Religious Censure

Today St Louis Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke indicated that he would refuse communion to presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani because of his pro-choice position. In response Rudy said that the archbishop had a right to his opinion. My purpose in posting today is not to debate that specific instance but to ask the question:

Should religious leaders censure politicians based on their political positions? If so, which leaders should censure?

In Rudy's case the censure is pretty inconsequential (at least to him personally) because Rudy doesn't live in St Louis but I think that a censure by Rudy's priest, bishop or the pope might be more impactful. But I guess what I am really thinking about is a censure by someone like Dr James Dobson who (in a sense) censured Fred Thomson because he did not support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

What do you think that the role of our religious leaders should be on issues like this? Should they assume the prophetic mantle of an Old Testament prophet and condemn (what they believe are somewhat) sinful political positions? It seems to me that our religious leaders do have a responsibility to be a prophetic voice but on what issues should they prophesy to our leaders about? Should they be censuring a candidate about their personal sins, their political positions or both?


  1. LOL! Great question. ;-D

    I'm positive our religious leaders should censure men, even when the man is a political candidate. But should they politically censure candidates for political points. No, I don't guess I think the kingdom of God should be lowered in that way.

    But I might be pretty easy to sway away from that position.

  2. Hmmm. What harm would be caused by communing with Giuliani? I'm wondering out of ignorance- I truly don't remember touching on this in communion class 20 years ago. Could he not perhaps be struggling with some of these issues in his head, and between himself and God, I thought communion was open to all who had been baptized, regardless of sin, and wouldn't God decide what he wanted to do about Rudy?

  3. Let's see how to start:

    1. He favors gay marriage.
    2. He favors embyronic stem cell research.
    3. His marriage(s) are completely irregular.

    He has put himself into both a position of public scandal (by taking positions 1 and 2, he is implying that these are the actions of a faithful Christian) and he is in direct opposition to his stated faith by flouting the marriage requirements.

    Burke is absolutely right and it's lovely to see some episcopal spine. He didn't specifically call Giuliani by name, but he said that any politician who claims to be Catholic but is openly defying the truth taught by the faith has broken communion and should be kept from further sin (why should he be encouraged "to eat and drink perdition to himself"?) and from scandalizing the faithful.

    Someone who earnestly thought themselves a Christian but was being told that they were in grave sin should be all over that - asking, crying out for the Truth. But Giuliani is paying lip service to a faith life to pretend he's one of us. Bull pooh.

    Yay, ++Burke!

  4. A few more interesting excerpts from that article:

    => Some U.S. (RC) bishops interpret church teaching to say that an individual examination of conscience, not a minister, should dictate whether a person is worthy to receive the sacrament.

    => A number of other Catholic presidential candidates also have abortion-rights stances in apparent conflict with church teaching. Giuliani is the only Catholic among the top-tier candidates.

    => Giuliani, a Republican, sometimes evokes his Catholic upbringing as he campaigns for president, yet he declines to say whether he is a practicing Catholic.

  5. Of course my question is a larger one than just one about Giuliani.

  6. Yes, I see your question as whether ministers should hold politicians accountable in public.

    Yep. Not only for the good of their souls, but for the whole Church. The Church must be able to protect her Sacraments, and counsel her people.

    If I have broken communion with Jesus and His Church by my serious but private sin, and go to Communion anyway, then the sacriliege is mine alone, if nobody is drawn into similar sin because of me. A priest who knew of my sin and my stubborn lack of repentance (let's say), would be right to withhold communion from me quietly, to keep my soul from further sacrilege. But a public politician who claims Christianity AND abortion on demand needs to be called out.

    In other words, public people, public sin, public censuring.

    The other politicians? ++Burke, by not referring to Giuliani by name, meant them all. He was only answering a reporter's question, and she/he brought up Giuliani.

  7. So, is it a sin for a politician to be pro-choice even if they are not pro-abortion?

  8. How can you be pro-"choice" and NOT be pro-abortion? The "choice" means (in these days, at least) to kill a baby.

    If you mean pro-non-abortifacient-contraception, I doubt it is.

    There's another point to your discussion I think got missed (although maybe this is a dead horse topic now. If you think a minister is a spiritual father, then they have the built-in right to chastise a child. If they're a teacher, then they don't. To you, is a minister principally a father or a teacher?

  9. I guess before I censored someone over being pro-choice I might want to have a discussion with them. I guess that this speaks to the relational aspect of censure and one's genuine care for one's soul.

    In my opinion, both the archbishop and Dr Dobson weren't so concerned for anyone's spiritual state but they were simply trying to influence the American political landscape by making points about abortion and the Federal Marriage amendment.

    I do think that a pastor (whether they be called that or priest or minister) is a shepherd that cares for the flock. I am not sure that Giuliani or Thompson have such people in their lives ... certainly Dobson and the archbishop of St Louis couldn't be considered spiritual fathers to either of these men.

  10. I absolutely agree with this TZ:

    "How can you be pro-"choice" and NOT be pro-abortion?"

    Mainly because the choice of the baby is not considered. That said, I wish that everyone would use anti-abortion / pro-abortion instead of pro-life / pro-choice because it is more specific.

    Sad that so many people are anti-abortion and there Roe is still the law. I think that we should vote on it!

  11. Refuse communion. I don’t think that we have the right to refuse communion to anyone. If I take communion and sin against God then that is my sin. I guess that many of us aren’t worthy of communion in the Bishops eyes.

    I think that the Bishop has every right to voice his opinion on issues at hand. I also think that the Catholic Church has a very weak standing right now.

  12. If your understanding of communion is fellowship, then Milly's got a point - we shouldn't shun someone who is in the wrong, we should welcome them and teach them.

    But if your understanding of communion is sacramental, then you have a duty to deny it to someone who sins further and deeper by receiving in a state of broken relationship with Jesus.

    I know that there have been months, years of private attempts to reach Giuliani by letter, phone, meeting, by some of his local pastors/priests. He's stonewalled everybody. Burke, AGAIN, was not singling him out, he was expressing what the church teaches in response to a question.

    What "weak standing," Milly? You must be confusing us with the poor Episcopalians...


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