Legatus awardee John Smeaton: bishops should deny Communion to pro-abortion pols

From LifeSite we find little coverage of the Legatus Summit I just attended:

Deny communion to pro-abort politicians: Legatus pro-life award winner to world’s bishops

ORLANDO, FL, February 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The annual Legatus Summit, held this year at the Ritz-Carleton in Orlando, Florida, had an all-star cast of pro-life leaders, four of whom were selected as recipients of the prestigious Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award. The only non-American recipient was John Smeaton, head of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which is the oldest pro-life group in the world, founded in 1966.

Over 400 of the most influential and faithful Catholic business leaders in the United States were awed by inspiring speakers all weekend, and yet the crowd nevertheless rose to their feet in ovation at Smeaton’s rousing address – the final one of the summit.

Speaking of the recent vote in Ireland where many Catholic politicians voted to support a bill in favour of abortion, Smeaton called on Ireland’s bishops and indeed all the bishops of the world to refuse such Catholic politicians Holy Communion. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

“In the spirit of friendly dialogue, I implore all Catholic bishops throughout the world to speak out clearly and categorically that politicians who vote for and publicly support abortion legislation such as that just passed by the Irish Parliament, must publicly retract and refute the position they have adopted before receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion in Whose image every unborn child targeted by wicked abortion legislation is made,” he said.

[NB] Rejecting the common objection to such a move, Smeaton said, “It’s an absurd rationalization to suggest that bishops speaking up clearly and categorically on the public sacrilegious reception of the Holy Eucharist is turning the Sacrament into a battleground or circus, as has been claimed.”

Driving his point home, Smeaton added, “I ask you … if Catholic priests or bishops were targeted by the legislation passed by the Irish Parliament, for example, so that they could be executed with impunity, would you or would you not say publicly that politicians who voted for or who supported such legislation, without apologizing, retracting and refuting their position, may not go forward to receive Holy Communion?” [Well done.]

“What is the difference in God’s eyes between the sanctity of life of a priest or a bishop or the sanctity of life of an unborn child?” he asked.


As I live-blogged during the conference, Smeaton was “on fire”. His is the talk of which I would like to have a recording. I hope Legatus will release that talk on video and put it on YouTube.

John Smeaton’s full talk is available in a PDF file here.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in 1983 CIC can. 915, Be The Maquis, Cri de Coeur, Emanations from Penumbras, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Sin That Cries To Heaven, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. iPadre says:

    This deserves and AMEN! in all caps. Where are the St. Athanasius of our times?

  2. pannw says:

    AMEN!!! And good question iPadre.

    Somewhat related, does anyone have knowledge of the newly appointed bishop of Albany, Bishop Scharfenberger? I’m afraid something he said in his address has the hair on my neck prickling: “What else do I ask for? What do I hope for? I ask the priests, deacons, religious and laity to help me to be myself – my best self. I promise to love and respect all of you by letting you be who you are and to bring out the best in you. Let’s do this for one another. ” Forgive me for jumping to conclusions, but in light of recent history and the language of the homosexualists, that just makes me nervous. Can I reasonably hope that the part about bringing out the best in you means he will uphold the Church’s teachings in that regard or is Andrew Cuomo probably still going to be free to scandalize the faithful?

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    First the bishop of Brooklyn and now a visiting speaker from across the pond! I’m heartened.

    The charge of “politicizing” the reception of the Eucharist, it seems to me, is another example of what I think is called Projection: it is those who make the claim who are, in fact, doing the politicizing. Catholic bishops and laymen have known for (insert really large block of time here) that only those who are Catholics in the state of grace can receive Holy Communion. Public dissent from the constant teaching of the Church surely qualifies one for being considered “not a good Catholic”, and therefore ineligible.

    I hear often that methods used in former times would no longer work, today, but more and more I am coming to consider this an excuse for inaction: putting England under interdict brought Henry II to public penance.

  4. slainewe says:

    The only reason I can see for bishops and priests not to be moved by the words of John Smeaton is the fact that they really do not believe unborn man is MAN. And I do not see this changing until the Holy Father proclaims the Life Dogma: MAN EXISTS, BODY AND SOUL, AT FERTILIZATION.

  5. CatherineTherese says:

    Here is one quote from Msgr. Scharfenberger’s facebook page (I would not describe it as linguistic gymnastics, wishy washy, or in any way unclear):

    “I am convinced that protecting the lives of the unborn and their mothers is inseparable from our own claim to occupy our time and space in history. Humanity has no ultimate worth if the life of its most vulnerable members does not. Murder of the unborn is suicide for humanity. If our law forces mothers to kill their children to have a future or in order to compete with their children’s fathers, none of us has a future. Time for a change!”

    Rejoicing over this news and praying for bishop-to-be Scharfenberger!

  6. LarryW2LJ says:

    Bravo! I have never understood why some Bishops (and some priests) seem to remain lukewarm on speaking out on these issues – unlike some who are absolutely on fire with the Holy Spirit. What is worse – hurting someone’s feelings by speaking the Truth, or assisting in sending their souls to eternal damnation because they were allowed to receive the Lord unworthily?

    I might be naive and be unable to see shades of gray, but this seems to be a pretty black and white issue to me. You CANNOT be a Catholic and be for abortion – the two stances are like matter and anti-matter, totally 180 Degrees apart from each other.

    That being said, there is always room for God’s mercy should the person who is in error repents. But part of repenting is “go and sin no more” – and it has to be visible and noticeable. None of this “I’m personally opposed, but ……..” gobbledygook.

  7. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    A few questions on tactics: should the decision to excommunicate or deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians (and not just those in the United States) be made by the Vatican or left to local bishops? As I understand, the Vatican defers many decisions to local bishops, religious orders, etc. As I noted in a previous comment, when the Vatican does get involved, it’s actually rare despite the intense publicity in the secular press and complaints of activists. (Funny how the Vatican’s investigation of EWTN around 2000 didn’t generate any outrage from the National Catholic Reporter, et al, or invite charges of sexism since Mother Angelica was running the network at the time.)

    Leaving these types of decisions to local bishops, as I understand, allows them to judge the circumstances of each case and weigh possible consequences.

    There are many people who call themselves “pro-life” who make exceptions in the very rare cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Would they be included or just the worst offenders who oppose any restrictions on abortion and want to use taxpayer funding to pay for it?

    To avoid charges that they are trying to influence an election, some bishops such as Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island and Edward Cardinal Egan of New York privately told certain pro-abortion Catholic politicians such as Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani not to take Communion. We know about the Kennedy case since he’s the one who revealed it during a public spat with Tobin. The NY Archdiocese revealed the ban after Giuliani violated it. There could be other “private” bans in place.

    Is the private action better than the public one?

    I’m simply raising these questions in the interest of discussion.

  8. kevinm says:

    I do not particularly like seeing the Blessed Sacrament kicked around like some political football. The clergy should exercise prudent judgement at the appropriate time. When someone known to be a public advocate of those practices inimacal to catholic teaching he/she should just be passed over. Those who are not well know will unworthily receive. Making broad pronouncements before hand only encourages public displays of defiance. The penalty for those who unworthily receive the Eucharist is well known, and it will be dealt with in the afterlife.


  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Would something different in detail be necessary? Idenitcal twins come to mind, and the possibility of separating the cells of an embryonic human who consists of very few, such that each is, as it were, a ‘clone’ of each other as they continue to develop.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    pannw and Catherine Therese,

    I am not sure I ever heard of Msgr. Scharfenberger before your comments, but now a sentence quoted from his Facebook page makes me uneasy: “If our law forces mothers to kill their children to have a future or in order to compete with their children’s fathers, none of us has a future.” What an astonishing and dismaying formulation to employ – “our law forces mothers to kill their children”! What a quirky, seemingly tendentious approach would appear to speak, here. Ghastly as all current American abortion laws are, there are none that so “force” anyone to have an abortion.

  11. Johnno says:

    Venerator Sti Lot –

    While American does not force women to abort. Authorities and abortionists routinely look the other way whenever suspicious activity comes up, and many women testify that they are often coerced by their boyfriends, family, pimps, lovers, husbands etc. to get one. The law doesn’t have to do it when its citizens will do the forcing for them. besides which it is a reality in places like China where women are brutally beaten and dragged to abortion clinics and shamed for getting pregnant and that influential people like Hillary Clinton and homosexuals like Dan Savage praise the practices of China and entertain that similar approaches ought to happen here to pressure women to abort their children for the sake of saving the planet and other such nonsense.

  12. CatherineTherese says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,
    I agree with you – that is a clumsy turn of phrase, perhaps a result of the medium itself, or perhaps in some context I’m unaware of. Perhaps we can give him the benefit of the doubt and replace “forces” with “encourages.”

    In any case, encouragement is certainly the mood of things here in NY, when pregnant girls end up at Planned Parenthood by referral from hospitals! Yes – the hospitals are referring pregnant women (who’ve simply gone in for pregnancy tests!) to PP.

    But getting back to Msgr. Scharfenberger, I for one am encouraged by the second half of the sentence: “or in order to compete with their children’s fathers.” I think this actually reflects an even more nuanced social understanding of the abortion-culture, beyond the primary horror of the truth about abortion itself.

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I, too, was thinking about ‘PR’ China (without taking the time to try to check/discover the facts), whether (as I think) even there the “force” is illegally de facto rather than strictly de jure, and also about any possible legal dimensions (bills passed in Congress?) to American support for ‘PR” Chinese forced abortion.

    That ‘a woman’s choice [to (have) kill(ed)]’ in America (and not only there) is often in fact the choice of whoever has successfully bullied her, I am equally convinced, and, as you say, that is very effective, in practice.

    Catherine Therese,

    I am certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and then some, but (if I am not mistaken) not even the practicalities of enormous and habitual social pressure – including horrific, effective bullying, as well as systematic encouragement – finally constitute “force” in a legal or concrete sense, however (perhaps even heroically) virtuous resistance must be.

    By the way, I was long a member of both SPUC and the parallel organization (with some different emphases in practice), LIFE, in the UK, as were many of my fellow pro-life students.

  14. Clinton says:

    The Church has always celebrated the courage of St. Ambrose in denying the emperor
    Theodosius I admission to the cathedral of Milan. Have right and wrong changed since
    those days?

    In 390AD, a riot broke out in the city of Thessalonica, and the Roman governor was killed
    by a mob. In reprisal, the emperor Theodosius I waited until the city celebrated a festival
    at its amphitheater. Over 7,000 Thessalonians were gathered in the stadium. The emperor’s
    troops sealed the exits and massacred all the people present as an object lesson for the rest of
    the empire.

    The massacre of the people was public, notorious, scandalous and deliberate. When the
    emperor next attempted to enter Milan cathedral to attend Mass, St. Ambrose, the bishop,
    publicly denied him admittance at the door. Mind you, this was an emperor who clearly had no
    qualms over killing people who posed a political inconvenience. St. Ambrose was risking his
    life. As it turned out, the emperor did public penance for the massacre, and was eventually
    readmitted to the sacraments.

    For 1600 years the Church has preserved the memory of St. Ambrose’ courage in defense of
    innocent life– and his concern for the emperor’s soul. Centuries from now, will the Church
    be cherishing the memory of the courage of our bishops of today?

  15. Rachel K says:

    I have met John Smeaton and heard him speak several times. He is always spot on. Always. He does not miss a trick, sees the salient points in every situation or argument and is a continual thorn in the side over here of politicians and lukewarm bishops. Long may he prosper !

  16. frjim4321 says:

    Well why don’t we just try it and see how it works out?

    But, last one out, turn off the lights.

  17. Johnno says:

    frjim4321 –

    I can’t wait for us to seriously do this again. It’s been the teaching and discipline of the Church since the Apostolic times and Church benefitted greatly.

    But I’d go further and say that another effective step also means supending the faculties of priests who openly abuse and desecrate the Eucharist and in similar manner abuse the soul of the unworthy ex-communicant by allowing them to take it in tolerance/support of their public rebellion.

  18. Johnno says:

    Venerator Sti Lot –

    Given human behavior in the context of the law, whenever laws are relaxed, humans shall take the opportunity to go one step further. For example, with contraceptive availability, pre-marital sex, cheating and divorce goes up despite that such things were socially frowned on, eventually social standards also drop as we acclimitize ourselves to the environment. With the relaxation and legalization of prostitution, human sex trafficing goes up, despite that sex trafficing is still illegal, because it’s easier to get away with when the law watches you less. There’s a chance that with the relaxation of marijuana laws, that the criminals who are used to making big money selling weed, may just try to make their product better to compete by perhaps lacing it with other drugs or just selling other illegal drugs because they want the same profit margins that they’d lose with legal competition, and mroe people will seek out the illegal alternatives because breaking the law is part of the thrill. That’s just how it goes. When one seeks to solve problems by making things that are immoral, allowable, then the problems only get worse. The slippery slopes are all over the place and government thinks the solution is to take down the ‘Slippery pavement’ warning signs.

  19. Scott W. says:

    But, last one out, turn off the lights.

    Many are called, but few are chosen…

  20. Magash says:

    I’ve just had it on this subject. In 1962 Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel excommunicated 3 segregationists. Quite justifiably. The three backed down, rather than be cut off from the Church. Racism is bad and segragation was a horrible governmental policy that supported it. However as bad as segragation was, it is not bad as the wholesale slaughter of millions of babies under the color of constitutional law. Yet in the decades since Roe vs. Wade as far as I can tell not one bishop has sought fit to excommunicate the polticians, who by thier actions do everything they can to support this mosterous act.
    We continue arguing about whether Fr. j, down the block should refuse communion to a pro-abortion politician or why bishop H doesn’t tell so-and-so not to present themselves for communion when what we should be asking is why the bishops aren’t excommunicating these people.
    I am so glad that I am a mere layman. I fear, literaly fear, for even generally good bishops, some of whom I know are holy men, who will have to stand before the throne of my and their master and explain why they failed to take action on this.
    It’s often said that at the first judgement we will have to face the Lord and account for our failings, but at the second judgement, already knowing our ultimate fate, we will have to face all those who were wronged by our sins in life, both what we did and what we failed to do. While I know that I will have to face far too many people I have hurt by my transgressions in life, some who I expect I will not even know, at least I believe I will not have to listen to the cries of millions of the unborn who did not get to life a life because of my inaction. I fear our bishops will not be able to say that.

  21. slainewe says:

    Venerator Sti Lot

    I see your point. The second twin has life in virtue of the fertilization of the first – similar to Eve springing from Adam? I suppose a clone would be a similar case. (May the Lord save us from this abomination!)

    However, I would not want to confuse the basic truth that every human fertilization, whether in the body of a woman or in a lab dish, is MAN.

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I certainly agree that it is of paramount importance to stress “that every human fertilization, whether in the body of a woman or in a lab dish, is MAN”, and just wanted to note the importance of trying to do this clearly in whatever way(s) seem necessary to do so. Whoever is both organically and genetically distinct, is equally fully human, a fully human being, an organically developing human person, even should some abominable manipulation have been involved (‘firing’ a spermatozoon into an ovum, or dividing an embryonic human into his or her plenipotential constituent cells, for example – or the ‘three-parent child’ being ‘worked on’ by the attempted combination of 23 chromosomes from each of two men or two women in an enucleated ovum!).

    And thank you for your comparison with Eve from Adam (though that is wonderful in producing the opposite sex).

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I agree with you (11 Feb. at 11:29 p.m.) about the dangers of permissive positive laws, but would also want to stress the distinction between permissive and compulsory. For example, prostitution can be ‘legalized’ in different ways, not all of which (for example) entail people receiving ‘state benefits’ having to take a ‘job’ in the ‘prostitution sector’ should one become available.

    The ‘permissibility’ of abortion – together with things like the judicial success of ‘wrongful life’ claims – also (so far as I can see) conduce to a pressure for the performance of abortions. That mght be considered a sort of legal-related ‘force’, and perhaps something like that was Msgr. Scharfenberger’s intention.

  24. Pingback: If You Don’t Need God’s Mercy, Don’t Go to Mass

Comments are closed.