Thursday, July 01, 2004

Canonical Complaint Filed Against John Kerry

A canon lawyer from California, Marc Alexander Balestrieri, filed a complaint on June 14 in the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston against Senator John Kerry.

The complaint, known canonically as a "denunciation", charges Kerry with, among other things, the Public Ecclesiastical Crime of Heresy, Immediate Formal Cooperation in Heresy, Abjection of the Sacred Species, and Grave Harm to Public Morals and Contempt for The Faith and Ecclesiastical Authority".

While I'm not a canon lawyer, the complaint seems very thorough, both in its recitation of the facts and its citation of the relevant canons. The recitation of facts begins as follows:
It is an undisputed fact, externally verifiable, that the Defendant is one of the most visible, notorious and vocal members of the United States Senate to advocate and support the right to choose murder. In his first Senate speech in 1985, Defendant advocated legal abortion. He has voted to delay federal funds to hospitals - including Cathlic ones, that refuse to perform abortions...He has consistently opposed a ban on partial-birth abortions, and declared that "there is no such thing as a partial birth"...Between 1995 and 2003, defendant has a record of voting 100% in favor of the "right to choose" murder.

Perhaps the most explosive charge in the complaint is towards the end:
Therefore, Defendant Kerry, by receiving the Sacred Species with advertence of the ecclesiastical prohibition affecting him as a pro-choice politician, and doing so in the perseverant state of juridically presumptive grave sin, has exhibited that voluntary and grave contempt inherent in the crime of Abjection of the Consecrated Species envisaged by Can. 1367 CIC. As such he has incurred a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

What is important to note here is that, as I understand it, Mr. Balestrieri is not arguing that by being pro-choice simpliciter, Sen. Kerry has incurred the penalty of excommunication. He is arguing that, because Kerry has been instructed and publicly admonished regarding his stance, and has been warned that he should not receive communion, his perseverance in going to communion in spite of that warning renders him excommunicate.

I am sending it around to a couple of canonists I know to get their opinions. I'll be interested to know what they think.

It will also be interesting to see what happens to this complaint. Canon lawyers explain, in this Washington Times story, that the Archdiocese of Boston is not obliged to hear the case:
Charles M. Wilson, director of the St. Joseph Foundation in San Antonio, which has filed numerous complaints in church courts across the country on behalf of Catholic laity, doubts the Boston Archdiocese will respond to the case.

The weak point of a "denunciation" suit, he said, is that the bishop need not take action. Usually a bishop will first investigate the case and determine whether the charges have substance, Mr. Wilson said, but Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston is under no obligation to prosecute the accused.

However, if Boston refuses to hear the case, Balestrieri has the right to appeal it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This case, it seems to me, puts Archbishop O'Malley on the hot seat: will he brave the firestorm of indignant CINO Democrat opinion by hearing the case, or risk appearing pusillanimous by kicking the case upstairs?

(Thanks to Chateau Du Meau and Mark Shea for the links.)