Tuesday, May 22, 2007
In Salon.com, Frances Kissling writes, "Catholic officials keep threatening to excommunicate pro-choice politicians and activists like me. I think they're bluffing, and canon law is on my side." From her opinion piece:
Every so often some Roman Catholic hierarch gets a bee in his beanie and makes noises about excommunicating some pro-choice policy maker. Ultra-orthodox Catholics are ecstatic, and even mainstream newspapers turn into tabloids rushing to report the imminence of something that never happens. I pay attention to this stuff. Right-wing Catholics have been pleading with the Vatican to excommunicate me along with Mario Cuomo, Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy and Ellie Smeal for about 20 years. They frequently announce that I have excommunicated myself because of my pro-choice views, but as is true for 99.9 percent of pro-choice Catholics, no one who could actually excommunicate me has ever done so.
In response to Church leaders' suggestions that pro-choice legislators and activists have excommunicated themselves by virtue of their support of abortion rights, Kissling responds:
In reality, it is quite difficult to excommunicate yourself, even if you do have an abortion. Only seven acts merit automatic excommunication, and only three of those acts can be committed by laypeople. One of them is to attempt to assassinate the pope, another is profaning the Host (the Communion wafer), and the last is to successfully perform or have an abortion. No attempted or actual "murder" other than abortion subjects you to the ultimate penalty of automatic excommunication -- you can massacre thousands of civilians in war and, while you will surely have sinned, you are not automatically excommunicated.
She goes on to explain that automatic excommunication for having an abortion is subject to exceptions that would exonerate many if not most women who have had abortions.