Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pray for Governor Jerry Brown, a decent man who presides over a state of moral chaos

When I first began practicing law, my senior partner told me never to become "an on-the-other-hand lawyer." Our clients pay us to tell them what to do, he told me, and we owe it to them to give specific advice without a lot of hedging and qualifications.  In other words, when advising our clients, we should be forthright and direct.
Pray for Jerry Brown
This is good counsel, which I have tried to follow. Nevertheless, I am ambivalent about an important question facing American Catholicism, which is this: Should the nation's aggressively pro-abortion Catholic politicians be denied communion under Canon 915?

My first answer is yes. Today, many of our nation's senior political leaders--people such as Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Tom Harkin, Secretary of State John Kerry, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi--call themselves Catholics but support abortion.  Indeed, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prelate of the Apostolic Signatura, declared recently that Nancy Pelosi specifically should be denied communion because of her pro-abortion stance.

On the whole, I support a hard line.  How can the Catholic Church call itself the Bride of Christ if prominent Catholics accommodate themselves to the culture of death while remaining in full communion with the Church? I recently argued that California Governor Jerry Brown, a serious Catholic, should be denied communion because he signed a bill into law earlier this month expanding the number of abortion providers in California.

And then I read in California Catholic Daily that Governor Brown vetoed a pernicious bill that would have expanded the statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church and other non-public entities. In doing so, Governor Brown invoked ancient principles of law that put time limitations on lawsuits.

"Statutes of limitation reach back to Roman law and were specifically enshrined in the English common law by the Limitations Act of 1623," Governor Brown wrote in an explanation of his veto decision. "Ever since, and in every state, including California, various limits have been imposed on the time when lawsuits may still be initiated. Even though valid and profoundly important claims are at stake, all jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years."

Frankly, I was surprised by Governor Brown's decision. I had expected him to sign the bill, even though it reeked of an anti-Catholic odor.  But he didn't sign the bill, and his explanation for his veto was an eloquent affirmation of basic fairness. Thank you, Governor Brown.

If Jerry Brown were to abide by Catholic principles in every regard, I doubt he would have been elected Governor of California. Given the moral chaos that now reigns in the California legislature, I suppose California Catholics are fortunate to have him as their governor.

So let us pray for Jerry Brown, a serious Catholic, that God will strengthen him and guide him in his difficult political decisions.  And should he be denied communion for publicly supporting abortion? Sorrowfully, I think the answer is yes.


Cheryl K. Chumley. No communion for Nancy Pelosi: Vatican court head. Washington Times, September 23, 2013.  Accessible at:

Governor Brown vetoes opening of sex abuse window. California Catholic Daily, October 14, 2013. Accessible at: [first posted on Capitol Alert].

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