Rudy Giuliani not only chose to receive the Eucharist, he spoke to reporters afterward about it. His spokesman now says only that Rudy's religion is a personal and private thing.
The interchange between the cardinal and the former mayor is bound to be misunderstood by many others who see religion merely as a personal and private thing.
The cardinal's concern here is not politics at all, but the meaning of the Catholic faith. Can you be a good Catholic and advocate for legalizing and funding the killing of innocent human life in the womb?
When Rudy Giuliani steps up to the plate to take the communion wafer, he's offering one public answer to that question: Yes, he can.
Everyone who looks at Rudy's public act of receiving communion is also learning an answer to that question.
Is respect for human life -- from the moment of its creation -- central to Catholic faith, or is it a side issue dispensable under the right circumstances or for the right (read: powerful) person?
Either the cardinal or the mayor was going to supply the answer.
Cardinal Egan will no doubt endure much criticism for doing what a Catholic cardinal is supposed to do: preach and protect the faith of his church. But the alternative is turning the politicians of this world into the guardians of faith.
And that should be enough to give even the village atheist pause.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.