Cardinal Egan upset with Rudy Giuliani

April 28, 2008 7:55:25 PM PDT
Rudy Giuliani should not have received Holy Communion during the pope's visit to New York because the former presidential candidate and mayor supports abortion rights, Cardinal Edward Egan said Monday.Egan, head of the New York Archdiocese, said he had "an understanding" with Giuliani that he would not take Communion. He said Giuliani broke that understanding when he received Communion while attending Pope Benedict XVI's Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Giuliani's spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel, said the former mayor is willing to meet with the cardinal but added that his faith "is a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential."

The Republican politician received Communion during the April 19 service from one of the many clergymen who offered the sacrament. That raised eyebrows since Giuliani not only supports abortion rights but has been married three times. Catholics who divorce and remarry without getting an annulment from the church cannot receive Communion.

A spokesman for Egan said that the cardinal referred to the abortion issue rather than to Giuliani's marital history because the agreement that Giuliani would not receive Communion pre-dated his divorce from his second wife, Donna Hanover.

Giuliani's first marriage was annulled based on the fact that he and his wife were second cousins once removed. Giuliani married Hanover in 1984 and they divorced in 2002. He has been married to the former Judith Nathan since 2003.

Egan said he would seek to meet with Giuliani "to insist that he abide by our understanding."

Communion and abortion rights became a storyline in 2004, when Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic, came under scrutiny for supporting abortion rights in conflict with church teaching.

Egan's criticism of Giuliani, however, is a rare case of a Catholic bishop criticizing a public figure by name. Egan also took the unusual step Monday of describing of a private conversation he had with Giuliani.

In 2004, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis caused a stir by saying he would deny Holy Communion to Kerry because of the Massachusetts senator's stance on abortion. Most bishops who spoke about Communion and the responsibility of Catholic politicians did so in general terms without naming names.

Kerry's own archbishop, Sean O'Malley of Boston, endorsed the principle without naming the senator.

The following is the text of Cardinal Egan's statement:

"The Catholic Church clearly teaches that abortion is a grave offense against the will of God. Throughout my years as Archbishop of New York, I have repeated this teaching in sermons, articles, addresses, and interviews without hesitation or compromise of any kind. Thus it was that I had an understanding with Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, when I became Archbishop of New York and he was serving as Mayor of New York, that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion. I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York, and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding."

A spokesman for Rudy Giuliani released the following statement:

"Mayor Rudy Giuliani is certainly willing to meet with Cardinal Egan. As he has previously said, Mayor's Giuliani's faith is a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential."