18-October-2004 -- Catholic World News Brief |

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Los Angeles, Oct. 18 (CWNews.com) - A consultant to the Vatican has said Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has incurred the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

The consultant made his statement in a highly unusual letter to Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles canon lawyer who formally sued John Kerry in ecclesiastical court for heresy.

Balestrieri, who launched his case earlier this year by filing a heresy complaint in Kerry's home archdiocese of Boston, told EWTN's "World Over" program on Friday that he had received an unusual, indirect communication from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the pro-abortion stance.

That communication provides a basis, he said, to declare that any Catholic politician who says he is "personally opposed to abortion, but supports a woman's right to choose," incurs automatic excommunication. It also provided a basis for Balestrieri to broaden his canonical actions and file additional complaints against four more pro-abortion Catholic politicians: Democrat Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Tom Harkin of Iowa; Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine; and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a Democrat.

The current action could be significant as it could undercut the entire debate over denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. An excommunicated Catholic may not receive any of the sacraments of the Church, including the Eucharist, marriage, and even Christian burial. The type of excommunication outlined in the new information is called latae sententiae, which means that it occurs automatically and does not require a formal pronouncement by any Church official.

Balestrieri said he went to Rome in late August to discuss his canonical case with experts, including an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Less than 10 days later, he received a letter from Father Basil Cole, a Dominican theologian and consultant to the congregation based in Washington, DC, who said he had been "delegated" by Father Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary of the congregation, to give an unofficial response to the question that Balestrieri had submitted.

"I went to Rome in person to submit two critical questions to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith," said Balestrieri. "The first: Whether or not the Church's teaching condemning any direct abortion is a dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith, and if the denial and doubt of the same constitutes heresy. The second: Whether or not a denial of the Church's teaching condemning every right to abortion also constitutes heresy. Father Cole, an expert theologian who studied the matter carefully, responded in the affirmative on both counts."

Father Cole wrote, "If a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code [of Canon Law]. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty and imputability are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated ...."

Balestrieri said the response was unusual in several respects: that a response was provided to a layman at the request of the undersecretary in only 11 days, that the response was in writing, decisively clarifying the matter, and that it was in far greater detail than a typical official reply. "Normally, only a bishop may request such clarification of doctrine from the CDF, such responses usually take a much longer time to be received, and they are rarely made public," he said.

He also said that the original canonical complaint of heresy against Kerry had received so much response from the public that the tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston has been deluged with thousands of letters from ordinary Catholics who wish to add their names to the complaint. The head of the archdiocesan tribunal reportedly told him that the case had not been rejected and was "now in the hands of the archbishop," that is, Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston.

Balestrieri, a self-identified political independent, says that his actions come as a defender of the faith and Holy Eucharist from sacrilege and scandal, not as one focused on an electoral outcome. "Our victory can come as early as today: It would be for Sen. Kerry, who publicly calls himself a Catholic and yet in violation of Canon Law continues to receive Holy Communion, to repent of his grave sin and publicly recant his abortion advocacy."

The complete text of Father Cole's response as well as other details of the pending cases are available on the DeFide.com web site: (http://www.defide.com

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