The Confraternity for Catholic Clergy, ably led by Fr. John Trigilio, has responded to an open letter by 18 Catholic Democrats— who took issue with the Pope saying that Catholics have to acts like Catholics—with a response of their own.
Your letter of May 10th is self-incriminating. While criticizing the Pope for doing his job as supreme pastor, you yourselves betray your own duplicity as Catholic lawmakers. The supreme pastor of the universal church has jurisdiction over every Catholic Christian in the world. Canon Law makes it clear that every baptized Catholic is under the authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Hence, when the Roman Pontiff upholds and enforces the Divine Positive and the Natural Moral Laws, he is not interfering with man-made civil law, rather, he is reminding you of its subservience to the higher laws to which it must conform for the common good of all.
They then quote Canon 1398—“a person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”—and then quotes Pope Benedict when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 as telling US bishops “a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.” While the cardinal didn’t specifically extend the excommunication to the politicians, he did say they should not present themselves for Communion. And rightly so, says canonist Ed Peters, since he says no interpretation of the Code of Canon Law and specifically Canon 1398 would extend that law to pro-abortion politicians.
Regardless of the application of that canon, the Confraternity scoffs at the Democrats’ claim that the Pope is interfering in US politics.
Pope Benedict is merely reminding Catholic Americans that their first and foremost loyalty is to God and the common good. Any and all civil laws which contradict the Divine and/or the Natural Law are invalid and have no obligation upon anyone. If that were not the case, then slavery, segregation and anti-Semitism would have to be tolerated if some legislature or court upheld laws supporting these atrocities.
These Catholic Democrats—and all Catholic Americans—have to come to a greater understanding of the relative priority of their personal obligations. First and foremost, a Catholic’s duty is toward God and by extension to the Truths given by God for our salvation as safeguarded and transmitted by the Church.