UPDATE: We have received many, many questions asking whether the cardinal, by agreeing to abortion and contraception funding in his archdiocese's healthcare plans, incurred a latae sententiae excommunication -- obviously a very serious question that should not be the topic of laymen guessing.
A response, from the lawyers at the Canon Law Centre:
First, it is a general principle of canon law that the Church’s penal laws are subject to a strict interpretation (cf. 1983 Code, canon 18). Also, in penal law the principle of legality (nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege) concretely means that an act can be punished onlyif, at the time of its commission, the act was the object of a valid, sufficiently precise, written criminal law to which a sufficiently certain sanction was attached.
In light of these principles, it is clear that while the direct procurement of an abortion is punished with a latae sententiae excommunication as per canon 1398, there is no penal sanction attached to the act of making provision for health care plans which provide abortion (much less that fund contraception). Thus, however morally objectionable this is, the question of sin is altogether a different one from the question of incurring a penalty under canon law.
In sum, based upon the facts as they are known, in no way can it be said that Cardinal Dolan has incurred an automatic excommunication. Prayer is certainly needed, but there is to my mind no question regarding a latae sententiae penalty in this case.
Our original post, below:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of New York, has been vociferous in the fight against the Obama Administration's mandate for Catholic institutions to provide coverage for birth control in their employee health plans. Most Catholics have been united in prayer and action in this effort.
However, according to the New York Times, it appears, "under protest," Dolan's archdiocese has been helping its employees violate Natural Law for over a decade -- even providing coverage for abortions.
But even as Cardinal Dolan insists that requiring some religiously affiliated employers to pay for contraception services would be an unprecedented, and intolerable, government intrusion on religious liberty, the archdiocese he heads has quietly been paying for such coverage, albeit reluctantly and indirectly, for thousands of its unionized employees for over a decade.
The Archdiocese of New York has previously acknowledged that some local Catholic institutions offer health insurance plans that include contraceptive drugs to comply with state law; now, it is also acknowledging that the archdiocese’s own money is used to pay for a union health plan that covers contraception and even abortion for workers at its affiliated nursing homes and clinics.
“We provide the services under protest,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.
You can read the rest of the story here.
And for more information on the cardinal's confusing statements on the current abortion fight in New York, read Prince, or politician?