Excommunicate all Obama supporters?

Douglas Kmiec is a pro-life conservative Republican, but he is supporting Barack Obama for president. For this, a Catholic priest has denied him communion.

The California law professor is a leading “Obamacon,” the new term for a conservative who is in favor of Obama. Kmiec says he is voting for him in spite of the candidate’s pro-abortion views, thinking that his call for sexual responsibility will reduce the number of abortions while still keeping them legal. See E. J. Dionne Jr. – For an ‘Obamacon,’ Communion Denied.

Do you think this priest went a little too far? Denying communion to a lawmaker whose actions to legalize abortion contribute to the evil is one thing, but should this extend to someone who votes for that candidate?

According to the official policy of the Catholic bishops, it can be permissible to vote for a pro-choice candidate as long as your “intention” is not to promote abortion. That would seem to rule this priest’s action as being out of line, but is this distinction just an example of Catholic casuistry? On the other hand, would excommunicating voters constitute an impermissible interference of church with state?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Trey

    Unless Douglas Kmiec explicitly comes out and says I am supporting Obama for his abortion views then refusing to commune Him is in line with God’s Word. However, if he is saying only that he will vote for Obama then he should not be excommunicated for it. The breach of receiving Communion or not is unrepentance and or unbelief. Not voting for a candidate that has liberal views.

  • Trey

    Unless Douglas Kmiec explicitly comes out and says I am supporting Obama for his abortion views then refusing to commune Him is in line with God’s Word. However, if he is saying only that he will vote for Obama then he should not be excommunicated for it. The breach of receiving Communion or not is unrepentance and or unbelief. Not voting for a candidate that has liberal views.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I think that this priest was way out of line. There is more to a candidate than one issue. You’ve got abortion on one side and war on the other. How do you pick between those two. Besides, even if Mccain were elected there is still only so much he can do to overturn RoevsWade. Bush has been in office 8 years and abortion is still legal.

    Even though I consider myself very conservative, I think that the best approach is to reduce the number of abortions and address the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place. Changing the law will only drive abortions underground, never addressing the causes.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I think that this priest was way out of line. There is more to a candidate than one issue. You’ve got abortion on one side and war on the other. How do you pick between those two. Besides, even if Mccain were elected there is still only so much he can do to overturn RoevsWade. Bush has been in office 8 years and abortion is still legal.

    Even though I consider myself very conservative, I think that the best approach is to reduce the number of abortions and address the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place. Changing the law will only drive abortions underground, never addressing the causes.

  • http://utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/ Bror Erickson

    I think this priest is a bit out of line, way out of line. It is one thing to put a little pressure on the politicians. It is another thing to start excommunicating based on who one voted for or supported.
    However, war isn’t half the moral issue that abortion is.

  • http://utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/ Bror Erickson

    I think this priest is a bit out of line, way out of line. It is one thing to put a little pressure on the politicians. It is another thing to start excommunicating based on who one voted for or supported.
    However, war isn’t half the moral issue that abortion is.

  • Booklover

    On the one hand, it seems ludicrous to deny communion to a voter who supports a liberal candidate. A huge portion of Catholics are Democrats, have voted that way for decades, and have refused to change their vote even when the Demos went pro-abort. How is that priest dealing with the rest of his congregants? Good grief–you can’t excommunicate them all.

    On the other hand, at least the Catholics stand for something; and they take communion seriously. That is more than I can say about many Protestants.

  • Booklover

    On the one hand, it seems ludicrous to deny communion to a voter who supports a liberal candidate. A huge portion of Catholics are Democrats, have voted that way for decades, and have refused to change their vote even when the Demos went pro-abort. How is that priest dealing with the rest of his congregants? Good grief–you can’t excommunicate them all.

    On the other hand, at least the Catholics stand for something; and they take communion seriously. That is more than I can say about many Protestants.

  • Booklover

    Abortion is the only sin about which some say, “Let’s reduce the number of abortions and address the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place. Changing the law will only drive abortions underground, never addressing the causes.”

    No one ever says, “Let’s reduce the number of thefts and address the reasons that thieves are even thieving in the first place. Changing the law will only drive theft underground, never addressing the causes.”

  • Booklover

    Abortion is the only sin about which some say, “Let’s reduce the number of abortions and address the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place. Changing the law will only drive abortions underground, never addressing the causes.”

    No one ever says, “Let’s reduce the number of thefts and address the reasons that thieves are even thieving in the first place. Changing the law will only drive theft underground, never addressing the causes.”

  • http://www.lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com/ Erich Heidenreich, DDS

    How do we know for sure that the simple factor of supporting a pro-abortion candidate is the reason this priest denied Kmiec communion? Without a statement from the priest, I believe this is one-sided speculation.

  • http://www.lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com/ Erich Heidenreich, DDS

    How do we know for sure that the simple factor of supporting a pro-abortion candidate is the reason this priest denied Kmiec communion? Without a statement from the priest, I believe this is one-sided speculation.

  • forty-two

    To be fair, the fact that theft is illegal hasn’t exactly stopped the practice; you could even say it has been driven underground. Maybe if we “address[ed] the reasons that thieves are even thieving in the first place” in addition to the current, purely reactive, measure of punishing those who steal anyway, it would help reduce thefts. Certainly Prohibition gives a good example of how making something illegal will not, on its own, magically change societal attitudes on the action in question. The 18th Amendment may have made the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption illegal, but it certainly didn’t stop people from drinking.

    I believe abortion should be illegal, but if we are interested in *preventing* abortions, instead of just punishing the participants after the fact, I think “address[ing] the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place” is a necessary step.

  • forty-two

    To be fair, the fact that theft is illegal hasn’t exactly stopped the practice; you could even say it has been driven underground. Maybe if we “address[ed] the reasons that thieves are even thieving in the first place” in addition to the current, purely reactive, measure of punishing those who steal anyway, it would help reduce thefts. Certainly Prohibition gives a good example of how making something illegal will not, on its own, magically change societal attitudes on the action in question. The 18th Amendment may have made the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption illegal, but it certainly didn’t stop people from drinking.

    I believe abortion should be illegal, but if we are interested in *preventing* abortions, instead of just punishing the participants after the fact, I think “address[ing] the reasons that women are even seeking them in the first place” is a necessary step.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Booklover (@5), what about any other sin having to do with sex? Are you saying that no one makes the same argument you’ve presented against criminalizing adultery or homosexuality? Are you in favor of criminalizing those sins as well? How about lust? In fact, there are many sins that are not (and, I would argue, should not be) criminalized for which I and many would make that argument. The difference between those sins and abortion is that an unwilling third party is involved in abortion.

    That said, you seem to think that criminalization will solve the problem. So did many governments in South America, where the abortion rate is nonetheless higher than in the United States. And then there was Prohibition. If we criminalize it, will that really be all we have to do?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Booklover (@5), what about any other sin having to do with sex? Are you saying that no one makes the same argument you’ve presented against criminalizing adultery or homosexuality? Are you in favor of criminalizing those sins as well? How about lust? In fact, there are many sins that are not (and, I would argue, should not be) criminalized for which I and many would make that argument. The difference between those sins and abortion is that an unwilling third party is involved in abortion.

    That said, you seem to think that criminalization will solve the problem. So did many governments in South America, where the abortion rate is nonetheless higher than in the United States. And then there was Prohibition. If we criminalize it, will that really be all we have to do?

  • Jonathan

    Since this is evolving into a discussion about abortion….I want to throw up when people compare the criminalization of drinking wth the criminalization of in-utero infanticide. Perhaps we should have no criminal laws and instead figure out how to keep people from committing crimes in the first place? As long as people populate the earth, these evil deeds will be with us. The teeth of the law are not in place exclusively to discourage criminal behavior, but rather to execute justice. The question that must be asked first is: is abortion murder?

  • Jonathan

    Since this is evolving into a discussion about abortion….I want to throw up when people compare the criminalization of drinking wth the criminalization of in-utero infanticide. Perhaps we should have no criminal laws and instead figure out how to keep people from committing crimes in the first place? As long as people populate the earth, these evil deeds will be with us. The teeth of the law are not in place exclusively to discourage criminal behavior, but rather to execute justice. The question that must be asked first is: is abortion murder?

  • Don S

    I’m with Erich on this one. The source for this information is a very partisan columnist, known for muckraking, who has provided not a shred of evidence to support the implication that Kmiec was denied Communion solely because of his expressed voting preference. There is no way to confirm the story or to ascertain the actual motivations for the priest’s action, assuming that the account is even accurate.

    As for Kmiec, I have read several articles he has written regarding Obama, trying to understand the basis for his decision to support the most radical politician ever to run for U.S. President as an alleged conservative Republican. My take is that his rationale for supporting Obama is solely his hatred of the Iraq war. This issue overrides, in his mind, the many other issues where he claims to profoundly disagree with Obama. He also falls in the camp of those who believe the Republicans need to be cleansed and renewed, and the way to do that is to throw them out of office for a while.

  • Don S

    I’m with Erich on this one. The source for this information is a very partisan columnist, known for muckraking, who has provided not a shred of evidence to support the implication that Kmiec was denied Communion solely because of his expressed voting preference. There is no way to confirm the story or to ascertain the actual motivations for the priest’s action, assuming that the account is even accurate.

    As for Kmiec, I have read several articles he has written regarding Obama, trying to understand the basis for his decision to support the most radical politician ever to run for U.S. President as an alleged conservative Republican. My take is that his rationale for supporting Obama is solely his hatred of the Iraq war. This issue overrides, in his mind, the many other issues where he claims to profoundly disagree with Obama. He also falls in the camp of those who believe the Republicans need to be cleansed and renewed, and the way to do that is to throw them out of office for a while.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – “The teeth of the law are not in place exclusively to discourage criminal behavior, but rather to execute justice.”

    You hit the nail on the head. Criminal law has at least three generally accepted objectives: deterrence of further crimes, public safety and punishment. Rehabilitation is largely a method of achieving (well attempting to anyway) public safety.

    There is no reason that we cannot punish someone and try to address the causes. We can walk and chews gum at the same time.

    I also want people to remember that Roe has had a negative psychological impact on the country. We have segments of our society who no longer view abortion as a bad thing. It may be unpleasant but it is not inherently bad to them. People continue to tell me these people do not exist but I am less than 100 feet from two of them as I type this (I am at work – not home). These are people who have lived their entire lives under Roe and the societal attitude the abortion is just an option – like any other.

    But back to the post – the priest (if he did this) is wrong.

  • Joe

    Jonathan – “The teeth of the law are not in place exclusively to discourage criminal behavior, but rather to execute justice.”

    You hit the nail on the head. Criminal law has at least three generally accepted objectives: deterrence of further crimes, public safety and punishment. Rehabilitation is largely a method of achieving (well attempting to anyway) public safety.

    There is no reason that we cannot punish someone and try to address the causes. We can walk and chews gum at the same time.

    I also want people to remember that Roe has had a negative psychological impact on the country. We have segments of our society who no longer view abortion as a bad thing. It may be unpleasant but it is not inherently bad to them. People continue to tell me these people do not exist but I am less than 100 feet from two of them as I type this (I am at work – not home). These are people who have lived their entire lives under Roe and the societal attitude the abortion is just an option – like any other.

    But back to the post – the priest (if he did this) is wrong.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    From Kmiec’s own account: “Recently at a Mass before a dinner speech to Catholic business leaders, a very angry college chaplain excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of communion. ” http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=27956

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    From Kmiec’s own account: “Recently at a Mass before a dinner speech to Catholic business leaders, a very angry college chaplain excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of communion. ” http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=27956

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    What’s wrong with casuistry?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    What’s wrong with casuistry?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Read Pascal, particularly his “Provincial Letters.” He accused the Jesuits for their casuistry in finding loopholes in the moral law that would excuse nearly anything they wanted to do. Legalists do this all the time, twisting their reasoning and finding rationalizations so as to make themselves feel righteous.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Read Pascal, particularly his “Provincial Letters.” He accused the Jesuits for their casuistry in finding loopholes in the moral law that would excuse nearly anything they wanted to do. Legalists do this all the time, twisting their reasoning and finding rationalizations so as to make themselves feel righteous.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I don’t know that this priest is out of line; Obama’s campaign more or less says that the life of the unborn is null and void, that there is no right to self-defense, and that your money belongs properly to the government.

    Maybe we need more pastors to refuse communion to congregants whose politics are squarely aligned against God’s law, not less. Filling out the details is difficult, of course, but if Psalm 24:1 holds, isn’t that the obligation of the church?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I don’t know that this priest is out of line; Obama’s campaign more or less says that the life of the unborn is null and void, that there is no right to self-defense, and that your money belongs properly to the government.

    Maybe we need more pastors to refuse communion to congregants whose politics are squarely aligned against God’s law, not less. Filling out the details is difficult, of course, but if Psalm 24:1 holds, isn’t that the obligation of the church?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@15), you seem to have missed the point that the Obama supporter is pro-life — his politics are not “squarely aligned against God’s law”. He is not voting for Obama because of Obama’s abortion stance, but rather in spite of it.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@15), you seem to have missed the point that the Obama supporter is pro-life — his politics are not “squarely aligned against God’s law”. He is not voting for Obama because of Obama’s abortion stance, but rather in spite of it.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    At times, actions speak louder than words, Todd, and Obama’s call for sexual responsibility is along the SIECUS/Planned Parenthood model, not that of the Scriptures and Catholic teaching.

    As such, I can’t say from this distance that a priest was wrong to refuse Communion to a vocal proponent of a radical opponent of the unborn. Sometimes people wake up when we have these fights.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    At times, actions speak louder than words, Todd, and Obama’s call for sexual responsibility is along the SIECUS/Planned Parenthood model, not that of the Scriptures and Catholic teaching.

    As such, I can’t say from this distance that a priest was wrong to refuse Communion to a vocal proponent of a radical opponent of the unborn. Sometimes people wake up when we have these fights.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@17), this is silly. You are talking about “a vocal proponent of a radical opponent of the unborn” but treating it like you’re talking about “a vocal opponent of the unborn”, as if Kmiec was only voting for Obama because of the latter’s abortion stance.

    But do feel free to report who you’ve voted for so we can find out what sins you’ve committed transitively.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@17), this is silly. You are talking about “a vocal proponent of a radical opponent of the unborn” but treating it like you’re talking about “a vocal opponent of the unborn”, as if Kmiec was only voting for Obama because of the latter’s abortion stance.

    But do feel free to report who you’ve voted for so we can find out what sins you’ve committed transitively.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Todd, you’re mixing wildly different categories. There is a difference between my plan to hold my nose and pull the lever for McCain (as I did for Bush twice), and being an outspoken advocate for him. Don’cha think?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Todd, you’re mixing wildly different categories. There is a difference between my plan to hold my nose and pull the lever for McCain (as I did for Bush twice), and being an outspoken advocate for him. Don’cha think?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@19), yes, there is a difference between those two things, just as there is a difference between being an outspoken advocate of a candidate and being an outspoken advocate of one of his particular positions. But you don’t seem to understand the latter difference. I’m not sure that there’s much else I can say to explain it to you.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@19), yes, there is a difference between those two things, just as there is a difference between being an outspoken advocate of a candidate and being an outspoken advocate of one of his particular positions. But you don’t seem to understand the latter difference. I’m not sure that there’s much else I can say to explain it to you.

  • J B

    “Sarah in Maryland” manifestly makes the most sense. What do presidential candidates have to do with abortion anyway? C’mon; if this priest or any pastor wants to be consistent, he should examine the voting records of every elected official and, after finding offending votes, announce that everyone who will admit to having actually supported Senator A or Representative B will be denied communion. So when we support an elected official, all his or her votes in office are imputed to us? Heaven help us all.

  • J B

    “Sarah in Maryland” manifestly makes the most sense. What do presidential candidates have to do with abortion anyway? C’mon; if this priest or any pastor wants to be consistent, he should examine the voting records of every elected official and, after finding offending votes, announce that everyone who will admit to having actually supported Senator A or Representative B will be denied communion. So when we support an elected official, all his or her votes in office are imputed to us? Heaven help us all.


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