In the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick 9the former archbishop) was adamant regarding the administering of the Eurcharist to politicians who support abortion. My understanding that is it is up to the communicant to be in a state of grace for him or her to decide to receive communion. It is not up to the priest.
Unfortunately, Archbishop Wuerl has decided to keep this policy in place. This I disagree with him wholeheartedly.
Now, why do I bring up this subject? because I came across a reference (and I am not certain where) to the following article published in the PERIODICA DE RE CANONICA vol. 96 (2007) pag. 3-58 entitled: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin by R. L. BURKE.
Who is R.L Burke? Why he is the Archbishop of St. Louis who stated that he would not give communion to John Kerry in the 2004 election.
(Now there are many more people out there who are more knowledgable about this subject than I am, so if you feel that I am in error, please feel free to write to me and we can discuss the issue.)
After reading though the article, I think that the conclusions presented speak the most to the average catholic.
What conclusions can be drawn from the study of the history of the canonical discipline of denying Holy Communion to those who obstinately persist in public grave sin?
First of all, the consistent canonical discipline permits the administering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion only to those who are properly disposed externally, and forbids it to those who are not so disposed, prescinding from the question of their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty."
Secondly, the discipline is required by the invisible bond of communion which unites us to God and to one another. The person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Thirdly, the discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.
Fourthly, the discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious matter. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under the discipline.
Fifthly, the discipline requires the minister of Holy Communion to forbid the Sacrament to those who are publicly unworthy. Such action must not be precipitous. The person who sins gravely and publicly must, first, be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion. The memorandum, "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion", of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in its fifth principle, gives the perennial pastoral instruction in the matter. This, in fact, is done effectively in a pastoral conversation with the person, so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict. It must also be recalled that "no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it."
Finally, the discipline must be applied in order to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law. No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law. Confusion, of course, is one of the most insidious fruits of scandalous behavior.
But what I think is just as important...
Catholics in public office bear an especially heavy burden of responsibility to uphold the moral law in the exercise of their office which is exercised for the common good, especially the good of the innocent and defenseless. When they fail, they lead others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to be deceived regarding the evils of procured abortion and other attacks on innocent and defenseless human life, on the integrity of human procreation, and on the family.