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Catholics for a Free Choice President Jon O’Brien’s Response to Benedict XVI’s Threat of Excommunication to Prochoice Catholic Politicians

May 9, 2007

Washington, DC – Catholics for a Free Choice President Jon O’Brien issued the following statement in response to reports that Benedict XVI expressed support for the excommunication of prochoice Catholic public figures while traveling from Rome, Italy to Brazil for his first papal visit to Latin America.

“Despite Benedict XVI’s promises to become a more pastoral pope, statements like the one he made today-expressing his support for bishops who threatened to excommunicate lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion-reveal that he is still putting dogma ahead of the lived reality of the Catholic laity. Moreover, his words express an opinion that is at odds with leading canonists on this issue. The noted canon lawyer James Coriden says the law is clear: most people who are threatened with this excommunication do not do things that are ‘truly necessary’ for a specific successful abortion, they are not ‘accomplices,’ and so this law does not apply to them. The routine activity of hospital administrators, directors of abortion clinics, clinic escorts, and prochoice politicians does not make them eligible for punishment.

“Politicians, most especially those elected in democratic processes, are accountable to the needs of their constituents more directly than Benedict XVI ever will be. They know that criminalizing abortion doesn’t reduce them but merely increases the chance that women will suffer, and some will die, trying to procure an illegal one. Prochoice Catholic politicians should be praised for their courageous actions to protect women’s lives and choices in difficult times. Demonizing women who make these tough choices, and the politicians who are sympathetic to their situations, is neither pastoral nor productive.

“The real effect of this statement will not be to reduce the need for abortion. More likely than not, it will only push Catholic politicians further from the institutional church.”

For more information, please contact Erin Smith, Press Officer of Catholics for a Free Choice, at +1 (202) 986-6093.