Archbishop Burke: Bishops Must Discipline Pro-Abortion Catholic Politicians
Calls his brother bishops to task – “To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law”
By Hilary White
ST. LOUIS, September 11, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Writing in the latest edition of the Canon Law journal, Periodica De Re Canonica, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, bishop of St. Louis, Missouri, has called his brother bishops to task for their silence on the problem of Catholic politicians who support abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryo research, the homosexual political agenda or other legislation “contrary to the natural moral law.”
Burke’s lengthy article addresses the scandal during the 2004 presidential election campaign when Senator John Kerry insisted that he could be militantly pro-abortion, ignore “Vatican” teachings on the sanctity of human life and marriage, and remain a good Catholic and a good Catholic politician.
During the 2004 election campaign, the scandal became so acute that the US bishops met in Denver to decide how to handle those Catholics in public life who persisted in flouting Catholic teaching. The statement produced from this meeting addressed the issue of refusing Communion by saying only that “bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.”
Burke criticises this, saying the statement “failed to take account of the clear requirement to exclude from Holy Communion those who, after appropriate admonition, obstinately persist in supporting publicly legislation which is contrary to the natural moral law.”
In the piece, Burke particularly takes aim at his brother bishops who felt no pressing need to observe the Church’s canonical strictures, saying, “To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law. Confusion, of course, is one of the most insidious fruits of scandalous behavior…” Pro-life advocates have long identified the lack of leadership on the part of church leaders as the biggest obstacle to re-instituting legal protections for the unborn.
At the height of the scandal, while still bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Burke was the only bishop out of 195 US dioceses to issue a formal, or “canonical”, ban on pro-abortion and other dissenting politicians from receiving Communion. For this distinction, Burke has been compared with the 16th century English Bishop John Fisher who, alone among the English bishops, refused to ratify King Henry VIII’s claim to be the head of the Church of England and was executed at the Tower of London and later canonized.
The article further highlights the vast and growing divide in the Catholic Church between self-styled “progressives” who have, since the 1960’s, gained ascendancy in most Catholic institutions, and those who continue to hold and defend the Church’s teachings, especially those on the sanctity of life. The gulf was perhaps well illustrated by an announcement by then-archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who, as the Kerry scandal was growing, said that although he is personally opposed to pro-abortion politicians receiving communion, he would not be “comfortable” refusing them.
McCarrick was appointed to head a task force for the bishops “studying” the problem. It was later revealed that at the Denver meeting later that summer, McCarrick withheld a crucial portion of an instruction from then-Cardinal Ratzinger that pro-abortion politicians “must” be refused Communion.
Ratzinger, echoing the calls of faithful Catholics calling for an end to the scandal, cited the Catholic Church’s Canon Law number 915 that says, “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”