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By Fr. John Hollowell, Crisis Magazine, March 24, 2021
Father John Hollowell is a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
There has been much discussion in recent years regarding what the Catholic Church can do about self-identified Catholic politicians who support policies considered gravely immoral by the Church. Most of the conversation has centered around Canon 915, which states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Debate in the Catholic Church has focused on whether Catholic politicians who vote in favor of expanding grave evils are guilty of manifest (public) grave sin. But it is another canon—Canon 1375—that might become more applicable for disciplining Catholic politicians.
The argument for applying Canon 915 is most commonly applied to Catholic politicians supporting legalized abortion. In his 2002 Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, then-Cardinal Ratzinger argued in paragraph 4: “When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility. ….