are some of our many bishop speaking out and some also seem to enforce the sanctions but only a few it seems.

    Actions still speak louder than words.

    And we certainly have bishops against bishops with a certain cardinal who just turned 80 inviting the dissenting religious sister who is head of the CHA to his celebration. This sort continues to thumb their nose at what the Holy Father or canon 915 says. They will do what they will and with impunity.

    The balance is slowing changing. Give it five or six more years.

  17. Gabriel Austin says:

    The heading of the post should read “Catholics who are pro-abortion should not receive Communion” because they are severely compounding their sin. And the priest who knowingly gives the Communion becomes a participant in the sin.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    For many years, people were told that the line between being Catholic and non-Catholic wasn’t as firm or as important as previously thought. In fact, there are many Catholics out there who think it doesn’t matter much at all anymore, and that “everyone is somehow big-C Catholic, or at least small-c catholic, because “catholic” means universal. I’ve been told this sort of thing many times. Indeed, the lore of V2, if not the documents themselves, seem to say this. Certainly, I’ve heard teachers and clergy say things like this.

    YET, this item of lore is NOT true and this assertion by Archbishop Carlson is important in this regard. In point of fact, everyone is not Catholic, by any possible description. Some have never accepted the church; some have been Catholic and have left by one means or another. Defying the Church can be one manner of leaving, although there are many, whether one wants to lose the privileges of Catholicism or not. I’m glad to see this made clear BECAUSE I’m glad to see this particular piece of logical BS cleaned up a bit, even if it’s only a little bit.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    Corollary to that: No one has the RIGHT to receive Holy Communion except those in active & passive union with the Church. We do not owe the general non-churched hoi polloi this, nor do we owe anything to those who defy the Church.

    We can GIVE them advice & teaching, if they consent to it. But fully accepting that teaching is certainly preliminary to any talk of union, and therefore any talk of reception of any sacraments, including Holy Communion.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    A friend of mine has a daughter working in Washington, D.C. and she goes to the Catholic Church where Biden and many other pro-choice politicians go. She said that every week, these Congressmen and women and cabinet members, vice-president, etc. go to Communion and receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. We need in this country more bishops like the Archbishop, but we need one voice and one rule for all dioceses. The fact that one bishop holds a personal view opposite of Rome is a scandal and confusing for Catholics everywhere. The fact that priests who teach in seminaries also teach it is ok to give Communion to pro-choice politicians is part of this horrid scandal. I know from experience this is true. So, another generation of priests may continue this unconscionable practice.

  21. TJerome says:

    I guess I don’t understand how the Church loses its effectiveness if it is perceived to be in “bed with the GOP”, particularly if that party is aligned with Catholic truth ?” I guess “Catholics” aren’t concerned if the Church is perceived to be in bed with what Archbishop Burke refers to as the “Party of Death” aka the Democratic Party which drools and loves abortions, gay marriage,etc.? Pius XI didn’t have problems with such distinctions.

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