Robert Novak

 Actually, the Catholic Catechism asserts that "the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty." As far as war in Iraq is concerned, it apparently meets the Catechism's definition of "just war."

 In contrast, Vatican Council II declared abortion to be an "unspeakable crime." Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) encyclical in 1995 asserted that responsibility for this crime "falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws." This encyclical, uncompromising on abortion, defends the death penalty "in cases of absolute necessity." Indeed, abortion is not only a "primary" issue as described by McCarrick, but there is no other issue described in Catholic doctrine as threatening a loss of sacraments.

 The problem may be the Cardinal's statement April 11 on Fox News Sunday a few days before Kerry came to visit him: "I'm happy that I have friends on both sides of the aisle." He obviously meant not an abortion aisle but the political aisle, a concept that imposes on a prince of the Church the burden of exercising even-handed judiciousness between Republican and Democrats.

 The pro-choice politicians seem to be winning the first round, but one priest familiar with how the Church operates told me that more and more American bishops, influenced by John Paul II, will deny communions and "finally 'out' liberal Catholics for what they are at heart, Protestants." This priest sees the day when "pro-abortion politicians will stop calling themselves Catholic or repent of their sins." That surely will not happen before the 2004 election.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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