Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis strikes again, and of course, the average Catholic will get the usual media pablum to explain away his paternal governance as a tyrannical fanaticism. I guess we should not expect the television gossips to read beyond the headlines they comment on; however, one would hope that anyone interested in saving his soul would do otherwise.
The good bishop is doing his part to uphold the teachings and laws of the Church. He is a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest Court in the Catholic Church. In other words, he is an expert’s expert in Canon Law and, therefore, his opinions on ecclesiastical law have particular weight. On this most crucial point, he has done his duty by giving us some much needed light.
Just recently the Canon Law journal, Periodica De Re Canonica, published an article by him entitled “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin.” This is a must read for anyone who wants to engage in a discussion of whether it is appropriate to deny Communion “Catholic” politicians who are pro-abortion.
In the introduction to his paper, Archbishop Burke makes it clear that he is addressing the state of confusion that manifested itself during the 2004 election campaign. This confusion, he says, extended not only to the faithful, but also to the American bishops who grappled with the question and published the statement, adopted on June 18, 2004, “Catholics in Political Life.”
The Archbishop says, that contrary to what the statement indicates, Canon 915 directs that Holy Communion should be denied, not only as a result of a canonical penalty, such as excommunication, but also in the case of one who “obstinately persever[es] in manifest grave sin.” This is done “in order to respect the holiness of the Sacrament, to safeguard the salvation of the soul of the party presenting himself to receive Holy Communion, and to avoid scandal.” He goes on:
The question of the scandal involved does not seem to be addressed by the [bishop’s] Statement. While concern was expressed about <<circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends>>, there is no mention of the gravely wrong conclusion which is per se drawn from the Church’s admission of politicians, who are persistent in supporting positions and legislation which gravely violate the natural moral law, to receive Holy Communion.
The rest of the document is a thoroughgoing review of the tradition, from scripture to the fathers of the Church, and on to ancient decretals, papal and liturgical directives, both the old and new code of canon law, and more. I think he pretty much answers all the objections. Of course, that won’t stop the sentimentalists, who will feel sorry for the poor persecuted politicians. He even has the guts to reaffirm that Catholics who have joined the Masons, in any capacity, are prohibited from receiving Holy Communion.
Archbishop Burke’s paper is not bed time reading, but it is everything you need to know to educate the willing on this most serious matter.
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