By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 4, 2009
In recent days I have been asked this question more than once: How is it that a nationally prominent senator, self-identified as a Roman Catholic, who for decades used his power and prestige to help perpetuate an "unspeakable crime" [c.f Vatican II: Gaudium et spesi #51] namely, the wanton slaughter of defenseless infants in their mothers' wombs; who, moreover, had voted to authorize the destruction of human embryos in the name of scientific progress and who had played a decisive role in securing the rejection of a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court who, though superbly qualified, was too manifestly pro-life -how is it that such a senator who, before his death, had uttered no word of public regret for his scandalous complicity-in the destruction of innocent, human life could be showered with praise by officials of the Church during a nationally televised funeral Mass?
To ask this question is really to ask a more fundamental question: How is it that so many prominent politicians who insist that they are Catholic while maintaining intransigent support for immoral legislation have been able to present themselves, publicly and persistently, for Holy Communion with no rebuke from their bishops? This is the number-one question. After all, how can one plausibly explain to the family of such a politician why it should be that, after years of public reception of the Eucharist with no objection from proper authority, he or she must now be denied a Catholic funeral Mass.
What needs to be done is clear enough in Canon Law, Canon 915 states that "a grave, public, impenitent sinner" is not to be given the Holy Eucharist. Now a politician who casts a vote, or issues an executive command, or hands down a. judicial ruling promoting abortion is beyond any question taking an action that is public; and if he never repudiates that action he is presumably inpentitent; and since both Scripture (I John, 3:15) and the Church's magisterium indisputably declare that to be complicit in the murder of the innocent is to be guilty of a sin that is grave, how then can a bishop not take the action that is clearly called for?
Some American bishops do enforce Canon 915. For example, when Kathleen. Sebelius was governor of Kansas, her bishop, the Bishop of Kansas City, Kansas, John Nauman, achnonished her not to receive Christ's Body and Blood as long as she continued to abuse her power as governor by vigorously promoting abortion. Madame Sebelius is now our nation's Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Other bishops have issued similar, rulings in similar situations. Perhaps most memorably, thanks to the intensely hostile coverage of his action in the media, Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is now the Prefect (the head) of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court of appeal in the governance of the Catholic Church, ruled (during his tenure as Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri) that presidential candidate John Kerry, who had sought with appropriate pledges the support of fanatically pro-abortion groups, was not to be given the Holy Eucharist within the boundaries of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
With respect to Archbishop Burke's courage in carrying out the obligation imposed upon him by Canon Law- thereby acting in accord with the noble example of the late fourth century's Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, who once refused to give the Eucharist to the Emperor Theodosius until the Emperor did public penance for having authorized a massacre in a distant province (the Emperor did do public penance and was reconciled) - I thought you might be interested in a tribute written by nationally known speaker and long time activist in the Pro-Life cause, Deal Hudson. His tribute was printed in the blog InsideCatholic.com on September 21st, 2009.
* * * * *Charity, Civility, and Speaking the Truth
By Deal W. Hudson 9/21/09
The fumeral of the late Senator Ted Kennedy provoked a highly charged debate among Catholics about civility. In the midst of this discussion, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, the prefect of the supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, came to Washington D.C., to be honored by InsideCatholic.com at its 14th Annual Partnership Dinner at the historic Mayflower Hotel.
Addressing more than 200 guests, Archbishop Burke said, "We must speak the truth in charity," but also, "We should have the courage to look truth in the eye and call things by their common names" The tension between these two admonitions is evident in his own heroic defense of the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life and in his personal humility.
Frank Hanna, a Catholic businessman and philanthropist from Atlanta, noted this in his introduction of the honoree. Before ever meeting Archbishop Burke, Hanna said he thought of him as a lion, whose roar "would send chills of admiration" down his spine. But when he finally met the man one day in Birmingham, he noted:
"I was struck by his simple humility. He greeted me with kindness and warmth. And I thought to myself, that's how lions are-no waving about, just quiet humble strength. There is a reason C.S. Lewis made Aslan, the lion, his hero."
Indeed, it is hard not to be struck by the gentle demeanor of the bishop who caused such a ruckus in the 2004 election by saying he would deny communion to presidential candidate Senator John Kerry. Since then, he has remained one of the most outspoken American bishops on the subject of the defense of life and marriage.
"Neither Holy Communion nor funeral rites should be administered to such politicians," said Archbishop Burke. "To deny these is not a judgmen tof the soul but a recognition of the scandal and its effects."
With obvious reference to the Kennedy funeral, he argued that when a politician is associated "with gravely sinful acts about fundamental questions like abortion and marriage, his repentance must also be public." He added, "Anyone who grasps the gravity of what he has done will understand the need to make it [his repentance] public"
It's not uncharitable to point out the scandal caused by these Catholic politicians. "The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth in love. This does not destroy unity but helps to repair a breach in the life of the Church."
Archbishop Burke rejects all the standard arguments made by Catholic politicians and their apologists who support abortion and same-sex marriage. For example, that the defense of the unborn and traditional marriage is not strictly a matter of religious faith. "The observance of the natural law is not a confessional [i.e., narrowly sectarian, restricted to a particular religion or confession] practice-it's inscribed in EVERY human heart."
He warned against allowing this kind of false reasoning to enter the health-care debate. A catholic cannot accept the attainment of universal health care if it includes abortion and other evils "just because it achieves some desirable outcomes."
In this form of reasoning, the archbishop hears an echo of the type of "seamless garment" argument that conceals a distinction between intrinsically evil acts and those that may be evil in some situations; these acts "are not all of the same cloth."
The standing ovation for Archbishop Burke lasted several minutes before Raymond Arroyo, the master of ceremonies and news director of EWTN, returned to the podiurn. Once again, as Hanna put it in his introduction, Archbishop Burke had "stood up for the Church and her teachings, in the face of violent criticism from the world and even from some within the Church."
As InsideCatholic.com editor Brian Saint-Paul handed Archbishop Burke the award for "Service to the Church and our Nation," I commented that, "This lion speaks with the voice and has the face of a lamb, and, thus, is an example of how to speak the truth in charity." [Emphasis added].