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Another Question, Another Answer


Andrew Sullivan also writes: “Here’s the question I’m still wrestling with. If a judge were to say that he supports Roe because he believes that there is a right to privacy in the Constitution and that that right applies to a woman’s ownership of her own body, and thereby the right to abort an unborn child, would that trigger the church hierarchy’s removal of that judge from the communion rail? And how could that threat not affect a judge’s rulings as a matter of fact?” (emphasis his).

Let me break this into two questions: first, what does someone like me, who believes that the bishops ought to apply a general policy of refusing communion to politicians who support “abortion rights,” think should be done in this case; second, what would the hierarchy actually be likely to do.

On the first question: I don’t think this would be likely to be something that the church hierarchy could or should try to resolve. It would have to be handled in the confessional. The question for confessor and penitent alike would be, is the judge’s decision, however sound or unsound the reasoning on which it was based may be, consistent with willing justice for the unborn? If the judge honestly (if erroneously) concluded both that the Constitution includes a right to privacy and that this constitutional right extends to abortion–and did not reach these conclusions by in any way assuming that the law should treat the unborn as disposable–then I would think that he would still be eligible for communion without having to repent his decision. To put it somewhat loosely: The judge would have to be able to wish that the Constitution were different than he thinks it is.

On the second: I highly doubt that anything would happen. It’s not as though most bishops are clamoring to take action in more clear-cut cases. Only a handful have acted.


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