ABORTION ISSUE Bishops decide ruling for their dioceses
Bishops may talk privately with politicians who wish to receive the sacrament.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two bishops in this region have reinforced their positions about serving communion to politicians who support abortion.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Youngstown and Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh both had made statements on the issue before a mid-June meeting of U.S. bishops in Denver. Bishops at the meeting decided to let individual bishops decide how to handle the issue within their parishes.
"Nothing can take precedence over the practice of our faith. Catholic politicians are not free to detach their faith from public lives any more than doctors, attorneys, journalists, entertainers, teachers, spouses, parents, priests or bishops are free to detach their faith from their lives," Bishop Tobin said in a message published in May in the Human Life Guild's Life Issues newsletter.
"We're never free to separate our faith from our personal and private lives," Bishop Tobin said this week. "It's more a question of living a life of integrity."
The decision about serving politicians has not come up in the Youngstown diocese, he said.
"Locally, it hasn't been much of an issue for us," he said. If it did occur, the bishop said, he would discuss the matter one on one with the politician in question.
Bishop Tobin said there's more work to be done on the bishops' statement from Denver. He said he expects more specific criteria to be released.
"It was the best we could do in a limited amount of time," he said. Because it was becoming a public issue before the conference and people knew they were meeting, the bishops felt something had to be said.
"I thought it was a very healthy compromise at least for the present moment," he said.
The church law and teachings are very clear, he said, but bishops have a real diversity of opinions.
A representative of the Pittsburgh diocese, which includes Lawrence County, said Bishop Wuerl's public address May 25 reflects the bishop's views.
His address said that the first responsibility in the matter lies with the individual Catholic presenting himself for communion.
"Another way to focus the issue [about when to refuse communion] is on the individual Catholic who approaches the Eucharist. Should people, any and all persons, who are not living in conformity with the church's moral teaching and/or who reject it come forward to receive communion?"
The pastor's responsibility is "to provide adequate and clear teaching on both the nature of abortion and the separate issue of voting in support of abortion legislation." The next step might be a private discussion, Bishop Wuerl said, and it may become necessary for the bishop to point out publicly that a politician's position or voting record contradicts church teachings.