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Canon Fire

November 2, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

Every few years, a priest does his job — in this case, following canon law — and it raises a ruckus. On Sunday, October 27 former Vice President Joe Biden, Democrat candidate for president, attended the 9:00 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony’s Parish in Florence, S.C. When Biden approached to receive Communion, Pastor Robert Morey quietly refused him.
Fr. Morey was obeying canon 915, which reads, “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
The following Monday, Fr. Morey wrote in a statement to the Florence Morning News: “Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden. Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”
He told the Morning News “that as a priest, it is his responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to his care and that he must do so in even the most difficult situations.”
“I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,” Morey added.
Fr. Morey is known to many of our readers as a skilled Washington lawyer and a longtime member of the Board of Christendom College before he entered the seminary. As for Joe Biden, he often boasts of his support of abortion “rights,” same-sex “marriage,” transsexuals, and taxpayer funding of abortion. He has steadily adapted and refined these positions since the days when he first ran for the Senate as a pro-life Catholic in 1972. What will happen now? First, some background.

Pondering “An Internal
Catechetical Challenge”

In 2007, Raymond Cardinal Burke addressed the importance of canon 915. His scholarly article was published in Periodica De Re Canonica, entitled “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin.”
The article had a profound impact, appearing in one of the Church’s most prestigious canon law journals. Cardinal Burke began by explaining some background. “During the election campaign of 2004 in the United States of America, some Bishops found themselves under question by other Bishops regarding the application of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law in the case of Catholic politicians who publicly, after admonition, continue to support legislation favoring procured abortion and other legislation contrary to the natural moral law.”
Cardinal Burke’s article was not universally popular. In fact, he had singled out Donald Wuerl, then bishop of Pittsburgh, as having misconstrued the canon. But Pope Benedict XVI clearly approved. A year he named Cardinal Burke the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome.
But that same year, Barack Obama was elected president, and Joe Biden was his running mate. Biden was thus the most prominent Catholic politician in America.
In that same election, Democrats won both the House and Senate. America’s bishops, ignoring canon 915, turned their attention to their three highest political priorities: the passage of a national health-care bill; legalizing the millions of illegal aliens in the country; and continuing the desperately needed federal taxpayer funding of the bishops’ NGOs (especially Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services), as well as their immigration and refugee operations.
The results were mixed. Bishops had supported Obamacare, with assurance that the legislation would not fund abortions. “We were kind of an early supporter” of Obamacare, Timothy Cardinal Dolan told Meet the Press in 2012. In fact, the bishops had wanted to be Obama’s “cheerleaders,” he said. But all this was to no avail. Surprise — Obama hadn’t told them the truth.
When the bishops realized they’d been lied to, their furtive last-minute efforts proved futile, and Obamacare was passed with abortion funding. (Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the pro-Obamacare Catholic Health Association, supported the bill as passed, and proudly appeared behind Obama when he signed it into law.)
And then came the diabolical “HHS Contraceptive Mandate.” Yes, Cardinal Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, was “chagrined,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2012. But who understood why contraception was such a big deal? After all, most bishops hadn’t taught Humanae Vitae for over forty years.
Cardinal Dolan then uttered one of the most plaintive mea culpas ever made by an American prelate. “I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge — a towering one — in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach,” he said.
Properly parsed, Dolan’s “we teach” should read, “what Holy Mother Church teaches but we haven’t taught.”
By 2014, it was clear that the bishops had abandoned not only the teaching of the unpopular moral teachings of the Church, but Church law itself. In September of that year, when a reporter asked Dolan about canon 915, the cardinal casually replied that “most [bishops] don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”
But wait — couldn’t Cardinal Burke, from his position of authority in the Vatican, give a powerful nudge to his brother bishops in the U.S.?
Too late. Pope Francis was now in charge, and in November 2014, he removed Cardinal Burke from his post at the Signatura.

Saving Souls
Or Saving Face?

The Biden incident brings to mind another case of a priest following canon 915. In 2012, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, a missionary priest belonging to the Moscow (Russia) Archdiocese, served as an assistant parish in a Maryland parish belonging to the Washington Archdiocese (where he had been born). Just before Guarnizo celebrated the funeral Mass for a parishioner, the daughter of the deceased barged into the sacristy to introduce herself and her lesbian “partner.” When she approached to receive Communion during the Mass, Fr. Guarnizo quietly explained she could not receive.
The lesbian, one Barbara Johnson, went to The Washington Post, and the incident became a flashpoint for the archdiocese which comprised the most powerful sodomite political population in the country.
But now Donald Wuerl wasn’t just the bishop of Pittsburgh, he was cardinal archbishop of Washington, where he never enforced Canon 915.
When the “Guarnizo Case” erupted, Wuerl handed the issue off to his auxiliary bishop, Barry Knestout. Knestout, without discussing the incident with Guarnizo, wrote Johnson a groveling apology. “I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” he wrote. The Washington Post then published the “private” letter.
Knestout immediately placed Fr. Guarnizo “on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed.” Guarnizo later wrote that, in the brief meeting to which he had been summoned, “The letter was already sealed on the table before the conversation began.” Very typical of Wuerl.
Meanwhile the lesbian Johnson gloated. “We are hopeful that Bishop Knestout’s decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family,” she wrote in a public statement.
Wuerl served on the Vatican congregation in charge of recommending bishops to the Holy Father. Pope Francis named Bishop Knestout head of the Richmond Diocese after the untimely death of Bishop DiLorenzo in 2017.
And what of Joe Biden? Will he whine to Charleston Bishop Robert Guglielmone of “the traumatic experiences brought upon our family” by Fr. Morey’s action last Sunday?
Bishop Francis Malooly, Biden’s hometown ordinary, wouldn’t mind. “Bishop Malooly has consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist, and will continue to do so,” the Wilmington diocesan paper announced.
Fr. Morey writes that he is praying for Joe Biden. And we should be praying for Fr. Morey.

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