Thursday, June 3, 2004

Pilarczyk deflects sacrament issue

Archbishop awaits study before he'll deny Communion

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

At least four American bishops said they would deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights. So far, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk is not among them.

Pilarczyk is in Boston this week for a summit of Catholic and Orthodox leaders and did not respond to requests for interviews. But while in Rome last month for his ad limina visit - a tradition in which a bishop gives a five-year report on his diocese - Pilarczyk spoke to the National Catholic Reporter.

In the interview, Pilarczyk wrestled with the issue but ultimately left it up to a special task force of American bishops headed by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of Washington.

"It seems to me we need to be very cautious about denying people the sacraments on the basis of what they say they believe, especially when those are political beliefs. So Kerry believes abortion is a good thing for our society, let's say. Do you refuse him Communion on the basis of his opinions?" Pilarczyk said. "What about people who don't like the church's teaching on the death penalty, or on homosexual marriages? Are we going to refuse them?"

He even joked that he hoped the candidates would visit on any day but Sunday. But if the Kerry bus does roll into St. Peter in Chains Cathedral next week, "I think you presume he's in good faith and you give him Communion until the issue can be more definitively resolved."

Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys was out of town this week and could not be reached.

William Madges, the chairman of the Theology Department at Xavier University, said Pilarczyk isn't prone to rash judgments.

"He's right there in the middle, which is a difficult place to be," he said. "He takes his responsibility as a bishop rather seriously, and he will do whatever the universal church decides."

Madges said the episode again points to the conflict between the hierarchical, dogmatic church culture and the pluralistic, democratic American culture - and said it will inevitably increase tensions within the church.

"We have conservative Catholics and liberal Catholics, and we're not talking to each other," he said. "I think it will get people to think about the future of the American Catholic Church and what it means to be both American and Catholic."


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