On the reception of Communion by governor Andrew Cuomo

Here is the original media e-mail interview of Dr. Edward Peters:

And here is the blog post, with other post links:

On January 2, 2011, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his live-in girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee, attended Mass and received holy Communion from Bishop Hubbard, local ordinary of the Albany NY diocese. The event was widely publicized.

Canon law expert Dr. Edward Peters, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, posted a number of comments on his blog, in addition to the above cited e-mail interview and article.

Peters: “Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, and Sandra Lee, a television celebrity, live in what is known technically as public concubinage. The fact that both Cuomo and Lee are divorced renders the concubinage adulterous on both sides as well.”

Since Cuomo and Lee are both public figures, it is well-known that they are each divorced and are living together outside of marriage. This point is not a rumor or an unsubstantiated accusation; it is public knowledge.

The Magisterium teaches, infallibly under the Universal Magisterium, that sexual relations outside of marriage is always a grave sin, and that adultery is always a grave sin. Civil divorce does not break the bonds of the Sacrament of Marriage, so their relationship is also the grave sin of adultery.

Peters: “The governor, with complete freedom, is publicly acting in violation of a fundamental moral expectation of the Church. On these facts alone, his taking holy Communion is objectively sacrilegious and produces grave scandal within the faith community.”

Since these particular grave sins are widely and publicly known, these two are also guilty of the grave sin of scandal. They are a bad example to other Catholics, and this bad example causes harm.

Then there is the further question of Andrew Cuomo’s support as a politician for abortion and same-sex marriage.

CNS News: “In his Plan for Action, Cuomo calls for putting same-sex marriage on the same legal ground as heterosexual marriage. He also defends abortion and calls for its expansion under the Reproductive Rights Act.”

Peters looks at this matter from the point of view of Canon law. And I think that Canon law is very clear on this point: anyone continuing in manifest grave sin is not to be given holy Communion. The sins of Cuomo and Lee are manifest in that they have chosen to make their sins of living together outside of marriage and their sin of adultery (since both are divorced) public knowledge. But even if someone did not choose to make his sins public, if those sins are manifest, this Canon still applies.

Now it should be obvious that this Canon on manifest grave sin refers to objective mortal sin, not to a judgment as to whether or not the sin is an actual mortal sin. An objective mortal sin is an act that is gravely contrary to the eternal moral law. An actual mortal sin requires the full knowledge and full consent to that grave objective sin. Since knowledge and consent are interior, very often we would not be certain whether a manifest grave sin would be an actual mortal sin. But we can generally know if the manifest sin is an objective mortal sin.

This article quotes “John Dwyer, a former Jesuit who taught theology at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry” as saying that “modern religious thought has come to the conclusion that communion should be denied only to those living in mortal sin — a state that requires ‘a serious, grievous matter,’ sufficient reflection by the sinner, and the ‘full consent’ of his will.”

Dwyer’s position is untenable. A Canon law would be largely unenforceable if it only brought a sanction based on actual mortal sin. For the interior state of a person’s will and intellect, as to whether he had full knowledge and full consent for a grave sin, is usually unknown. (But it could possibly be known by the person’s own words and actions, as we will see below.) The Canon refers to manifest grave sin, and the provisions of full consent and full knowledge are not manifest. So the Canon must be interpreted as referring to objective mortal sin, not necessarily to actual mortal sin.

Moreover, in this particular case, we do have some basis for concluding that the grave manifest sins of Andrew Cuomo are committed with full knowledge and full consent. He continues to support abortion, despite the well-known teaching of the Church against abortion. The same is true for his support of same-sex marriage. And both he and his paramour certainly know, what even most non-Catholics know, that the Church condemns sexual relations outside of marriage as a grave sin. The full knowledge in this case, concerning multiple grave sins, is manifest. And the full consent is also manifest, since he could not retain a position as governor of a State if he had some severe mental illness, which would reduce freedom of will and affect consent. And he has been in politics for many years, has been a Catholic for many years, and has lived with his girlfriend outside of marriage for a substantial length of time also. He has had much time to deliberate on this words and actions in these matters. Therefore, the fullness of consent is manifest.

We cannot be absolutely certain that Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee have committed actual mortal sins in these matters. But we can be certain that they have committed manifest objective mortal sin. And this is sufficient for them to be denied Communion.

But there are still more grave sins to consider. Receiving holy Communion when in a state of grave sin is the grave sin of sacrilege. Believing that direct abortion is moral, is the grave sin of heresy. Believing that same-sex marriage is a true type of marriage, is the grave sin of heresy. Believing that the State has the right to legalize these intrinsically evil and gravely immoral sins, is the grave sin of heresy. Believing that a Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin has a right to receive Communion is the grave sin of heresy also.

Regardless of Canon law, there are three types of sins that automatically excommunicate: apostasy, heresy, and schism. Regardless of Canon law, anyone in a state of actual mortal sin is prohibited by the moral law from receiving holy Communion.

Therefore, Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee must be denied holy Communion by all Bishops, priests, deacons, and lay extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

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One Response to On the reception of Communion by governor Andrew Cuomo

  1. Mary says:

    Bravo! to you Dr. Peters. I love and admire you for speaking the Truth.

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