(RNS) The blow fell just before Easter 1962, in a city attuned to the solemn rhythms of traditional Catholicism. On Monday of Holy Week, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel announced the excommunication of three Catholic public figures for loudly condemning his decision to integrate the archdiocese's Catholic schools.
Until they repented, Rummel declared, Leander Perez, Jackson Ricau and Una Gaillot were outside the church. New Orleans knew them well as furious public warriors against integration. But without a change of heart, Rummel said, they could not receive the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life, nor would they be buried in the embrace of their church.
Forty-two years later, Rummel's rare disciplining has fresh meaning in the politics of 2004. Today the battleground has shifted from segregation to abortion. And threats of excommunication then have morphed into threats to deny Communion to certain Catholic politicians.
The targets now are Catholic officials who defy Catholic teaching in support of abortion, doctor-assisted suicide and the use of embryos in stem cell research. All are at the top of the list because Catholic tradition holds those practices to be wrong in every context -- clearer to bishops than the related "life issues" of war and capital punishment, which in rare circumstances may be justified.
Read the entire article on the Religion Journal website.