The debate over whether pro-abortion politicians should be barred from Communion, which had been simmering in the US for years, came to a boil in 2004, when the Democratic Party nominated Senator John Kerry, a Catholic with an unmixed record of support for legal abortion, for the presidency. With prominent prelates split, the US bishops’ conference formed a committee to address the question, with then-Cardinal McCarrick as chairman.
The McCarrick committee sought advice from the Vatican, and received a reply from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. McCarrick never voluntarily disclosed the contents of Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter.
When the US bishops gathered in Denver for their annual meeting, McCarrick reported that although his committee was not ready with a final report—and would not be ready until well after the November election—he thought it was not “pastorally wise and prudent” to deny Communion to anyone, because it could “turn the Eucharist into a perceived source of political combat.”
In making that judgment, McCarrick claimed that he had the support of Cardinal Ratzinger. He conceded that Ratzinger “recognizes that there are circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied.” But he claimed that the Vatican official “clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors, and leaders whether to pursue this path.” That was false.
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