Crumbs from the Table

Reflections on Benedict XVI, Reception of Holy Communion and Canonical Procedures for Defamation

Keynote Address by Fr. Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L.

National Association of Catholic School Teacher

October 8, 2005

Washington, D.C.


Dear friends it is truly an honor to be with you again for this gathering of the National Association of Catholic School Teachers. The fact Rita has asked me back for an encore performance indicates that I was not that bad the first time around.

There are many things that are happening in our world that causes us a great deal of anxiety. Though we know what we are doing is right in organizing and giving voice to Catholic school teachers and staff, nonetheless, there are so many things happening around us, that we may no longer be sure of our footing or have confidence in the past.

My talk is in three parts. The first part responds to a question that Rita asked me on the phone: What are Pope Benedict XVI’s ideas on Catholic Social Teaching, especially as it impacts workers and unions.

The second part deals with a point that has been banging around in my head for a number of months. It can be formulated like this: “If it is legitimate to deny Holy Communion to an elected official who by his or her voting record and public pronouncements publicly rejects the Catholic teaching on the right to life from the time of conception to natural death, then should this same principle be applied to union-busting Catholic attorneys, and Catholics who work for organizations like the National Right to Work Committee because they publically and notoriously reject Catholic teaching on unions, and they work to deny the natural right of Catholics to join together in unions.”

Finally, my third part of this presentation will be a little canon law journey investigating the question of defamation. Specifically, what happens when Catholic administrators publically state that a union in a Catholic institution would endanger its ability to be Catholic.

Male bravado gets us guys in trouble all the time. When Rita said that some of you might be interested in Pope Benedict XVI’s perspective on social justice questions, especially as they relate to workers and unions, I immediately told her that I would be happy to do it. After I hung up the phone I whispered to myself, “Hell, I don’t have a clue what Benedict thinks about on social justice issues.”

The primary reason for my lack of knowledge is because as Father, then as Bishop, then as Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI focused his writings, teachings and lectures on doctrinal issues more than social justice issues. One should not judge him negatively for this. For instance, Fr. Raymond Brown, SS was an outstanding American scripture scholar. If one culled his writings, articles and public speeches, one would find that they focus on Scripture and scriptural commentary. This is because Scripture was the center of his focus both for his studies and for his teaching.

I also believe that Pope Benedict’s social milieu had a dramatic effect on his academic focus. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI had similar experiences with the Nazis, and the suffering and destruction caused by World War II. After the war, Pope John Paul II took a more pastoral road. Though he taught at the university, his pastoral duties forced him to interact in very practical and mundane ways with the Polish communist officials. Also, as bishop and cardinal, he was engaged in real life social justice issues in his diocese that centered around shipyard and industrial workers.

On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI followed a much more academic road in a country where many of the major social justice issues were overseen through the trade union and governmental structures. The Catholic Church was just not engaged in the same burning social justice question in the 1960's and 1970's in West Germany as it was at the same time in Communist Poland.

Finally, not all popes have written social encyclicals. Benedict XV and Pius XII both addressed major social problems. Benedict addressed the human suffering of World War I, and Pius XII confronted the rise of Nazism and the phenomena of refugees. However, neither wrote a social encyclical in the spirit of Rerum Novarum or Mater et Magistra. Therefore, there is some precedence for popes not directly addressing the subject in their pontificate. However, since Benedict XVI has only been pope for six months, we should still give him a little time.

So to find out what Benedict XVI believed about Catholic Social Teaching, I had to hit the books, and the internet. The first thing that caught my attention was apprehension that marked comments from many in the social justice community. In some cases the reactions can only be described as doom and gloom.

For many in the progressive, secular, social justice movement, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict XVI was a tremendous disappointment. Many appeared to feel that the Catholic Church was turning away from its historical commitment to social justice.

Rabbi Michael Lerner noted his disappointment in an article entitled: Cardinal Ratzinger is a Lamentable Choice for Pope. Regarding social justice, he wrote:

“It is precisely because we as Jews continue to feel allied with the church and see it as an important ally in the struggle for social justice and peace that we are so dismayed at this misdirection. Meanwhile, we reaffirm our solidarity with the many millions of Catholics who had hoped for a very different kind of Pope, someone who would make the church more open to women's leadership, to prioritizing social justice, to rethinking its opposition to birth control, and to returning to the hopeful spirit of Vatican II. We can say publicly what many of you can only say privately--that this new Pope does not represent what is most beautiful and sacred in the teachings of Jesus.”

Vincent Navarro wrote on the website Counter Punch on May 22, 2005:

“Ratzinger has not made any statements about the Church's concern with social justice or poverty, or similar rhetorical statements, as the previous Pope was inclined to do. Ratzinger is more down to earth and dispenses with these niceties. His primary and only concern is for the purity and strength of the Church as a temporal power. His enormous personal ambition fueled his strategy to be elected Pope from an early stage in the campaign, immediately after the death of John Paul II. Assisted by Opus Dei, very powerful under the John Paul II papacy, Ratzinger's campaign distributed documents among the cardinals that, according to the Milanese paper La Stampa, presented a picture of decay and moral laxity among the clergy in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S.”

In an article entitled Sailing off the Cliff, Rea Howarth of the Quixote Center in Baltimore stated on April 19, 2005:

“The Quixote Center is both shocked and saddened that the cardinals did not take the time to carefully reflect on the challenges facing the church today. The election of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, represents a deeply troubling future for the church.

"We are all too aware of the role that Cardinal Ratzinger played as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger’s role as enforcer of a rigid interpretation of doctrine and an extreme interpretation of papal infallibility means that the church will be driven even further to the right."

Finally Joseph Kay was kind enough to give the radical leftist perspective when he wrote in the World Socialist Web site on April 22, 2005:

“The selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope is a clear sign that the Vatican will seek to use its influence to promote the most reactionary political forces within the ruling elites of countries around the world, particularly in Europe.

“Ratzinger’s long record as enforcer of Church doctrine and chief adviser to Pope John Paul II strongly indicates that as Pope Benedict XVI, he will aggressively intervene into political affairs, using issues such as abortion and homosexuality to foster the development of a social base for right-wing parties and policies.

“The new pope has close ties to ultra-conservative factions within the Catholic Church, such as Opus Dei, which are openly hostile to the core democratic principle of the separation of church and state, and seek to elevate the Church over civil authority. Such theocratic tendencies are increasingly being embraced by parties on the right as part of their ideological arsenal for attacking all of the social and democratic gains achieved in the course of the twentieth century.”

However, in reading a number of documents issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his time as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I am certain that these critiques of our new holy father are based on what the writer wants the Church to do and teach rather than what the Church actually does and teaches.

First, I believe that it is an invalid position for one to separate the social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II from Cardinal Ratzinger. To do so ignores the close relationship that these two men had over the more than two decades that Cardinal Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (November 25, 1981- April 19, 2005). When Pope John Paul II issued Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: On the Twentieth Anniversary of Populorum Progressio (December 30, 1987), Centesimus Annus: The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (May 1, 1991), The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the new Compendium on Catholic Social Teaching I find it a tremendous stretch of the imagination that these documents and the teachings they contain were not vetted through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The only exception is Laborem Exercens: On Human Work (September 14, 1981) which was issued two months before Ratzinger became the prefect at the congregation.

Second, Cardinal Ratzinger, while at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made a number of observations about the conditions of the poor and workers. In the 1984 document on liberation theology, Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation, Cardinal Ratzinger notes: 

“6. The scandal of the shocking inequality between the rich and poor - whether between rich and poor countries, or between social classes in a single nation - is no longer tolerated. On one hand, people have attained an unheard of abundance which is given to waste, while on the other hand so many live in such poverty, deprived of the basic necessities, that one is hardly able even to count the victims of malnutrition.

“12. In certain parts of Latin America, the seizure of the vast majority of the wealth by an oligarchy of owners bereft of social consciousness, the practical absence or the shortcomings of a rule of law, military dictators making a mockery of elementary human rights, the corruption of certain powerful officials, the savage practices of some foreign capital interests constitute factors which nourish a passion for revolt among those who thus consider themselves the powerless victims of a new colonialism in the technological, financial, monetary, or economic order.

“18. The defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them. Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbor, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone, and especially of pastors and those in positions of responsibility.”

In the 1986 document, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation noted: 

“76. ....One must condemn with equal vigor violence exercised by the powerful against the poor, arbitrary action by the police, and any form of violence established as a system of government. In these areas one must learn the lessons of tragic experiences which the history of the present century has known and continues to know. Nor can one accept the culpable passivity of the public powers in those democracies where the social situation of a large number of men and women is far from corresponding to the demands of constitutionally guaranteed individual and social rights.”

With regard to workers and unions, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation states:

“77 . When the Church encourages the creation and activity of associations such as trade unions which fight for the defense of the rights and legitimate interests of the workers and for social justice, she does not thereby admit the theory that sees in the class struggle the structural dynamism of social life. The action which she sanctions is not the struggle of one class against another in order to eliminate the foe. She does not proceed from a mistaken acceptance of an alleged law of history. This action is rather a noble and reasoned struggle for justice and social solidarity. (115) The Christian will always prefer the path of dialogue and joint action. Christ has commanded us to love our enemies.(116) Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is therefore incompatible with hatred of others, taken individually or collectively, and this includes hatred of one's enemy.

“84. A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of frank and vigorous dialogue.

“86. Wages, which cannot be considered as a mere commodity, must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way round. Whatever the type of work, the worker must be able to perform it as an expression of his personality. There follows from this the necessity of a participation which, over and above a sharing in the fruits of work, should involve a truly communitarian dimension at the level of projects, undertakings and responsibilities.(130)

“87. The priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and in making investments to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all.(131)”

I can continue to quote statements from the documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that impact on workers and social justice, but I think you get the point. What one finds in these writings is a theology deeply rooted in our Catholic Social Teaching. This theology is based on an awareness of man’s fallen nature and sin, but also the redemptive power that has come from God through his Son Jesus Christ. Because of the recognition of sin, and the ongoing need for all, the rich and the poor to undergo conversion, there can be no place in Catholic social teaching for anything that hints of a class struggle.

To close this first part of my presentation, I would like to note Benedict XVI’s first Sunday Angelus Message at St. Peter Basilica on May 1, 2005, and his welcome to new ambassadors on June 16, 2005.

On May 1, 2005, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, one third of Pope Benedict’s Sunday Angelus was dedicated to Labor Day. Pope Benedict noted:

“Today, we are beginning the month of May with a liturgical memorial very dear to the Christian people: that of St Joseph the Worker; and you know that my name is Joseph. Exactly 50 years ago it was established by Pope Pius XII of venerable memory to highlight the importance of work and of the presence of Christ and the Church in the working world. It is also necessary to witness in contemporary society to the "Gospel of work,” of which John Paul II spoke in his Encyclical Laborem Exercens. I hope that work will be available, especially for young people, and that working conditions may be ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person.

“I am thinking with affection of all workers and I greet those gathered in St Peter's Square who belong to many associations. In particular, I greet the friends of the Christian Associations of Italian Workers, who this year are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their foundation. I hope that they will continue to live their choice of "Christian brotherhood" as a value to embody in the field of work and of social life, so that solidarity, justice and peace may be the pillars on which to build the unity of the human family.”

On June 16, 2005, Pope Benedict stressed to the new ambassadors to the Holy See the responsibility of the rich countries to the rest of the world community:

“I am pleased to welcome you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors of your respective countries: Azerbaijan, Guinea, Malta, New Zealand, Rwanda, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. I ask you to thank your Heads of State for their courteous messages and to convey my greetings and esteem to them.

           “Through you, I would like to offer a fraternal greeting to all the Peoples whom you represent and to whom I would like to express my warmest, most fervent good wishes, repeating to all the men and women of all your Countries that I am close to them and that I am praying for them. I ask them to commit themselves to creating a humanity that is more and more brotherly with renewed attention to all, especially to the poorest and those marginalized by society.

“In this regard, our world is facing numerous challenges that it must successfully confront so that the human person may always triumph over technology. A just future for peoples must be the primary concern of those who have undertaken to manage public affairs, not in their own interest but with a view to the common good. Our heart cannot be at peace while we see our brothers and sisters suffering from lack of food, work, a home or the other fundamental goods.

          “To make a concrete response to the appeal of our brothers and sisters in humanity, we must come to grips with the first of these challenges:            solidarity among generations, solidarity between countries and entire continents, so that all human beings may share more equitably in the                riches of our planet. This is one of the essential services that people of good will must render to humanity. The earth, in fact, can produce                    enough to nourish all its inhabitants, on the condition that the rich countries do not keep for themselves what belongs to all.”

The Church will never tire of reminding everyone that they must take pains to create a human brotherhood that consists of concrete gestures on the part of individuals and of Governments and international Institutions.

In conclusion, I think Pope Benedict XVI will spend more time on theological questions rather than social justice questions. This conclusion is based simply on his expertise and past writings. However, this in no way implies that he is abandoning or retreating from our Catholic social tradition. The documents he has written which I have read lead me to the conclusion that he is clearly in line with the tradition through Pope John II, and will carry on that tradition through his pontificate.

Part II: Denial of Holy Communion

Unless you were at a hermitage last year, you are aware of the intense discussions that surrounded Senator Kerry’s inability to receive Holy Communion in some dioceses of the United States. In light of that whole experience, I truly believe the teaching of the Church and the Code of Canon Law entrusts to the local diocesan bishop the authority to regulate the sacraments in his diocese. Canon 392 explains this episcopal power:

Ҥ1. Since he must protect the unity of the universal Church, a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

“§2. He is to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially regarding the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints, and the administration of goods.”

In addition, many of the bishops who have acted to deny communion to Catholics in public office have drawn on Canon 915, which states:

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

This position of the denial of holy communion is also based on two documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On November 24, 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger issued the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life. In §4, the doctrinal note states:

John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a “grave and clear obligation to oppose” any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them. As John Paul II has taught in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae regarding the situation in which it is not possible to overturn or completely repeal a law allowing abortion which is already in force or coming up for a vote, “an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.””

The second document was a letter sent to Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2004. In it, Cardinal Ratzinger clarifies and elaborates on the above paragraph:

“4. Apart from an individual’s judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

“5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter to Cardinal McCarrick also pulled the away the fig leaf for many Catholics who felt that they could balance out a candidate’s support for abortion and say fetal stem cell research by pointing out the numerous other Catholic values he or she supports and votes for. Paragraph 3 of the letter states:

“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

However, what if a Catholic supported the Catholic position on abortion and fetal stem cell research, but claimed that he or she had no obligation to the poor, that those in need got what they deserved, and everything that the Church taught and promoted regarding the Corporal Works of Mercy was wrong and did not apply to him or her. Could that person still receive Holy Communion?

Well, in this case, the disagreement between the magisterium and the individual Catholic is not one of degree, but one of kind. Cardinal Ratzinger appears to address just this situation in his 2002 doctrinal note. In paragraph 5, Cardinal Ratzinger notes:

“While a plurality of methodologies reflective of different sensibilities and cultures can be legitimate in approaching such questions, no Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements. This is not a question of “co Comment nfessional values” per se, because such ethical precepts are rooted in human nature itself and belong to the natural moral law.”

This paragraph warns Catholics that it is not just the “life” issues that they must support, but all “policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine the fundamental ethical requirements.

In the first modern Catholic social encyclical, Pope Leo XIII noted the irreplaceable nature of unions:

“49. The most important of all are workingmen's unions, for these virtually include all the rest. History attests what excellent results were brought about by the artificers' guilds of olden times. They were the means of affording not only many advantages to the workmen, but in no small degree of promoting the advancement of art, as numerous monuments remain to bear witness. Such unions should be suited to the requirements of this our age - an age of wider education, of different habits, and of far more numerous requirements in daily life.”

Pope Pius XI later condemned those, including Catholics who worked to prevent the creation of workers associations:

“30. These teachings were issued indeed most opportunely. For at that time in many nations those at the helm of State, plainly imbued with Liberalism, were showing little favor to workers' associations of this type; nay, rather they openly opposed them, and while going out of their way to recognize similar organizations of other classes and show favor to them, they were with criminal injustice denying the natural right to form associations to those who needed it most to defend themselves from ill treatment at the hands of the powerful. There were even some Catholics who looked askance at the efforts of workers to form associations of this type as if they smacked of a socialistic or revolutionary spirit.”

And he also praised the efforts that were being made to organize Catholic trade unions:

“36. To the Encyclical of Leo, therefore, must be given this credit, that these associations of workers have so flourished everywhere that while, alas, still surpassed in numbers by socialist and communist organizations, they already embrace a vast multitude of workers and are able, within the confines of each nation as well as in wider assemblies, to maintain vigorously the rights and legitimate demands of Catholic workers and insist also on the salutary Christian principles of society.”


With all this in mind, if it is natural for workers to want to organize unions, and our magisterium has supported and promoted it for more than one hundred years, then wouldn’t a Catholic who worked actively to prevent Catholics and other workers from organizing unions fall under the precept of Cardinal Ratzinger’s doctrinal note. Specifically the section stating that “. . . no Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements.”

Therefore can a Catholic really work for a union-busting law firm, and receive Holy Communion? Can a Catholic work for organizations like the National Right to Work Committee which presents itself neither anti-union nor pro-union, but is defacto anti-union by its consistent acts against the ability of workers to organize?Since this issue of public rejection of the Catholic magisterium has been put on the table, maybe we should think the progressive communities disdain for the practice. Once the denial of Holy Communion horse is out of the barn, can’t it really be ridden by a whole lot of issues and Catholic concerns?

Part III: Defamation and Canonical Action

In August of this year, the Michigan Education Association organized a Brother Rice High School. However, on appeal, Brother Rice High School claimed that “the formation of a teachers union violated its First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, suggesting that the union’s presence at Brother Rice would compromise its religious mission.” (From Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 22, 2005)In a conversation that I was having with a young priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I asked what was going on with the Catholic teachers union and the Archdiocese. Though this priest was young, he seemed to have very good access to Archbishop Burke. He explained to me that Archbishop Burke was not acting counter to Catholic Social Teaching, but he was defending the rights of the poor, inner city Catholic school students from greedy Catholic school teacher union members. These union members, through their demands for collective bargaining, were working against the efforts of the archdiocese of bringing Catholic education to the poor.These are just two examples of efforts by administrators of Catholic institutions to discredit union members and unions. This particular tact attempts to raise questions about the orthodoxy of union members, their goals, and whether being in a union is contrary to the Catholic faith. In all these efforts, those who perpetuate anti-union campaigns through the defamation of the union members and leaders actually undertake very serious activities in the Catholic community. For if the charges are true, then there is an obligation to undertake canonical procedures to protect the mission and members of the Church, but on the other hand, if these are just scurrilous charges to be played up in the press, there are other severe consequences for those who make such unfounded charges.

Canon 220 states: No one is permitted to damage unlawfully the good reputation which another person enjoys nor to violate the right of another person to protect his or her own privacy.

The first part of this canon makes it illegal to ruin the good reputation of a member of the Christian faithful (baptized members of the Catholic Church). This canon became very relevant during the 2002 sex abuse scandal. Bishops were jerking priests out of assignments after charges were made, and then acting as if they were guilty before any investigation was made, or before the priest was allowed to defend himself. The result was the destruction of the priest's reputation. Often in cases where the priest was found not guilty, his reputation could not be repaired.

When a person charges that a union will compromise the Catholic institution's ability to promote Catholic doctrine, he or she is very close to claiming that those Catholics who are trying to form a union are somehow trying to undermine Catholic doctrine.

Those who try to undermine the doctrine of the Catholic Church would appear to fall under canon 1369: A person who uses a public show or speech, published writings, or other media of social communication to blaspheme, seriously damage good morals, express wrongs against religion or against the Church or stir up hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished by a just penalty.

This canon appears in a section that deals with apostasy, heresy, schism, desecration of the Blessed Sacrament and other abominations. It is a scandal which can cause terrible damage to the reputation of a faithful Catholic who is charged with doing something that falls under canon 1369, just for trying to actualize the teachings of the Church.

If someone believes that Catholics are working against the teaching of the Church, or are trying to stir up hatred, then he or she has an obligation to take the evidence to the to the local bishop. The local bishop, according to canon 1430 is to appoint a Promoter of Justice in a case were the public good is endangered or when there is grounds for a penal case. Since offences against canon 1369 would be penal, such evidence should be communicated, and a penal trial would take place before the diocesan tribunal.

However, if he or she is only using this as an attack against Catholics trying to organize a union at a Catholic institution, then I believe they are damaging the good reputation of fellow Catholics, and they are opening themselves up to being taken to Church court under canon 220.

Maybe some day, there will be significant consequences to this type of libelous language in the Church community.

In conclusion, I want to draw on a passage in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus warns his listeners:

“Whoever welcomes one such child for my sake welcomes me. On the other hand, it would be better for anyone who leads astray one of these little ones who believe in me, to be drowned by a millstone around his neck, in the depths of the sea. What terrible things will come on the world through scandal!....”

We are now very aware of the soul-killing effects of the sexual abuse scandal. By the illegal and immoral actions of some clergy and leaders in the Church people have lost their faith, and therefore possibly their way to eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ.

My fear is that some Catholic teachers, nurses, parish staff and other church employees will lose their faith, and therefore for the eschatological goal of that faith, eternal life with Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father. This can happen when those who have leadership roles in the Church fail to live the gospel and the teachings of the Church.

I implore you, hold fast to your faith, hold fast to the wisdom your Church offers you, and don’t let those who through the scandal of their actions lead you from the life of the Church and the love of Christ.