Bell, Book and Candle

Sen. Joe Biden has a problem with the Catholic Church – his stance on abortion which is in direct defiance of teachings and precepts of the religion the Delaware Senator purports to belong to.

Several Bishops and Arch-Bishops have already issued declarations denying Biden the Eucharist within their diocese and arch-diocese. This is but one step away from excommunication.

Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote in 2004:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

So one must wonder how long it will be before the Catholic Church takes the next step in remonstrating the wayward Senator and formally excommunicates him. Since all 55 US Catholic Bishops and Arch-Bishops have denounced the Democratic vice Presidential candidate I do not believe this step is very far away.

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI has previously in 2007 unequivocally stated that pro-choice politicians not only should be denied communion, but face outright excommunication from the Church for supporting the killing of a human child.

Yes, that they are excommunicated isn’t something arbitrary. It’s envisioned in the law of the Church that the killing of a human child is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ.

— Pope Benedict XVI

According to Wikipedia, in the Middle Ages, formal acts of public excommunication were accompanied by a ceremony wherein a bell was tolled as for the dead, the Book of the Gospels was closed, and a candle snuffed out – hence the idiom “to condemn with bell, book and candle.”

It is not normal for such public ceremonies to be held today. Only in cases where a person’s excommunicable offense is very public and likely to confuse people – such as Biden’s case – is a person’s excommunicated status even announced, and that usually by a simple statement from a church official.

This may present quite a problem for the Obama-Biden campaign. Biden is being trashed across every state of the Union by Catholic newspapers, TV and radio stations, and blogs – and the likelihood of his excommunication will only make that worse.

There are 47 million Catholic voters in the United States. One quarter of all registered voters are Catholics. At every presidential election in the past 30 years the Catholic vote has gone to the winning candidate, except for Al Gore in 2000.

How many of these Catholic voters will vote for a man on the verge of being excommunicated?

Will the tolling of a bell be the death knell of Obama’s campaign? Will the book that is closed be the book on the Democrat’s chance at the White House? Will that candle that is snuffed out be the hope of the pro-choice Liberals?

Related Reading:

The Book of Joe: The Life, Wit, and (Sometimes Accidental) Wisdom of Joe Biden
Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue
Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation (TRIOS)
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
What's Wrong With Religion

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33 Responses to “Bell, Book and Candle”

  1. Saidah Says:

    Wow. That’s interesting. I’m a protestant Christian, not Catholic Christian, but that’s interesting to know. Sadly, the Protestant Christian churches are a bit too divided on other topics to present a unified front on a subject such as this, or to possibly be expected to respond to such an announcement in any similar way. But I wonder, if anything, if such an act by the Catholic Church might affect Protestant Christians’ votes as well. It would be pretty neat if it did. I hope it’s at least discussed in Protestant Christian circles. It would prove beneficial.

  2. jonolan Says:

    Given the antipathy – recently made worse by Pope Benedict XVI – between the Catholic Church and most of the Protestant denominations, I doubt there will be much spill over.

    Then again…this is a fairly important issue to many Christians.

  3. tyson koska Says:

    Interesting stuff… do you have any statistics on how many people are excommunicated per year and/or the last time a “prominent” individual was?

  4. jonolan Says:

    Here’s the wikipedia list:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_excommunicated_by_the_Roman_Catholic_Church

    It’s not accurate though, since Biden is already listed on it – admittedly with caveats. It’s also not exhaustive since – as noted in the post above – the Catholic Church rarely publishes the data.

  5. No Title In Particular « The Reluctant Optimist Says:

    […] Biden and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians excommunicated? I wish, but somehow I doubt it will happen. Besides they will just join the Episcopals. […]

  6. in2thefray Says:

    This kind of thing gets floated around a lot. I seem to remember Kerry facing this issue. I think Kerry will serve as a good example of how this will play out. I would also point out that the Catholic voters don’t vote their faith as much as the Vatican would like you to believe.

  7. jonolan Says:

    Kerry lost, in2thefray. And while the Catholic vote wasn’t key to that, it did have a measurable negative impact. See: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0406188.htm

    A percentage point or two of the popular vote is all that is often needed in a closely contested swing state which is where this election will be fought.

    We’ll have to see. I’m interested in how it will shake out, especially if the issue and the Pope’s threat of the excommunication of pro-choice politicians in 2007 gets more media coverage.

  8. Damian Says:

    An interesting spin on the campaign. However, I agree with one of your readers. Being a Catholic, albeit a lapsed one, I can tell you that this sort of issue will not sway the Catholic vote. Excommunication is a practice that is seen as outdated and taken very little notice of. The Catholics will vote for Biden because he is a practising Catholic, no more no less. A good Catholic in office is all my Father ever wanted to see. I like your spin on it though. Makes one think, but not think long enough for it to matter.

  9. jonolan Says:

    Damian, you and in2thefray (aka Alfie) both have very valid points. i will point out however that Kerry, who had the same problem to a lesser degree lost the election.

    You’re father wanted a good Catholic in office. How we he have felt about a Catholic who was openly denounced by the entire US Council of Bishops?

    I’m not saying that Catholics en mass will vote against him. I’m saying that this will have an effect, and that the effect will be stronger if they call for his excommunication.

  10. Steph Says:

    It’s a huge issue, abortion cost Kerry the election have a look at where he lost and the percentage of Catholics who voted for Bush. Also remember that Catholics vote in large numbers, Catholics who won’t vote Republican might abstain. As a Catholic abortion matters to me, it matters to every Catholic I know.

  11. jonolan Says:

    Yes, Steph. It’s also apparently the case that the Catholics have drifted away from the GOP – sort of lapsed Republicans – in recent years. Some reports have almost 50% of the Catholic voters now identifying as Independents. This means those votes are significant in an election that is essential Party / Base v. Party / Base. Since the camps are roughly equal, the independents will have a greater say in the outcome.

    I’ll postulate that 33% of the Catholics will not vote for Obama-Biden because of this issue. That’s 8.3% of the total voters and 4.15% of the Independents. Most of the US elections are determined by that margin of the popular vote.

  12. PastorBlastor Says:

    As an ex-Catholic that converted away from the “Church,” and having many relatives that still are in the Church as priests, monks, friars, and a Bishop, I will tell you that many who adhere to their faith will not vote for Biden if the Church excommunicates him. However, I doubt seriously they will or would before the election. It takes a lot of effort to do so and to have the hearing. Biden would also have the ability to respond and defend himself.

    Those many Catholics who do not vote the way their Church tells them to, probably would follow suit if there is a strong stand such as excommunication. Denying Biden Communion is a bigger deal than most understand. If more Catholics are aware it has occurred, it could move enough people from not voting at all or move them to voting for McCain. Many Catholics like McCain anyway.

    Just my own thoughts…

  13. Charlotte A. Weybright Says:

    I am not Catholic. But I have read about various religions. From my understanding, the Catholic Church opposes the death penalty as well as abortion.

    So does the church intend to excommunicate those Catholics who support the death penalty? Or is the focus only on those in the public eye who are brave enough to take a stance – one way or the other – on either of these two divisive issues?

    It seems like to be consistent, the Church should also excommunicate those who support the death penalty.

  14. jonolan Says:

    The Catholic Church’s official position on the death penalty is not quite what some Catholics think it is.

    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    — Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004 A.D
    letter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, #3

    Various Catholic theologians have repeatedly stated that the death penalty is not inherently evil, though any particular implementation thereof may well be and the seriousness of situation is cause for grave concern.

  15. Michelle Says:

    I left the Catholic church after having spent 2 years studying “Catholic Church History”. I could site dozens of reasons for this. Unfortunatley, this is not the forum for that. Later, I went to a major university before entering the seminary.

    However, most all my family are still within the Catholic church…and they (as we do) support Obama/Biden.

    I spent over 30 years as a Republican and I don’t only mean with my vote. I arranged my furloughs home (as much as possible) around campaign and election times. I worked for them as a fundraiser, spoke to local groups, and wrote some political op/ed pieces. Yet, these last eight years have done two things…it opened my eyes and closed my checkbook.

    This administration is the worst in my lifetime.

  16. zhann Says:

    Not being a religious man, I much prefer an excommunicated Biden to a Palin that attends witch doctor ceremonies. Of course, I have no respect for the current administration and would vote Democrat regardless. However, I find Sarah Palin’s lack of intelligence, and more so lack of substance, a scary thought. This has nothing to do with the fact that she is a Republican, but simply who she is. As with many, the thought of her in office scares me to no end.

  17. chamay0 Says:

    Let me be perfectly blunt. Barbie (Palin in your world) is a complete idiot and a disgrace for even those that have moderate intelligence. McCain is horribly insane and a vote for either one of those jackals is a vote against going forward. Both of them preach hate and it is disgusting. Both of them probably have a special ticket reserved in hell. They are ugly people that have no desire to heal a nation. I’ve never seen anything as ugly as McCain and Barbie.

    For you to keep acting like it is good for our nation to be divided only admits that you are either blind, willingly stupid or just a hater of the happiness of mankind to live in peace. Take your got damn pick.

  18. jonolan Says:

    I think the the Catholics, a large block of voters in the US may well disagree with your assessment of which candidates have a “special ticket reserved in Hell.”

    We’ll just have to await the analysis of vote in order to find out if a large number of those Catholic voted against Obama & Biden based on those candidates’ approval of abortion.

  19. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    It has come to this. Obama is showing what we need in a president in this historical time in the world. Leadership and the ability to be the pack-leader. Republicans are finally going to their dispecable proven-and-failed Karl Rove tactics. Attack, attack, attack, and make up some more lies, that is irrelevant to the voters.

    You would think John McCain would say no to this type of final act of desperation to win the presidency. I guess no character when it comes to winning eh John McCain?

  20. jonolan Says:

    Dr. Ethiopia,

    I don’t think it can be honestly claimed that this is a Rovian tactic or anything that originates from the GOP. Sen. McCain can’t call the Pope or the Council of American Bishops and tell them to do something.

    This problem of Biden’s – and by association, Obama – comes from the fact that we have plenty of people in the US who are Single Issue Voters. Abortion is one of the wedge issues that divide our country. Some – many Catholics included – won’t vote for someone who is pro-abortion. Some won’t vote for anyone who is pro-life.

  21. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    Very well said, and i agree to your last point. But Jonolan, you and i know, McCain was more honorable a person than he was before he started this attack machine, which he edspesed, having been on the receiving end of it in 2000.

    So for me it is about dirty politics and the stomach i don’t have for it. It ought to stop. America must be about the issues. Every 4 years this dirty October politics is getting a little out of hand. Win-by-any-means-politics is something i am not a proponent of. I think he is getting trapped in it.

    Someone will lose eventually, but they should leave with their respect intact.

  22. jonolan Says:

    Yes he was and I’m not particularly happy with the man he seems to have become nor the reasons for it. Nor am I happy with Obama, who has engaged in his own Chicago style brand of dirty politics.

    Every 4 years America goes through this relatively bloodless civil war that we call an election. In October it’s gets nasty because there are no more resolvable issues left to argue about; the candidates have already made their positions clear. So, they turn to nastiness in order to snap up those last few undecided voters.

  23. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    “bloodless civil war”, perfect description of it. I might steal that one. It sums it all up.

  24. jonolan Says:

    You can’t steal it; I give it freely 🙂

    Unfortunately it’s only relatively bloodless so far. We’ve had outbreaks of violence already – including minor chemical weapons attacks upon delegates at the RNC. Police also arrested an armed man who was threatening to kill voting officials because he wanted to “keep that nigger from getting elected.”

  25. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    America would have been a better nation by the time this is all said and done. This “nigger” (i am black), probably would have played an invaluable role in the lives of so many young kids across this nation. That outweighs the price of the presidency.

  26. jonolan Says:

    I don’t quite understand your point.

  27. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    Whether Obama wins or loses, he had benefited this country and had taken it out of its gripping past on race. He had re-enrgized the younger voters to participate inthe political process once again. He had, though no one talks about it, had left the door open for people of color to walk into what has been thought of unthinkable in the past, to participate in the highest level of political avenue or office. And so forth. Need i continue?

  28. jonolan Says:

    I sadly disagree. race has been a major issue during the entire cycle of the election. The Obama supporters and the media have tried their best to make this election about race and they’ve pretty much succeeded. America is now more divided on racial issue than it has been in a long time, but now those issues are conflated with politics and political parties.

  29. Dr. Ethiopia Says:

    Jonolan, Jonolan, Jonolan

    You can’t be serious at all here. I mean Obama as a candidate had tried his share to discuss this matter and put it on the open. The record is out there. I mean, are you getting your news from Sean hannity only? That would be dangerous. Obama had never made this about race. He is able as we know to deabte the issues and stand on his 2 own feet.

    I think it is disgraceful to belittle Obama as anything but a black candidate. Belittling what he had achieved is nothing short of spitting on America. As i believe him to be the true American story.

    This is a guy who honestly did all he can to publicly service his country, and this is what some of the racist and xenophobic half in America wants to treat one of it own.

    For the life of me, i can’t understand a hatred on level such as what we have seen.

    I am sorry to see you disagree. I can’t amke you see what Obama for President had done for this country. I guess you just have to be black or person of color then.

  30. jonolan Says:

    Nope, I’m not talking about Obama or his campaign staff. I’m talking about the American media and a lot of the Obama supporters. That’s why I specifically said, “The Obama supporters and the media…” If I blamed Obama himself I would have explicitly said so.

    It seems that Obama’s supporters have decided that almost any criticism of him is somehow racist. That just breeds resentment and hate among the opposition, resentment and hate that probably won’t end with the election.

    And if Obama is defeated in November, what do you think the feelings amongst his supporters – especially the Black ones – will be?

    What Obama has definitely done is highlight the rage and bitterness among the Black community in America. That itself is extremely valuable. He’s pretty much forced us to begin those “frank and open” discussions that he spoke of so eloquently.

    I think of it as an infected wound that we’ve been ignoring for so long that we don’t think of it anymore. Obama has forced us to go through the painful process of draining that infection.

    So, to be fair Obama’s candidacy – as opposed to campaign – has polarized and divided the nation on race, but I do think this is a painful step that has to be taken to get over the plateau we were at before. When it’s done, maybe we will be in a better place.

  31. JOHANNIM Says:

    52% OF CATHOLICS VOTED FOR THE PRO DEATH OBAMA PRESIDENCY,PROBABLY TIPPING THE BALANCE IN FAVOUR OF THE REVISIONIST DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AND PUTTING THE REACTIONARY/SOCIALIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE. WE CAN THANK A WEAK KNEED GUTTLESS CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS U.S.A & EQUALLY GUTLESS ORTHODOX BISHOPS FOR 40 YEAR OF BLURRING AND DISTORTING THE TEACHINGS OF CATHOLIC/ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY IN THE NAME OF ACCEPTANCE BY THE SOCIALIST REACTIONARY ELITE IN THIS COUNTRY. THE SAME BULLSHIT IS OCCURING IN CANADA, FRANCE THE U.K. GERMANY BRAZIL, MEXICO, HOLLAND & BELGIUM EYC ETC ETC ETC . 40 YEARS OF POST VATICAN TWO CATHOLIC SO-CALLED “PROGRESSIVISM” HAS MILLIONS LEAVING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. FINALLY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS A POPE WITH GONADES AND THE LIBERAL REACTIONARIES, PRIESTS, BISHOPS, RELIGIOUS AND ABORTIONIST LIBERALS ARE RUNNING FOR THE HILL OR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, WHICHEVER IS CLOSER.

  32. JOHANNIM Says:

    POSTSCRIPT, IF YOUR LOOKING FOR SALVATION IN THE SO-CALLED CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN PARTY USA, KEEP LOOKING AND REMEMBER THE USELESS PRESIDENCY OF GEORGY BUSH, KINDA LIKE THAT OLDE FART AND ONE OF THE WORST 20TH CENTURY AMERICAN PRESIDENTS THE PEANUT FARMER JIMMY “KARL MARX” CARTER

  33. jonolan Says:

    JOHANNIM,

    If you or anyone is looking for salvation in any secular authority, you or they have already made an error that places your or their soul in jeopardy. Salvation will not be found within the confines or mortal man and his transient endeavors.

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