14 ‘c’atholic Senators SUPPORT ABORTION past 20 weeks

Canonist Ed Peters has picked up on something Fr. Longenecker has done.   I’ll add my voice.

From Peters’ excelleny canon law blog In The Light Of The Law.

About those Bloody 14 [allow me slightly to change the format, for effect]

  • Cantwell (WA);
  • Collins (ME);
  • Durbin (IL);
  • Gilibrand (NY);
  • Heitkamp (ND);
  • Kaine (VA);
  • Leahy (VT);
  • Markey (MA);
  • Cortez Masto (NV);
  • McCaskill (MO);
  • Menendez (NJ);
  • Murkowski (AK);
  • Murray (WA); and
  • Reed (RI).

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is right  that the fourteen Catholic senators named above who voted to prevent the government from protecting pre-born babies from the savagery of abortion have, by just this one vote (and not counting the long string of similar steps that most of these fourteen have taken before), committed a grievous moral offense. By any objective measure they have each placed their souls in mortal jeopardy. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Longenecker’s call for the fourteen to be named and held accountable by earthly means (if only to lessen the accounting they will surely owe at Judgment) is an exercise of his canonical right and probably even the duty as a member of the Christian faithful to make known his views on matters that pertain to the good of the Church—and the scandal given by prominent Catholics acting as they did here surely impacts the good of the Church (CCC 2284)—and to communicate his views to others in the Church (Canon 212 § 3).

Except to explicitate what Longenecker the priest takes for granted (but we laity need to be reminded of), that we should pray for each senator by name, we should pursue what steps the legal, political, and ecclesiastical system provides for such sad scenarios.

But, about that ecclesiastical redress, [NB] two qualifications to Longenecker’s call need to be offered.

First, as has been explained many times, the hideous deed committed by the Bloody 14 is not, standing alone, a crime under canon law and, even if combined with other such acts as many of the Bloody 14 have taken, is not a crime for which excommunication is the penalty (Canon 1369). Specifically, voting pro-abortion is not ‘procuring an abortion’ for purposes of Canon 1398 and so no excommunication for procuring abortion applies in response to voting for it. [for “procuring”] Catholics contacting chanceries and demanding excommunications, therefore, will be noted on the “Uninformed Critics” list and comfortably ignored—this time, with some reason.

Second, a single act, again, no matter how objectively gravely sinful it is, does not trigger the duty of Catholic ministers to withhold holy Communion under Canon 915 which canon operates in the face of obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin. Catholics contacting chanceries and demanding the withholding of holy Communion, therefore, will be noted on the “They Are on to Something but have Jumped the Gun” list and un-comfortably ignored—though again with some reason. [However, if there is a consistent pattern, that’s another matter.]

So, what to do?

Well, do exactly what Longenecker recommends in the legal and political sphere (for that matter, in the social sphere as well), lovingly shame the Bloody 14 into realizating what they have done and, please God, into personal and public repentance of it.

About excommunication, one may of course petition Rome (or local bishops) to designate political acts such as these as canonical crimes punishable by excommunication. I think there are major obstacles to such legislation but I (and other experts, I am sure) would certainly be willing to weigh in on the possibility.

About the withholding of holy Communion, this, I have said many times, urgently needs to implemented, but not in response to a single act (for that theory is canonically doomed to failure), but rather in response to a demonstrable string of such acts taken by most of the Bloody 14 (and several others, Nancy Pelosi leaping to mind). Here, unlike the excommunication idea above, the law is already in place (Canon 915), it just needs to be applied—correctly of course, but that is not a problem in many of these cases.

The Bloody 14 case might just trigger the long-overdue application of the law.

Finally, a personal observation? The repeated, though for now misguided, calls for excommunication in these cases, and the repeated, but worth-considering, calls for withholding holy Communion in these cases share this: they spring almost completely from Catholic laity and are almost completely ignored by ecclesiastical leadership. This almost total, multi-decade disconnect between people and pastors is source of serious tension in the Church. Pray that such tension is relieved before it erupts into even more serious problems.

What could lay people do – within the bounds of charity, always – to get a hearing and action from their pastors?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. byzantinesteve says:

    Following the 1962 integration of the New Orleans Archdiocese school system, Archbishop Joseph Rummel excommunicated 3 local politicians who opposed his efforts. Why would canon law permit this over 50 years ago but not today?

  2. Amerikaner says:

    The problem is compounded by the years of silence/inaction of Cardinal Wuerl.

  3. Hans says:

    I seem to recall that one of the popes made even (moral, political, financial, etc.) support for slavery (with the sometimes exception for prisoners who would otherwise have been executed, usually prisoners of war, until such a time that they could safely be released) was an offense for which excommunication the automatic consequence in an effort to make it clear that legalized slavery (except as above) is gravely sinful and should be ended.

    I don’t recall more than the broad outlines, but is that situation so different from ours now? Chief Justice Taney (of Dred Scott infamy) was Catholic, for instance.

  4. David says:

    I think this “disconnect” between the orthodox faithful and the bishops can only be explained by tracing the long history of Catholicism in this country. I remember as late as the presidential election of 1960 groups picketing with anti-Catholic slogans. The bishops were so set on proving that Catholics should have an equal role in American government that they were willing to forgo religious truth for secular success on many fronts. Cardinal Cushing’s relationship with the Kennedys, for example, was much more about political power than the salvation of souls. Things became more complicated with leftist social issues, but does one ever read a word about how our bishops confronted the legalization of artificial birth control? To my knowledge they just didn’t.

  5. AA Cunningham says:

    Donald Cardinal Wuerl hasn’t been silent which is the root of the problem. His argument has been that enforcing Canon Law has no effect so he isn’t going to waste his time enforcing Canon Law. As the quote below indicates he’s given cover for the Bloody 14, along with many others, to behave in the manner they do. Wuerl has been taken to task for his refusal to deny Communion to people like Pelosi and Sebellius. Sebellius’ Bishop, Archbishop Naumann, reminded the Cardinal that Sebelius had been told by him not to receive Communion and that he, Wuerl, was required to deny her Communion.

    “We never – the Church just didn’t use Communion this way. It wasn’t a part of the way we do things, and it wasn’t a way we convinced Catholic politicians to appropriate the faith and live it and apply it; the challenge has always been to convince people.”

    “I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon(915) was never intended to be used this way.” Donald Cardinal Wuerl 5 May 2009

  6. Benedict Joseph says:

    These individuals have provided a contemptible offence against God and man.
    Where are their bishops? Before this transpired, as well as now, in the aftermath.
    Where is the public correction? Where is the temporal ecclesial consequence?
    Hiding under desks around the country. Actions, and inactions, speak louder than words.

  7. tamranthor says:

    In the case of Lisa Murkowski, she has never been an observant Catholic in any sense.

    Alaska has always been a mission Church, not very well staffed, and certainly not by orthodox or “conservative” priests. The exception to that is the recent staffing of the Anchorage Archdiocese with Dominicans from California, who bring us the Dominican Rite. I can assure you that Lisa does not attend.

    Lisa votes as she is told by those who bought her, lock, stock and barrel. She collects mightily from Planned Parenthood and the NEA, and she can reliably be seen to vote with the pro-abortion and pro-Common Core folk.

    She got her position by being appointed by her father, who quit his term in Washington and ran home after 9/11. She agreed in one election to accept the will of the people, but when she was beaten by another candidate in the primary, she ran as an independent after taking the money from the Republican Party of Alaska. It is not defamatory to say she is shifty and self-serving in every respect.

    I know that Jesus loves her, but I also read where “Jesus wept.”

  8. ChesterFrank says:

    You state “no excommunication for procuring abortion applies in response to voting for it”, but in their constant pro-abortion preaching didn’t they procure abortions for others through coercion of a vulnerable group that often was under stress? Didn’t they “procure abortions” for others through their own , and their medias propaganda? Some today have heard their liberal government representative preach that abortion is socially responsible and morally correct. They have heard this moral argument preached not only since their infancy, but through the infancy of their parents. There is an argument that they truly have procured abortions for their benefit. There might even be an argument for apostasy and heresy.

  9. Fallibilissimo says:

    Dr Peters says: “ […]no excommunication for procuring abortion applies in response to voting for it. [for “procuring”] Catholics contacting chanceries and demanding excommunications, therefore, will be noted on the “Uninformed Critics” list and comfortably ignored—this time, with some reason”

    My question is: just because there’s no censure required by law, does that mean a Bishop can’t decide to excommunicate a person under his jurisdiction as a censure ab homine? If not, doesn’t it make sense if those folks call the chanceries and ask that the Bishop to excommunicate such a person?

  10. Traductora says:

    Laypeople cannot do anything – except march, raise money, fund programs for mothers and children,, etc. We do these things, but they are all things the bishops should have been doing. The inaction and positive hostility on the part of bishops is nothing new, and dates back to VII.

    But in terms of their bishops, laypeople can do nothing (except for that rare sympathetic bishop who was probably already opposed to abortion anyway). But if you’re a layperson, you’re the lowest of the low, and the bishops are now taking their marching orders from the New Rome, where everything is potentially OK and it’s all about discernment and “conscience.” This essentially means that little voice in your head telling you that whatever you want to do, you have a good reason for doing it and Our Lord will pat you on the back for it. I don’t think He will, but these people have been mislead and probably now are in a state of invicible ignorance.

    But the episcopal skulls will be lining our walk.

  11. AB says:

    When discussing politicians like this it is conventional to give the politician’s party. I see names from both sides of the aisle, but they do lean in a particular direction. That is worth noting.

  12. Orlando says:

    The scourge of abortion will forever be a cancer on this generation. History will rightfully judge us harshly. People will react in horror that we found more value in the life of a sea turtle , then in a human life. Doubt me? Try “disturbing “ a sea turtle nest. The force of the law will be brought down swiftly on your head and the public shaming will be merciless. Now kill an unborn child, not an eyebrow is raised by our legal system or culture. It defys logic, yet we are considered the intolerant ones? Give me a break.

  13. Blas says:

    Why a confessor would give them absolution without public repentance?

  14. TonyO says:

    The problem is compounded by the years of silence/inaction of Cardinal Wuerl.

    Which is just what was predicted of him (by those who were paying attention) back when he was in Pittsburgh. He wasn’t much good then, and isn’t much good now. Only more so?

    Why oh why oh why does the Vatican keep picking men like these for bishops and archbishops and cardinals. There’s no way in the world anyone with sense in their heads would have designated Wuerl to be a cardinal – but Benedict did so. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM? Can it be fixed?

  15. teomatteo says:

    i remember attending a talk by an archbishop of Denver some years ago (2009) and at the Q& A someone asked what we catholics can do to stem the scandal of catholics mocking the faith and teachings of the Church as they do in a public way. He said despondantly, “that the gentle, behind the scenes -pastoral touch just doesnt work”. I remember thinking “what did the genius say about doing something over and over and never getting the result you want?” These bishops are real brainiacs.

  16. frjim4321 says:

    Since so few elective abortions actually happen after 20 months, I suspect this motion was mainly political grandstanding. That said, I strongly support socioeconomic policies that would resolutely mitigate the wrongly perceived notion that in any case elective abortion is the lesser of any two or more evils. If we want to reduce or eliminate elective abortions, we need to address the factors which contribute to its (steadily decreasing) frequency. I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.

    [No. Excuse.]

  17. JustaSinner says:

    When we American Catholics die it’s going to be like a bad rerun of I Love Lucy, with God playing the part of Ricky Ricardo…you got some splainin’ do!
    If all Catholics in this country voted en bloc (okay, so like maybe 65%) on this one issue, abortion would be gone in one electoral cycle.
    Oh but, Justa, the SUPREME COURT ruled…yeah whine on; they’ve ruled on many things that aren’t enforced, this would be one more of them.
    Shows just how gutless the US Bishop’s have become; and how entwined they’ve become with liberals and democrats. Hope they enjoy their fancy clothes, expensive dinners and all the luxuries they can enjoy in the 70 or so years they have on Earth, because eternity is REALLY LONG.
    Don’t know the Father’s thinking, but His SON’S words are quite clear about harming even one hair on a child’s head.

  18. Eric says:

    This is nothing but a manipulation of language and truth. Yes let’s pass legislation that gets to the socio-yadda yadda of why persons intentionally destroy their young in their wombs, but in the meantime, as we await that utopia that will never be reached (and the excuse will always be available), let’s pass legislation that protects human beings today. It’s like saying let’s support more fire resistant building material regulations and not have a fire department. Please.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Since so few elective abortions actually happen after 20 months, I suspect this motion was mainly political grandstanding.

    I don’t know the US political scene, but I quite suspect Fr Jim may be right on this, on the factual side.

    What, dear reverend Father Jim, you are not right about is your undertone.

    It may, for all I know, be “mainly” (thanks for including the word “mainly”, which means “not in its entirety only”) political grandstanding, but the point is that the shamelessness with which the US (or, simplifyingly said, Germany) fail to persecute this crime really is a political thing to grandstand about and really is a hill to die on, even if it did not save one baby. But presumably such a measure does save babies.

    For that other thing:

    I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.

    This is a constant accusation against pro-lifers which is constantly rebuked, and I believe justly. Since I don’t know the statistics, let me focus on one other obvious point: Even if that were the case, pro-lifers would be right.

    Setting the limbus puerorum dispute aside for a moment, the worst point about abortions isn’t even the fact that the babies lose their life (this is a very bad point, but not the very worst), but the fact that a mother and her assistants are turned, as it were, into monsters by committing a sin that is not merely mortal, does not merely cry to Heaven for vengeance, but being the murder which a mother against all inclinations of nature does to her own child is rather grievous even among suchlike sins. Then, of course, the fact that the baby does lose its life, though I said it was not the very worst thing, naturally is second worst.

    If the baby is born, these two worst things about abortion, first that the mother and her assistants commit sin and a sin as grievous, second that the baby loses its life, are avoided. The greatest achievements of the “caring for life after birth” sort, even if real, cannot possibly compare with these two.

  20. JonPatrick says:

    Yesterday I wrote the following to our local RINO and CINO Denator Collins one of the infamous 14:
    Dear Senator Collins,

    I was very disappointed to hear about your vote against cloture on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. S1922 on January 29th.

    In the USA we have always believed that each person has the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness as outlined in our Declaration of Independence. However under our current laws one group of people, the unborn, do not have that right. This bill would have moved to correct that situation at least as regards those unborn old enough to feel pain.

    We had a similar issue over 200 years ago when another group of persons, African Americans, were not considered deserving of these rights and thus could be bought and sold like cattle. We look back today and can’t belive how people could have justified this behavior. Will people 200 years from now look back on us and shake their headfs and wonder “What were they thinking”?

    I urge you to reconsider and support this measure should it be brought up again. Thank You.


  21. John Grammaticus says:

    Dear frjim4321 you state that ” I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.”

    Please back that up, I personally know women who are active in the pro-life movement, and who work tirelessly to provide post-natal support to vulnerable women and families.

  22. Kypapist Retired says:

    All or at least the most prominent of these are lauded in their parishes. How often have you read of Joe Biden or another of his ilk, being applauded when he entered his Church or received Holy Communion? How many lay people actually attend Holy Mass with any of these politicians?

    I say Begin the public shaming. If you are at Mass and one of these attends, get up and walk out.
    Make it known why you are leaving. Glare at the offending party. Show that you are on the side of the marginalized ones and exit the building after offering obeisance to Our Blessed Lord in the tabernacle. If you encounter these persons outside, tell them about the babies and moms who are being destroyed and that they are promoting it.

    How many of these faux-liberals claim to oppose torture against terrorists but endorse torture of the unborn. Or oppose capital punishment of convicted serial killers but protect the slaughter of the innocent unborn.

  23. Fr. Kelly says:

    frjim4321 This just won’t do.
    Since so few elective abortions actually happen after 20 months, … (irrelevant stuff removed) …. I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.

    With all due respect to you, I have to tell you you are wrong and wrong in very damaging ways.

    so few elective abortions.
    I am sure your low estimate must be very comforting to the 21 week old who is desperately swimming trying to avoid the burning saline solution injected into her environment. She shouldn’t worry because so few of her contemporaries are experiencing this same torture. 51 Senator tried to protect her, but you call it “political grandstanding”. I can assure you it was not so for all of them. Even if it was that for some of them, does that remove the merit in their action of trying to protect the unborn under attack?
    And what is so bad about being pro-birth? without birth these children can’t get to the point of being helped by the “socioeconomic policies” that you so blithely write about.

    I, for one, take serious umbrage at your swift negative judgment on us “many people” who you find to be somehow deficient in our prolife stand. You don’t know us, if you buy that old canard. I have yet to meet a real prolifer who does not love children outside the womb.

    If you reread the comments above, especially Traductora’s frustration at the inaction of us clergy, I hope you will see the error of the argument that your comment put out here. It is bad enough to hear these arguments from staunch Planned Parenthood partisans. It is much worse to hear them coming from members of the clergy.

    This claim that those who work to end abortion are not really prolife, but only those who support social programs supporting working mothers, homelessness, (insert your own pet cause here), etc. is preposterous and insulting to those of us who have been in this fight since the 1960s

  24. Thomistica says:

    Fr. Z., thanks for underscoring this precision: “However, if there is a consistent pattern, that’s another matter.”

    Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire. Single acts of malfeasance will be rare in this arena.

    One way to build the case might be to look at Planned Parenthood’s own scoring of the voting records of these politicians, if available.

  25. AA Cunningham says:

    ‘I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.’ frjim4321

    No surprise that “frjim” would be parroting the ad hominem of socialist Joan Chittister.

    Please provide verifiable evidence of all of your and Chittister’s subsidiarity based pro-life activities, “frjim”.

  26. Andrew says:

    Frjim4321 is not really opposed to slavery. He is merely opposed to shackles.

  27. chantgirl says:


    I could point out that religious people and republicans give substantially more money to charity and volunteer at much higher rates than non-religious and democrats:


    Opposition to abortion is also highest among those who attend church at least weekly:


    Numbers would suggest that those who are most pro-life (and who are most religious) also tend to give the most of their time and treasure to charitable causes.

    Your smear of pro-lifers is unsubstantiated.

  28. That Guy says:

    “What could lay people do – within the bounds of charity, always – to get a hearing and action from their pastors?”

    I believe that in this day and age, we are blessed with access to information. There are many good Catholic journalists doing great work that makes it fairly easy to separate the shepherds from the wolves. So it’s really quite simple. Give your support to the shepherds, and starve the wolves. If you feel your pastor doesn’t listen to you, maybe you’re not tithing loudly enough. If you are, tithe elsewhere.

  29. tamranthor says:

    If we who claim to be pro-life are not really so, then why do so many of us have families comprised of adopted children, many if not most of whom would have been aborted?

    I, for one, call that statement libel, ad hominem, and calumny.

    My son, who is very much alive, likewise refutes that position.

    Come back when you know more, and after you have been to confession for your sins.

  30. Semper Gumby says:

    Withholding Communion from the Gang of 14 would be an act of Mercy, and allow them to reconsider and repent.

  31. benedetta says:

    By frjim4321’s reasoning, the abortion rate, particularly after 20 weeks which is barbaric from the very idea alone, should be nill, quite apart from whatever his encounters with “many” who he judges harshly as pro birth but not pro the life after, whatever that means and however he would prove such a thing or calumny, because the law of the land that has prevailed has been to supply numerous supports to women in precisely that situation, and seeing as how the overall number of women opting to bear children out of wedlock has skyrocketed in the same period of time clearly many do exactly what these women who are 20 weeks along (or under) might instead do in order to avoid murdering life within, often times by coercion from the biological father. If frjim4321’s assertions had any truth to them, then the quibbles we see in partisan polemics in the press would be enough to prevent all or most from venturing single motherhood at all. But that’s not the case so whatever his calumny upon people he assigns as pro birth but not pro life and his certainty in his harsh judgements on people who support the ban at 20 weeks cannot find any roots in reality. At least those permitted to live have a voice and a vote. Frjim4321 if left to his own devices would apparently be ok with disenfranchising an entire generation due to his need to feel righteous over pro life advocates.

  32. DavidR says:

    “I find that many people who identify as “pro-life” are in fact merely “pro-birth,” and don’t seem very interested in factors effecting babies (and their parents) after they come into the world.”

    Gosh jim, that’s an excellent argument for euthanasia too. We should judge the “patient’s” quality of life, and if it can’t be improved to our standards, why, let us do them a kindness by murdering them.

    Are you Dutch, perchance? Mock GOD here on earth while you can, you won’t be able to do it much longer.
    As PDJT would say, sad.

  33. DavidR says:

    Many commenters have asked “What can we laypersons do?”
    CLOSE YOUR WALLET. If your parish/diocesan clergy condone murder, close your wallet. There are plenty of worthy Catholic organizations/services/monasteries who need and will be grateful for your financial assistance. Here in Raleigh we have Pregnancy Support Services, for instance.

    The collection basket will get their attention. And it doesn’t really matter if they have a change of heart, what matters if that they stop condoning murder. That’s the bottom line. :)

  34. arbogene says:

    I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth? Luke 18:8

  35. Mike says:

    Several Protestant and Jewish clergy were on hand the other day to ‘bless’ a late-term abortuary in my diocese (which, unsurprisingly and sadly, offered no counter-witness whatever). One imagines that the contemptuous ‘pro-birth’ trope would go over quite well in that circle.

  36. dallenl says:

    In the immortal words of Samuel Johnson, “Sir, we do not hang men for stealing horses, we hang them in order that horses not be stolen”. In the matter of excommunication, politicians do not fear it because it is not used. Were a proclamation of excommunication, minus the names but identifiable by the offense, used in extremus, the attention might have some beneficial effect. There is a heresy, widely held by those in government, that separation of church and state also means separation of morality from governmental action. Excommunication might go some distance in disabusing them of this erroneous belief.

  37. Catholic Dan says:

    I took Fr. Longnecker’s advice and emailed each bishop urging them to publicly rebuke these senators. I did not use words like excommunicate or withhold Holy Communion. I also posted my letter on their diocesan facebook page for others to see.

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