Today's WSJ has a rather unusual letter by Frances Kissling (she of the "for a Free Choice" motto). She was responding to a June 8 article which noted how Catholic bishops who speak up to say that Catholic politicos are obliged in conscience to support laws that are consistent with the moral law are vilified (by certain Catholic politicos) as enemies of free speech, unwelcome censors of liberty, while in the early days of the civil rights movements, when bishops spoke up to say that Catholics (legislators and ordinary parishioners alike) would be excommunicated for refusing orders to desegregate Catholic schools and parishes, it was the conservatives who vilified the bishops and the liberals who cheered.
On the latest brouhaha involving the bishops, Kissling first makes a claim that I can actually agree with: there is a problem with Catholics who stridently support the bishops on life issues, but feel free to disagree with Church teaching on war, economic policy, capital punishment (and I would add immigration issues). As for the bishops, Kissling claims that they know not what they do. Nor, according to Kissling, are they (or the Pope) justified by Canon Law, for "nowhere in the code is there a provision for either self-excommunication or official excommunication based on any public policy position." (As if that were really the point.) Further, she distances herself from those "liberals" fifty years ago who applauded the bishops on integration. (I guess she can't bring herself to applaud them at all.) They "were right on integration and wrong on church law and charity" just as "the few bishops today who want to sanction policy makers who support legal abortion...are out of step with current thinking about both canon law and religious freedom."
I don't know where Kissling got her Canon Law degree, but it seems to me that no one is speaking about canonical excommunication here. It is a matter of subjective conditions for Eucharistic communion being met or not. And it's not only the politicos who need to make an examination of conscience before deciding to receive communion. We are all expected to do that.