Has Denying Communion Lost Its Political Luster?
(RNS) — When Catholic bishops threatened to deny Communion to then-presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 over his abortion stance, the ensuing media frenzy was described as “haunting” the Democrat’s campaign for months.
But this year, when Vice President Joe Biden was denied Communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina for roughly the same reasons, coverage barely lasted a week.
According to experts, the practice — at least as a political statement if not a theological one — may be played out.
“The challenge of Catholics who campaign for policies that violate fundamental Catholic teaching is real, but not new, nor confined to abortion,” John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, said in an email. “Refusing communion for public positions was widely discussed and rejected by almost all bishops and pastors years ago.”
Indeed, denying Communion may have lost some of its shock value in today’s political climate, where avoiding Eucharistic rejection has become a normalized part of campaigns for many Catholic politicians. In a world where U.S. Catholics have long accepted ideological divides on abortion — and where many Catholic officials decline to discuss the topic of Communion refusal — the once deeply controversial practice appears to be more theological curiosity than campaign killer.
The latest chapter in a long-simmering Catholic Communion controversy began last month when the Rev. Robert Morey at St. Anthony Catholic Church in
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