Should Catholic Bishops Formally Condemn the Democrat Party?

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Since January of this year, there has been renewed interest in the denial of Holy Communion for those who promote or support the murderous act of abortion. After Joseph Biden took the oath of office on January 20, among his first acts as the new occupant of the White House was the reversal of the pro-life measures that had been put into place by President Donald Trump.  

Since that time, renewed debate has heated up among the bishops as to whether or not Biden and other such self-professing “Catholics” should be denied Holy Communion in accord with Canon 915 of The Code of Canon Law, which states: 

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion.

Most recently, Biden declared that he does not believe the Church’s teaching that life begins at the very moment of conception (meaning, the very moment egg and sperm are united), a teaching based not on revelation but on science.

But the current debate on the long-standing issue of denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who vote to enshrine abortion as a “right” in this country may be ancillary to a larger issue: the subordination of religion to the state. 

Over the course of the past century, the Catholic Church has clarified matters on certain political principles, such as Rerum Novarum on capital and labor, and Centesimus Annus on the Catholic principles of the free market. Furthermore, at least two political movements were fully condemned, and Catholics were forbidden from supporting or joining their ranks. In 1931 and 1936 respectively, Catholics in Germany and the Netherlands were forbidden from joining the Nazi Party. In 1949, Catholics throughout the world were forbidden from joining the Communist Party.

Each of these condemnations came with a formal declaration that such individuals were cut off from reception of the Sacraments!

On the 30th of September 1930, Bishop Ludwig Maria Hugo, the Bishop of Mainz, issued a set of three directives regarding the Nazi Party:

  • It is forbidden for every Catholic to be part of Hitler’s party.
  • Members of Hitler’s party are not allowed to take part—as a party—in funerals or other similar functions.
  • As long as a Catholic is enrolled in Hitler’s party he cannot be admitted to the Sacraments.

When asked for confirmation of this directive by a newspaper called De Hessen, Bishop Hugo wrote a four page letter to the newspaper and cited three elements of the Nazi Party Platform that alone made it impossible for a Catholic to be a member of that party:

1) Paragraph 24 of the program says in the first part: “We advocate the freedom within the State of all religious confessions, as long as they do not endanger its safety.”

2) Paragraph 24 says in the second part: “We ask for the freedom in the State of all religious confessions, since they do not, however, run counter to the morality and moral sense of the Germanic race.”

3) Section 24 says in its third part: “The party as such stands for a positive Christianity without however binding itself to any particular religious confession.”

The world is now fully aware of the lying, thieving, and murderous programs of the Nazi Party; but in 1930 those actions were not yet manifest. What makes the bishop’s condemnation of the Nazi Party for these three positions (making all religions equal and approving of them insofar as they do not conflict with policies of the German state) so interesting is that they would be completely ignored by bishops today. 

Indeed, these positions don’t even come close to being as overtly wicked as positions held by some modern political parties. At the end of his letter condemning these positions, the bishop concluded with these words:

It is true that Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf” wrote some respectful words for the Christian religion and for Catholic institutions, but this does not take away the conviction that the political culture of national socialism is in antithesis with Catholic Christianity.

The above quotations [referring to Paragraph 24 from the Nazi Party Platform] contain the answer to the question: Can a Catholic be a registered member of Hitler’s party?—Can a Catholic parish priest allow members of this party to participate in religious funerals or other functions?—Can a Catholic who professes the principles of this party be admitted to the Holy Sacraments? We have to answer negatively. 

In short, the Nazi Party was forcefully condemned, and Catholics were forbidden from being members because of the Party Platform that made religion subordinate to the state.

In 1936, Cardinal Johannes de Jong, the Archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands, condemned the Nazi Party and also forbade supporters from Holy Communion. According to a report by the Associated Press from 24 May 1936, he said: 

We remain convinced that the Church and our country will be grievously damaged and the fulfilling task of bringing grace will be rendered impossible when the Nazi movement gets the upper hand. Therefore, we, the shepherds of your souls, in full knowledge of our responsibility, declare that those who materially support this movement will be banned from the Sacraments.

After the war ended in 1945, the Soviet Union very quickly rose to fill the void as the greatest threat to Western Civilization. Within four years, the Vatican issued a full-fledged condemnation of Communism in response to a dubia, forbidding Catholics from becoming members of the Communist Party under penalty of being denied the Sacraments. According to the response from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, those professing, defending, or spreading communist ideologies were also automatically excommunicated as apostates from the faith.

On July 16, 1949, The Tablet in New York published the text of the decree condemning Communism.  Here is that text in full: 

This Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has been asked:

1) Whether it is lawful to enlist or show favor to the Communist Party?

2) Whether it is lawful to publish, read or disseminate books, newspapers, periodicals, or leaflets in support of Communist doctrine and practice or write in them any articles?

3) Whether Catholics who knowingly and freely place actions as specified in No. 1 and 2 above may be admitted to the Sacraments?

4) Whether Catholics, who profess and particularly those who defend and spread, the materialistic and anti-Christian doctrine of the Communists, ipso facto, as apostates from the Catholic faith, incur excommunication reserved specifically to the Holy See?

The most eminent and reverend Fathers, charged with the defense of matters pertaining to faith and morals, after having previously heard the opinion of the consultors, at a plenary session held on Tuesday, the 28th day of June, 1949, decreed that the above-mentioned questions must be answered as follows:

To no. 1—In the negative, for Communism is materialism and anti-Christian. Besides Communist leaders, although they sometimes verbally assert that they are not opposed to religion show themselves nevertheless, both by doctrine and by action, to be in reality enemies of God, of the true religion, and of the Church of Christ.

To no. 2 —In the negative, inasmuch as this is prohibited by law itself—see Canon 1399.

To no. 3—In the negative, in accordance with common principles governing refusal of Sacraments to those not having proper dispositions.

To no. 4—In the affirmative.

And on the following Thursday, the 30th of the same month and year, His Holiness Pope Pius XII, when informed of the decision in the usual audience granted to His Excellency, the most Reverend Assessor, approved and ordered to be published the above answers in the ‘Acta Apostolicae Sedis.’

Today, one has to wonder if the Democratic Party could and should be condemned for its own party platform and Catholics forbidden from being members under penalty of being denied the Sacraments.

What positions does the Democratic Party hold that would qualify it for condemnation? 

While there are many condemnable issues in the Democratic Party’s 2020 Platform—including but not limited to its Marxist approach to taxes, welfare, universal health care, and open borders policies—a faithful Catholic needs only to examine three planks of the platform regarding abortion, contraception, and homosexuality to know that it is absolutely incompatible with the Catholic Faith.

Beginning on page 32 of the platform, the Democratic Party fully committed itself to the enshrinement of abortion—which is the murder of an innocent child in its mother’s womb—as a protected right to be paid for by tax-paying Americans, including those who know abortion is an abomination:

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. We will repeal the Title X domestic gag rule and restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides vital preventive and reproductive health care for millions of people…

Democrats oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights. We will repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom.

Democrats oppose restrictions on medication abortion care that are inconsistent with the most recent medical and scientific evidence and that do not protect public health. 

Catholic teaching on abortion is absolutely clear. The oldest catechism in the Church, called the Didache, states in the second chapter: “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” The Code of Canon Law indicates the excommunication of one who procures an abortion:

Can. 1398 A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae [i.e., automatic] excommunication.

Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, in paragraph 62:

By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops—who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine—I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  

No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church. 

And speaking of abortion and law, Pope John Paul II wrote in paragraph 73:

Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.… In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.

Clearly, it is absolutely forbidden for Catholics to participate in the promotion, legalization, procurement, or practice of abortion in any way, shape, or form. And yet, the Democratic Party has established the enshrinement of abortion as a legally-protected “right” as one of the party’s immutable agendas.

On the same page, the platform boasts pridefully of the intention to force everyone to be involved in a health insurance plan and then force insurance companies to cover the cost of contraception: 

We recognize that…the full range of family planning services are all essential to ensuring that people can decide if, when, and how to start a family. We are proud to be the party of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex and requires insurers to cover prescription contraceptives at no cost.

Contraception is also fully condemned by the Church, as was established by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (paragraph 14):

We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. 

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

And yet, despite this condemnation of contraception either as a means or an end, the Democratic Party has established not only the intention to make contraception available but to force insurance companies to pay for it.

But abortion is not the only sin crying to Heaven for vengeance that the Democrats are working feverishly to protect and promote through law and policy. In addition to seeking legal protection for all manner of sodomy, the Democratic Party Platform also states the intention to scandalize children by putting them into the hands of perverts. For instance, on page 34, the Democratic Party makes clear its intention to force the medical community to perform sex-change operations, saying:  

Democrats will reverse this rulemaking and restore nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS in health insurance, including coverage of all medically necessary care for gender transition. We will also take action to guarantee that LGBTQ+ people and those living with HIV/AIDS have full access to needed health care and resources, including by requiring that federal health plans provide coverage for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment and HIV prevention medications like PrEP and PEP, gender confirmation surgery, and hormone therapy.

On page 42, the Democratic Party Platform boasts its intention to annihilate religious and conscience protections for all who oppose the LGBTQ+ agenda. In the first line of the paragraph beginning on that page, the platform endorses the forcing of private businesses to hire openly homosexual and transgender individuals, regardless of the personal convictions of the business owner. The second line shows the intention to force landlords to provide housing to LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. The third line proves that the Democratic Party intends to deeply scandalize and psychologically scar little children by forcing adoption agencies to place children with homosexual and transgender couples and by ensuring that women’s bathrooms are accessible to men identifying as women:

Democrats applaud this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that made clear that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity violates the law, but we know we still have work to do to ensure LGBTQ+ people are treated equally under the law and in our society. We will fight to enact the Equality Act and at last outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in housing, public accommodations, access to credit, education, jury service, and federal programs. We will work to ensure LGBTQ+ people are not discriminated against when seeking to adopt or foster children, protect LGBTQ+ children from bullying and assault, and guarantee transgender students’ access to facilities based on their gender identity.

The Platform then goes on to say that Democrats will work to “ban harmful ‘conversion therapy,’” meaning it would be illegal for psychologists to help homosexuals and transgenders leave behind their gravely sinful lifestyles. It also says that Democrats “will ensure that all transgender and non-binary people can procure official government identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.”

Regarding homosexuality, Scripture is replete with condemnations of it. Sodom, Gomorrah, and three other cities were annihilated because of this vice. St. Paul, in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, said of those engaging in homosexual acts: “they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.” The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy condemned cross-dressing, saying:

A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God. (22:5)

The Third Lateran Council (1179) decreed the following:

Anyone caught in the practice of the sin against nature, on account of which the wrath of God was unleashed upon the children of disobedience, if he is a cleric, let him be demoted from his state and kept in reclusion in a monastery to do penance; if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated and kept rigorously distant from the communion of the faithful.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI approved the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s publication of a document titled “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” Point number 8 of the document states: “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved.”

However, despite the Catholic Church’s unchangeable and universal teaching that homosexual acts and the practice of cross-dressing are intrinsically evil, and therefore can never be approved, supported, or endorsed, the Democratic Party has seen fit to ensure that self-professed LGBTQ+ individuals are not only accepted by, but forced upon all members of the community, including those who firmly object to homosexual acts.

Given the full-fledged condemnations against the Nazi Party (forbidding Catholics from joining among them under the penalty of being denied the Sacraments), and the condemnation against the Communist Party (forbidding Catholics from joining among them under penalty of being denied the Sacraments), one must wonder how the Democratic Party can escape such condemnation. Perhaps as the bishops continue to deliberate how to handle pro-abortion Catholic politicians in relation to Canon 915, they can consider what the Church has done regarding other political parties that profess ideologies directly contrary to the Faith.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

By

Michael Hichborn is the president of the Lepanto Institute. Formerly, Michael spent nearly eight years as American Life League's director of the "Defend the Faith" project. He has researched and produced countless articles and reports on the funding of abortion, birth control, homosexuality and Marxism by Catholic Relief Servies and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Christendom College in Political Science and Economics and a Master's degree in Education from American Intercontinental University. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Alyssa, and their seven children.

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