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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  March 19, 2007
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"Catholic" Politicians Must Choose: Promote Life or Pander to Secular Extremists

The 2008 presidential election is on.  "Catholic" politicians must choose: on life issues, pro or con.  If they choose con, their right to identify themselves as faithful Catholics and to receive Holy Communion will be gone.

 A substantial number of America's leading politicians who are baptized Catholics, mostly but not entirely Democrats, face the choice of repenting and becoming faithful Catholics and resenting and committing what the Second Vatican Council called the "separation between faith and life" and condemned  as “among the more serious errors of our age."

 On March 13, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a 100+-page apostolic exhortation called Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Love), explaining that Catholic politicians have a "non-negotiable" duty to oppose practices like abortion and euthanasia and reaffirmed the Catholic Church's position that political leaders who endorse these anti-life practices should voluntarily refuse communion.

Pope Benedict reiterated that all Catholics have a duty to uphold the Church's pro-life teachings and that the responsibility is "especially incumbent" on those in positions of power.

The key word is reiterated: this teaching is not new.

In a section on "Eucharistic consistency", Pope Benedict stated unequivocally that the  "non negotiable" values to which Catholic politicians must adhere include "respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms."

Pope Benedict: "Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature."

Note that a conscience must be "properly formed."

The so-called right of conscience argument invoked by "Catholic" politicians who pander to the secular extremists is an artifice.

Father James Poumade expertly exposed the fallacy of the superficially appealing right-of-conscience argument in readily understandable terms:

 “What about the role of conscience? Doesn’t individual conscience affect this decision? In fact, some may say, didn’t Vatican II say that individual conscience had to be respected above all? The Second Vatican Council was, in fact, abundantly clear on this matter. The Council’s document Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World declares: “Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Long since, the Prophets of the Old Testament fought vehemently against this scandal and even more so did Jesus Christ Himself in the New Testament threaten it with grave punishments. Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other… to the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.”

 "For this reason," Father Poumade continued, "the Vatican has said plainly: ‘A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.’

 “Why? Because primacy of conscience and church-state separation do not and can not mean ‘anything goes.’ If that mistaken idea were so, then if one’s conscience said it was okay to hate Jews and blacks, you could do that and it would be just fine morally. But we can’t do that. It’s wrong. And if there were an election involving whether or not Jews and blacks should be treated as human beings, then such a misunderstanding of church-state separation and the freedom of conscience, would mean that the Church could not say anything about the dignity of Jewish and African-American people, simply because a politician had mentioned it, or our consciences did not feel guilty. The Civil War and the Second World War give us ample historical proof of the folly of such a line of thought. We can only follow our conscience if it is in line with truth, with moral truth. That moral truth is expressed by the formal teachings of the Church. If our consciences are opposed to that, then our consciences are stunted. Morality is not something debated and made up. It is conformity to the will of God for us and for society. God decides what is moral, not man. No election can determine what is right and wrong – only if we as a nation will choose to follow the right path – or the wrong one.” 

Pope Benedict did not tolerate the profane, indeed sacrilegious and publicly scandalous, practices of opportunistic "Catholic" politicians who profess to be practicing Catholics but refuse to promote fundamental Catholic values and instead violate them, presenting themselves to receive Holy Communion and being accommodated instead or refused and educated by some of the persons entrusted with the great responsibility of distributing Holy Communion in accordance with Canon Law.

Pope Benedict explained, "There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist," referencing  1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ("Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

Canon 915 specifically excludes from Holy Communion “[t]hose…who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” Lest there be confusion, Canon 915 specifies not that those persons shall not present themselves for Holy Communion, but that they “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

That puts the onus on the dispensers of Holy Communion to refuse the unfit who nevertheless present themselves for Holy Communion when their unfitness is “manifest.”

Pope John Paul II, in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, emphasized that Canon 915 obligates those who dispense Holy Communion not to do so blindly:

“[I]n cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.” 

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts previously had issued an interpretation of Canon 915 in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It stated in unambiguous terms:

“Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.”

Responsibility for implementing Canon 915 was delegated to priests (not bishops):

“The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.”

And compliance with Canon 915 is mandatory, not discretionary.

“….the obligation of reiterating this impossibility of admission to the Eucharist is required for genuine pastoral care and for an authentic concern for the well-being of these faithful and of the whole Church, being that it indicates the conditions necessary for the fullness of that conversion to which all are always invited by the Lord….”

The declaration specified the way Canon 915 must be interpreted and its three required conditions as follows:

“The phrase ‘and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable. The three required conditions are:

a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability;

b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.

c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.”

On August 30, 2004,  Marc A. Balestrieri, the young canon lawyer who boldly denounced several Catholic politicians as heretics, beginning with Senator John Kerry, in ecclesiastical proceedings, with his heresy case against Senator Kerry stalled in the Boston Archdiocese,  made a written request to the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith to confirm the principles on which his heresy case is based.

At the request of the undersecretary of the Congregation, Mr. Balestrieri received a letter dated September 11, 2004 unofficially responding to his request that he made public on October 15.

That letter concluded:

”To commit the sin of heresy, you do not have to deny solemnly defined truths of the faith only. It suffices to deny truths contrary to the manifest understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, such as denying the truth of any of the ten commandments Thomas himself occasionally calls people heretics who deny the manifest and obvious sense of biblical texts. This isn’t to say that moral teachings cannot be defined because some very few have been defined solemnly by the Church especially the Council of Trent on marriage, and against polygamy.

“So, if I obstinately deny by teaching and preaching, or doubt that abortion is not intrinsically evil, I commit the mortal sin of heresy. All things being equal, I am automatically excommunicated according to the provision of Can. 1364, § 1, provided that the presaumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty (Can 15, § 2) and imputability (Can. 1321, § 3) are not rebutted in the external forum:

"With due regard for can. 194, § 1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs automatic excommunication….


”It should be obvious from all that I’ve said that for anyone to maintain a right to abortion piggybacks on the heresy and becomes part of its darkness,

“Consequently, 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. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty (Can. 15, § 2) and imputability (Can. 1321, § 3) are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated according to Can. 1364, § 1.”

Bishops are obligated to monitor whether elected officials in their local churches should NOT be receiving Holy Communion because of a violation of the Church's pro-life teachings.  Or, as Pope Benedict put it, "Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them."

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had unambiguously written in a Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life: “[t]here cannot be two parallel lives…the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and…the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.”

That Doctrinal Note had emphasized that lay Catholics, in fulfilling civic duties, are to be “‘guided by a Christian conscience,’ in conformity with its values,” and that “their proper task [is] infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their  particular competence and responsibility."

That Doctrinal Note had categorically rejected the claims that citizens have “complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices and lawmakers…are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends, as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value.” 

That Doctrinal Note had distinguished legitimate and illegitimate freedom.  It had explicitly respected “the legitimate freedom of Catholic citizens to choose among the various political opinions that are compatible with faith and the natural moral law, and to select, according to their own criteria, what best corresponds to the needs of the common good.”  (Emphasis added.)

“Political freedom is not – and cannot be – based upon the relativistic idea that all conceptions of the human person’s good have the same value and truth,” the Doctrinal Note had warned.

That Doctrinal Note had rejected moral relativism and related the essential basis of democracy in the clearest terms:  “If Christians must ‘recognize the legitimacy of differing points of view about the organization of worldly affairs,’ they are also called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism. Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society.”  (Emphasis added.)

With respect to abortion, that Doctrinal Note was categorical: “John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”  (Emphasis added.) 

 That language made it crystal clear that Senators like Kerry, Edward M. Kennedy and Susan Collins, Governors like Mario Cuomo, Mayors like Rudy Giuliani and members of the House of Represaentatives like Nancy Pelosi have regularly and notoriously put political considerations ahead of their fundamental duty as Catholics and must repent or be refused Holy Communion until they do repent.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to,,, and and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is

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