On the Manifest Grave Sins of Fr. Manuel Pousa

A priest named Fr. Manuel Pousa, from the archdiocese of Barcelona, Spain, has been acquitted by his Bishop and by the CDF of charges that, in paying for two abortions, he incurred excommunication.

However, it is manifest that this priest is guilty of several objective mortal sins, as well as the sin of formal heresy, which carries the penalty of automatic excommunication.

1. He admits, in a published book and in statements to his bishop, that he paid for two young women to have direct abortions.

There are three fonts of morality: 1. intention, 2. moral object, 3. circumstances.

Any formal cooperation is always immoral because the act of formal cooperation has, as its moral object, the end of assisting the intrinsically evil act of another person in achieving its evil moral object. The Magisterium has always condemned all formal cooperation; although material cooperation is sometimes moral, formal cooperation is never justified.

Direct abortion is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Formal cooperation with direct abortion is always a grave sin. The act of paying for an abortion has as its moral object the end of assisting another person in obtaining an abortion. Regardless of the intention or the circumstances, the moral object is both evil and gravely contrary to the love of God and neighbor. Therefore, paying for an abortion is an intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act.

The intention to avoid a greater evil does not change the moral object. The circumstance that these two young women would have obtained abortions in a more dangerous situation does not change the moral object. Therefore, the intention and the circumstances do not cause this act to be anything other than an act of formal cooperation with the intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act of direct abortion.

Fr. Manuel Pousa committed an objective mortal sin when he paid for those abortions, and he remains apparently unrepentant. Anyone unrepentant from manifest grave sin should not be admitted to Holy Communion. (But this penalty falls short of excommunication.)

2. Fr. Pousa’s rejection of magisterial teaching on the gravity and immorality of formal cooperation with direct abortion is a serious doctrinal error, which in my opinion rises to the level of heresy.

Certainly, a grave sin can be committed without adherence to a related heresy. But in this case, this priest has publicly stated that his act was good and moral, in contradiction to magisterial teaching on formal cooperation with intrinsically evil acts. The act of paying for abortions, coupled with public statements claiming that his act was good, indicate a rejection of the moral teachings of the Catholic Faith, not merely on particular points in particular situations, but on basic principles. The rejection of the basic teachings of the Faith on intrinsically evil acts and on cooperation with evil is a rejection of teachings of the infallible Universal Magisterium. Although many theologians treat the teachings of the Magisterium on the basic principles of morality as if these were all entirely open questions, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and other documents condemn both intrinsically evil acts and formal cooperation as always immoral. In my opinion, this teaching falls under the ordinary and universal Magisterium and is therefore infallible. All infallible teachings are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith. The rejection of any such teaching is the sin of heresy.

The claim by Fr. Pousa that paying for an abortion is justified as the lesser of two evils is contrary to the teaching of the Church: “it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it” (Humanae Vitae, n. 14). His claim that paying for an abortion is justified by intention and circumstances is contrary to the teaching of the Church:

“1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.”

These teachings are so fundamental to the moral law as a whole that their denial is the grave sin of heresy. The penalty for heresy is automatic excommunication.

3. Fr. Manuel Pousa has publicly revealed that he paid for these abortions. This revelation could be reasonably anticipated to cause grave scandal among the faithful worldwide. Objectively, such a scandal is a grave matter, without any weighty good reason for the revelation, and causes such grave harm (since the subject matter is the life-or-death issue of abortion). Therefore, the act is the objective mortal sin of grave scandal. Again, persons unrepentant from manifest grave sin should not be admitted to holy Communion.

4. The Canonical penalty of excommunication for abortion includes all those persons who are accomplices, without whose help the crime would not have been committed.

“The Church’s canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history. The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication. The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that ‘a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication’. The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 62)

Can we conclude, then, that paying for an abortion is not an excommunicable offense because an abortion might be obtained without money, or because someone else might pay? Can we conclude that a legislator who votes to change the laws, from broadly restricting abortion to broadly permitting abortion, has not committed an excommunicable offense because these women might have obtained an abortion illegally? Under this interpretation, there would be no such thing as an accomplice “without whose help the crime would not have been committed.” For a crime can be committed in numerous different ways, with the help of one person, rather than another.

For the proper interpretation of the above quote from Evangelium Vitae, we should look to the eternal moral law. Canon Law is meaningless and even wicked, if it is not thoroughly based upon, and interpreted under, that law which flows from the very Nature of God, who is Justice itself: the eternal moral law.

The type of help for the sin of abortion that might be moral, is called remote material cooperation. This type of help is distant from the sin; it pertains only to the circumstances of the act, not to its moral object, and the act of the cooperator is not closely related to the sin of the perpetrator. But the Magisterium has always condemned formal cooperation with any intrinsically evil act, especially any gravely immoral intrinsically evil act. And the CCC explicitly condemns formal cooperation with abortion.

“2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.”

The type of help that makes the cooperator a true accomplice in the grave evil of abortion is formal cooperation. For every act of formal cooperation is inherently directed, by its very nature, toward assisting the intrinsically evil act of another person in attaining its evil moral object. Therefore, whoever cooperates formally with an act of abortion (or of procuring an abortion) is the type of accomplice whose help is inherent to the attainment of the abortion.

In this interpretation, the act of paying for an abortion would incur the penalty of automatic excommunication.

5. But this priest has committed yet more grave sins. In addition to the sins of formal cooperation with abortion, and the sin of scandal regarding those abortions, and the sin of rejecting the teaching of the Catholic Faith on intrinsically evil and formal cooperation, he rejects mandatory celibacy.

His rejection of mandatory celibacy is not merely academic; he is not merely saying that perhaps the Church would be better served by having more married priests. He publicly boasts that he has a girlfriend. His words and actions are incompatible with his continued work in the priesthood. Even if he and his girlfriend are chaste (as he claims), his words and actions in this regard are the grave sin of scandal. (But as for me, I would not believe anything said by a priest who pays for an abortion.) He words and actions can be reasonably anticipated to cause confusion among the faithful about celibacy, and about the vows (or promises) that a priest takes of obedience. The matter is grave as is the extent of the harm; therefore, the sin is mortal.

6. Fr. Pousa has also publicly rejected the infallible teaching of the Magisterium that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. This teaching is infallible under the Universal Magisterium, and therefore its denial is the grave sin of heresy. The penalty for formal heresy is automatic excommunication.

Every Catholic worldwide who obstinately doubts or obstinately denies the teaching of the Magisterium that women cannot be priests commits the sin of heresy.

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

7. Fr. Pousa has publicly blessed homosexual unions. This act includes several grave sins. The act of blessing homosexual unions unequivocally expresses the rejection by this priest of the infallible teaching of the Universal Magisterium that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. His act of blessing homosexual unions also implies that he rejects the teaching that two persons of the same gender cannot marry, and the teaching that anyone who has sexual relations outside of marriage sins gravely. The rejection of these teachings is the sin of heresy, and carries the penalty of automatic excommunication. His act of blessing homosexual unions is the grave sin of scandal. This same act is also a sin against his vow (or promise) of obedience.

Every Catholic worldwide who obstinately doubts or obstinately denies the teaching of the Magisterium that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral commits the sin of heresy. Every Catholic worldwide who obstinately doubts or obstinately denies the teaching of the Magisterium that a true marriage can only occur between a man and a woman commits the sin of heresy.

8. Does a Catholic need to know about the Canonical penalty of automatic excommunication for apostasy, heresy, and schism in order for the penalty to apply? For other types of offenses, yes; but for these three sins, no. Even if there were no Canon Law and nothing in any Decretals about apostasy, heresy, and schism, these three sins are of a type fundamentally incompatible with continued communion with the Church. By any act of apostasy, or formal heresy, or formal schism, the sinner separates himself from communion with the Church by the very nature of the sin. For the moral object of each of these sins is thoroughly contrary to continued communion with the Body of Christ. In other words, these sins are a type of self-excommunication; this is the inherent moral meaning of each of these sins.

Fr. Pousa has automatically excommunicated himself by committing several sins of heresy. The faithful should treat him as an outsider, refuse to attend Mass and other liturgical celebrations if he is a celebrant, refuse to give any money to his parish, and rebuke him publicly and/or privately. He should be treated like a pagan (an unbeliever) and a tax collector (an unrepentant sinner).

[Matthew]
{18:15} But if your brother has sinned against you, go and correct him, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you will have regained your brother.
{18:16} But if he will not listen you, invite with you one or two more, so that every word may stand by the mouth of two or three witnesses.
{18:17} And if he will not listen to them, tell the Church. But if he will not listen to the Church, let him be to you like the pagan and the tax collector.

Conclusion

This priest paid for abortions, rejects mandatory celibacy, has a girlfriend, and rejects Catholic teaching on the male-only priesthood. He blesses homosexual unions, thereby approving of homosexual sex and sex outside of marriage, and implicitly rejecting Catholic teaching on marriage. He scandalizes the faithful worldwide on the issues of abortion, celibacy, chastity, marriage, homosexuality, the male-only priesthood, and abortion.

The CDF and the Bishop of his Archdiocese should excommunicate this priest for heresy, and also laicize him for his numerous admitted unrepentant objective mortal sins. Instead, Cardinal Levada and Cardinal Sistach have themselves scandalized the faithful further by declining to make any public statement against the manifest grave sins of this priest and by declining to take any substantial action against him.

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