Newly installed Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, Missouri, continues to make the news with his public insistence that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should not receive the Eucharist.
Archbishop Burke was quoted in the 2 February St Louis Post-Dispatch as saying that he would refuse Communion to Senator John Kerry, the pro-abortion presidential candidate. "I would have to admonish him not to present himself for Communion," said the Archbishop. "I might give him a blessing or something." Kerry, who is moving into the front of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a Catholic who has vociferously defended his pro-abortion stand.
Kerry's own Archbishop, Sean O'Malley, was interviewed by LifesiteNews.com the day after the annual March for Life in Washington. He said: "These politicians should know that if they're not voting correctly on these life issues they shouldn't dare come to Communion." However, he declined to go so far as to refuse Communion.
Archbishop Burke had earlier taken a bold stand against pro-abortion Catholic politicians in his previous diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, by sending a private letter to each of them, encouraging reconsideration of their position on abortion.
When it was clear his letter would be disregarded, he took the matter further, making public a 10-page pastoral letter and decree dated 9 January ordering priests to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians until they had renounced their anti-life positions.
Archbishop Burke's stance was consistent with a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a year earlier. The Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (24 November 2002) clarified for Catholic politicians their most serious responsibility for the defence of human life.
The then Bishop Burke's canonical decree stated: "A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion or euthanasia, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others. Therefore, universal church law provides that such persons are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
He insisted further that all Catholic lawmakers have a grave moral responsibility to protect human life, actively opposing abortion and euthanasia.
The decree, which was published in the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Times, stated: "Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive Holy Communion". Should they present themselves, they were not to be given Communion "until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices."
In his accompanying pastoral letter, the bishop said that Catholics were called to be faithful to Christ through their political involvement. Many Catholics, he noted, "misunderstand the meaning of the so-called 'separation of Church and state' in our nation and believe that the Word of God, handed on to us in the Church, has no application to political life."
Catholics, as Catholics, had the right and obligation to inform their consciences and political judgments from the teachings of their faith, "especially in what pertains to the natural moral law, that is the order established by God in creation."
While the Ten Commandments forbid stealing, no one, he said, would believe that laws against theft are an imposition of the Jewish or Christian religions. People of different faiths or of no faith can recognise the natural obligation to respect the property of others. Also, no one would consider Christian opposition to slavery a "religious" issue.
Catholics are always required to defend human life from conception to natural death. The Church teaches that human life should be protected at every stage of development, whether in the womb, in the wheelchair or on the deathbed.
The document concluded: "John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."