Hit & Run

Kerry: Catholic No More!

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So says a report in Catholic World News. Michael Balestrieri, a Los Angeles canon lawyer, says:

"I went to Rome in person to submit two critical questions to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith," said Balestrieri. "The first: Whether or not the Church's teaching condemning any direct abortion is a dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith, and if the denial and doubt of the same constitutes heresy. The second: Whether or not a denial of the Church's teaching condemning every right to abortion also constitutes heresy. Father Cole, an expert theologian who studied the matter carefully, responded in the affirmative on both counts."

Father Cole wrote, "If a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code [of Canon Law]. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty and imputability are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated …."

Father Basil Cole's letter to Balestrieri can be found in full here.

Will it matter? This poll of 2,239 Catholics finds only 24 percent of them think they have a religious obligation to vote against a candidate who supports legal abortion.

UPDATE: Good Father Cole was only speaking for himself, says this Catholic News Service report:

Vatican officials contacted by CNS Oct. 19 said they did not agree with Father Cole's conclusion that Kerry has incurred excommunication.

"You can incur excommunication 'latae sententiae' (automatically) only if you procure or perform an abortion," one said.

In Washington, Father Cole told CNS the Holy See "gets these requests … tons of them," and that Father DiNoia asked him to respond to Balestrieri in a private capacity.

"I have no relationship to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … and the letter that I wrote to Balestrieri was purely private," he told CNS Oct. 19. "I wrote it as a private theologian, not with any authority. It has no authority whatsoever.