In June this year, America’s Catholic bishops announced their intention to clarify the rules of “Eucharistic coherence.” By November, they will have drafted guidelines for determining whether Catholics who persist in grave sin are eligible to receive Holy Communion. Although this is a perennial pastoral question, there is no doubt why the bishops have chosen to pronounce on it now: there is a stridently pro-abortion Catholic in the White House. The question is whether such a Catholic can be considered faithful, and whether such a president may receive Communion from the Church. Those who oppose the effort have denounced it as a wanton episcopal intervention in our nation’s politics.

The charge has failed to gain much traction. Within the memory of many still living, however, it would have ignited a political firestorm. In 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy was at pains to allay fears that papal intervention could unduly influence his policy decisions. Sensing that the election might turn on that very issue, Kennedy traveled to a Houston convention of Protestant ministers to appease the dragon in its lair. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” he declared in a speech written by Ted Sorensen and vetted, reluctantly, by Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray. Kennedy affirmed his belief in an America “where

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