Pope Benedict XVI quickly steered the Catholic Church in reverse when he succeeded Pope John Paul II, who died on April 2, 2005. As a “tough-talking” Pope who is thoroughly dedicated to the more traditional views of the Catholic Church, a fact that he expresses by the attire he chooses to wear, he quickly reversed many John Paul II’s more future-looking changes.
Dismissing his predecessor’s declaration that Hell is not an actual place, rather a state of being, who said of Hell that it is, “…the ultimate consequence of sin itself. Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.” The new Pope, preferring a nostalgic return to a more “Hell and brim fire” type of sermon, redefined the Church’s view of Hell, “[It] really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much anymore.”
However, idea of Hell isn’t the only John Paul II doctrine that the right-leaning Pope is willing to overturn. Indeed, the new Pope is beginning to lay the foundation for cannon that could have serious consequences for the viability of an already troubled US Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI is lending his voice, power, and authority to a movement that seeks to not only deny communion, but to excommunicate politicians who support a woman’s right to choose.
While traveling en route to Brazil from Rome, a reported asked the Pope what his feelings are about an abortion debate in Mexico City, where lawmakers had pushed through a law legalizing abortion. Bishops in the city responded that in by passing this measure, the politicians had excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church.
When asked if he agreed with such a strong character assassination of the men and women who passed the law, Benedict XVI said “Yes,” and further elaborated, “The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the code [of canon law]. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they [the bishops] didn't do anything new or anything surprising, or arbitrary.”
The response from Mexico City was that of harsh criticism. “I did my duty as a legislator and as a woman," said Leticia Quezada, one of the law's chief backers. "I voted to address a crisis of public health. I will continue to be a believer. The church has no right to interfere in my conscience.”
This brings back overtones of Catholic interference in the 2004 US Presidential elections. John Kerry, the Democratic Party’s nominee, and first major Roman Catholic candidate since his hero, John F. Kennedy, won the white house in 1960, faced an assault from Vatican City.
At the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a memo to American Bishops ordering them to deny communion to politicians who have a pro-choice stance on Abortion. Though not mentioned specifically by name, the memo was clearly targeted at Sen. Kerry.
“Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.” If a politician “still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.
Cardinal Ratzinger is now famously known as Pope Benedict XVI.
As a result of the order, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke made an announcement that he would deny Kerry communion while he was campaigning in the area; though Kerry did not intend to worship during his visit. Both Ratzinger and Burke’s motives were politically motivated.
Catholics in this country make up 27% of the voting public. In 2004, they voted 52% for George W. Bush and 47% for John Kerry. There is no doubt that the Republican Party did benefit from Then Cardinal Ratzinger’s actions.
In the coming election, between both parties there are a total of seven Catholic candidates. Biden, Dodd, Kucinich, and Richardson for the Democrats, with Brownback, Giuliani and Tommy Thompson on the Republican side.
Of those seven, only Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is completely opposed to all forms of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is pro-life, but is also pro-stem cell research, and has a history of supporting abortion in cases of rape, incest and for the health of the mother.
In this contest, candidates from both parties may become targets of the Vatican. In a scenario where the Church aggressively attacks US politicians from both sides of the isle, it may irreparably damage the institution’s image and political power in the United States.
Already suffering from low attendance, historically low tithing, a lack of interest from youths, the backlash of a scandal where Benedict XVI recently called Mohammad evil, and a child molestation conspiracy that is still fresh in the minds of Americans, launching unbridled attacks against elected officials in the US could be the measure that permanently ostracizes the Holy See from politics in America and lead to the collapse of the institution as a whole in the United States, and the complete removal of any moral power that it once had in the eyes of the public.