Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cardinal O'Malley and schism

On July 29, 2003, Archbishop Sean O'Malley issued a statement through his Archdiocese's Public Release Office in which he said that, "a Catholic politician who holds a public, pro-choice position should not be receiving Communion..." To this he added: "The Church presumes that each person is receiving in good faith. It is not our policy to deny Communion. It is up to the individual."

As well-known Catholic author Barbara Kralis has noted in an article which addresses the Archbishop's statement, such a presumption "is obviously faulty." Kralis rightfully reminded her readers of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which states that: "those who...obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Communion."

Indeed, in a memorandum sent by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and addressed to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick as head of the Ad Hoc Task Force for Catholic politicians, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that, "regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."

Now, there are some who are suggesting (or are saying outright) that Cardinal O'Malley is in schism since he has said that "It is not our policy to deny Communion." One Catholic blogger regularly refers to "Sean's schism" (reverence for pastors is not a strong suit in this woman's brand of Catholicism). An individual who frequents the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website wrote that, "The Pope said that pro-abortion politicians like John Kerry should be denied the Eucharist, but Archbishop O'Malley said he would give the Eucharist to Kerry," and then asked: "Is that a refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him?"

The answer, as Dr. Germain Grisez explains, is that "Those who simply disobey a precept or law, while acknowledging its authority, are not schismatic. Neither are those who refuse to submit to a particular ecclesiastical precept or law they believe to be illegitimate. Nor are religious who refuse to submit to their superiors but do submit to the pope and their own bishop."

St. Thomas Aquinas makes it clear that schism is not just any kind of disobedience. He explains that schism is a distinct sin from other sins, and refutes the erroneous opinion which suggests that since schismatics are those "who do not obey the Church" and since every kind of sin involves some sort of disobedience to the Church, there is really no specific difference between schism and other offenses. Aquinas explains further (Q. 39, a.1, ad 2) that the essence of schism is in "rebelliously disobeying [the Church's] commandments. I say 'rebelliously' because the schismatic shows obstinate scorn for the Church's commandments and refuses to submit to her judgment. Not every sinner does that; and so not every sin is schism."

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia affirms this teaching: "not every disobedience is schism; in order to possess this character it must include besides the transgression of the commands of superiors, denial of their Divine right to command" (Vol. 13, p.529a, s.v. "Schism").

Those who insist that His Eminence Sean Cardinal O'Malley is in "schism" will be hard-pressed to make a case from Canon Law. For some twelve years, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre defied the Holy See's declaration that he was suspended from the exercise of his priestly and episcopal functions. However, he was never accused by Rome of schism. Lefebvre continued to offer Holy Mass and even to ordain priests for the SSPX from 1976 until 1988 and still Rome never accused him of schism. It wasn't until he illicitly consecrated four bishops in 1988 that he was accused of schism and was excommunicated.

Those individuals who have accused Cardinal O'Malley of being in schism have calumniated him. Let's pray that these individuals will repent of their calumny.

Until next time,
God love you
Paul Anthony Melanson

1 comment:

Dave said...

I haven't seen any strong argument from Canon Law showing how Cardinal O'Malley is in schism. This because there isn't one.

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