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Support Abortion? No communion— What Do You Think?

August 21st, 2008
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the Archbishop wrong? What do you think of this report.

Catholics who support abortion should not receive Communion, says Archbishop Burke

Archbishop Raymond Burke

The prefect of the Apostolic Signature, Archbishop Raymond Burke, said
this week that Catholics, especially politicians, who publically defend
abortion should not receive Communion, and that ministers of Communion
should be responsibly charitable in denying it to them if they ask for
it, “until they have reformed their lives.”

In an interview with the magazine, Radici Christiane, Archbishop
Burke pointed out that there is often a lack of reverence at Mass when
receiving Communion.  “Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ
unworthily is a sacrilege,” he warned.  “If it is done deliberately in
mortal sin it is a sacrilege.”

To illustrate his point, he referred to “public officials who, with
knowledge and consent, uphold actions that are against the Divine and
Eternal moral law. For example, if they support abortion, which entails
the taking of innocent and defenseless human lives.  A person who
commits sin in this way should be publicly admonished in such a way as
to not receive Communion until he or she has reformed his life,” the
archbishop said.

“If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin
and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has
the obligation to deny it to him. Why? Above all, for the salvation of
that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege,” he added.

“We must avoid giving people the impression that one can be in a
state of mortal sin and receive the Eucharist,” the archbishop
continued.  “Secondly, there could be another form of scandal,
consisting of leading people to think that the public act that this
person is doing, which until now everyone believed was a serious sin,
is really not that serious -  if the Church allows him or her to
receive Communion.”

“If we have a public figure who is openly and deliberately upholding
abortion rights and receiving the Eucharist, what will the average
person think? He or she could come to believe that it up to a certain
point it is okay to do away with an innocent life in the mother’s
womb,” he warned.

Archbishop Burke also noted that when a bishop or a Church leader
prevents an abortion supporter from receiving Communion, “it is not
with the intention of interfering in public life but rather in the
spiritual state of the politician or public official who, if Catholic,
should follow the divine law in the public sphere as well.”

“Therefore, it is simply ridiculous and wrong to try to silence a
pastor, accusing him of interfering in politics so that he cannot do
good to the soul of a member of his flock,” he stated.

It is “simply wrong” to think that the faith must be reduced to the
private sphere and eliminated from public life, Archbishop Burke said,
encouraging Catholics “to bear witness to our faith not only in private
in our homes but also in our public lives with others in order to bear
strong witness to Christ.”

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Categories: Sanctity of Life
  1. August 21st, 2008 at 21:33 | #1

    Well, I thought it was funny when John F. Kerry was denied communion.
    But if we’re taking this seriously, I kinda have a little problem here.
    Not that I don’t believe life begins at conception — I most certainly do — but what about the ectopic pregnancy that really does threaten the life of the mother, as opposed to the normal health argument that opens the door to every abortion?
    Is it possible to move such pregnancies into the uterus? I don’t know. If it’s not possible, then what? Do you lay the termination of the life at the hands of the state, like we do the death penalty?
    The question of life is most certainly a serious one. I’d like to know how the RCC handles the above; they seem pretty able on theology of the body type stuff.
    Should a legislator that has no regard for the life of the conceived be denied communion? I’m leaning heavily into the affirmative there. But if the object is to bind the conscience of those people in the above situation, I’m not sure. They’re biblically informed as to what they are dealing with.

  2. Rev. Matthew Thompson
    August 21st, 2008 at 23:23 | #2

    Perhaps, like Emperor Theodosius who did penance at the correction of Ambrose, our catholic politicians might be led to repentance through this kind of church discipline.

  3. Ben
    August 22nd, 2008 at 00:13 | #3

    I think the Archbishop is quite right to say this, presuming that the politician has first been contacted privately, as we are ordered to do so by Scripture (Mt 18:5ff).
    I have read other statements from the Archbishop that more clearly delineate the Biblical pattern of: private admonishment, public warning, and finally excommunication.

  4. August 22nd, 2008 at 01:08 | #4

    Amen! Burke is spot-on here. Pastors have a responsibility to disciple, and if need be discipline, the flock in their charge. If a member of the Church supports the legalized slaughter of innocent human beings, via abortion for example, then that person is in serious spiritual jeopardy. If such a person takes action to perform such an act, or to enable such an act to occur, then the pastors of the Church need to step up and take action.
    And this is necessary not to punish the person being disciplined, but to bring them to reform their minds in light of the Gospel of Life. And it is also to protect them from unworthy reception of the Eucharist, and the terrible spiritual (and physical) consequences that St. Paul warns can flow from such an unworthy reception.

  5. August 22nd, 2008 at 16:22 | #5

    I feel like I’ve heard something like this before:
    AE 53: 33-34

  6. Ken Howes
    August 22nd, 2008 at 17:50 | #6

    Abp. Burke is right. Now, there are specific circumstances in which abortion is warranted, but they have to be understood as specific exceptions, and not as open doors to other things. One is the situation where the carrying of the baby to term will gravely (that’s a term of art) endanger the mother’s life. Another is the situation–the example of an ectopic pregnancy was given above–in which the baby has no chance of survival, while creating a probability that carrying the child to term would cause the mother’s life to be in danger and would almost certainly cause her injury. In those cases, you’re not saying that it is OK to take a life. Rather, you’re trying to save a life, acknowledging that another life will be lost in the process, yet also recognizing that that other life would probably be lost anyhow if you did not act. This is, in legal terms, a rough equivalent to a self-defense act.
    But otherwise, abortion is a grievous sin; anyone who favors a policy that defends and promotes it is sinning as surely as the mother or the doctor, the more so if it is in the public arena in which that position furthers the cause of taking the lives of babies. A politician who runs on a pro-abortion platform should be excommunicated, be he RC or LCMS.

  7. Carl Vehse
    August 23rd, 2008 at 09:49 | #7

    Obama’s selection of pro-abortionist and Roman Catholic Joe Biden as his VP running mate will serve to focus the issue of whether or not the Roman Catholic clergy have been (or have yet to be) consistent in enforcing their pro-life position on who may not receive communion.
    Fidelis is an Roman Catholic political organization promoting pro-life public policies. In his “Choice of Biden Re-Opens Catholic Wound”, Fidelis President Brian Burch stated:
    Biden’s own bishop, Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., has said that the issues pertaining to the sanctity of human life are the “great civil rights issues of this generation.”
    Bishop Saltarelli denounced the notion that politicians can ‘personally oppose’ abortion, but refuse to pass laws protecting the unborn.
    “No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: ‘I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.’ Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: “I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena,” said Bishop Saltarelli.
    In fact, Bishop Saltarelli made clear that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

    Note the distinction between Saltarelli’s phrase, “refraining from receiving” and the phrase “obligation to deny” communion.
    More importantly, the Roman Catholic heirarchy (and just as well the pastors in the Lutheran Church) need to answer the question: Given the statement, “If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him,” validly applies to pro-abortion politicians who are members of that church, does that position just as validly apply to a congregational member who publicly supports, financially or otherwise, a pro-abortion candidate, e.g., bumber-stickers on their car in the church parking lot?

  8. Ed Weise
    August 23rd, 2008 at 12:50 | #8

    Correct me if I’m wrong (I probaly haven’t done the research I should!)
    My understanding has always been that the Lutheran approach involves consideration for the life of the mother, as noted above.
    Isn’t the RC approach an “under NO circumstances”,irregardless of the mother’s life?
    [[McCain: The LCMS' official position does not, to my knowledge, open the door to "life of the mother" so much as indicate there may be some extremely rare circumstance where in a medical procedure to save the mother's life, abortion is a tragic result. That might be a nuance lost on, well, nearly everyone, but I think The LCMS position is rather finely nuanced even here, because the "life of the mother" argument can be a loophole by which "life of the mother" includes her "psychological well being" or "quality of life" etc. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.]]

  9. Ed Weise
    August 23rd, 2008 at 13:09 | #9

    Thanks for the clarification. I should have been more precise!
    Yes, sadly, “life of the mother” these days can mean anything from “interference with my executive career” to “crimping my ‘party it up’ lifestyle!”
    But, still, doesn’t the RC approach prohibit even the “extreme circumstances” situation?
    [[McCain: Yes, sorry, should have completed this conversation. Roman Catholicism knows of no, "except to save the life of the mother" provisions, but teaches that the mother should sacrifice her life, for her child, so the child can receive Holy Baptism, etc. I appreciate their absolute consistency on the issue.
    I do believe however that they acknowledge some procedures result in the death of the child, but are not intended to cause that death. The thinking goes like this:
    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I, an action involving a double effect may possibly be morally acceptable if all of the following four conditions are met:
    That the negative effects are not sought, and all reasonable efforts are made to avoid them.
    That the direct effect is positive.
    That the negative effect is not made a means to obtain the positive effect.
    That the positive effect is at least as important as the negative effect.
    Perhaps some of our Roman Catholic readers would care to elaborate more on this.
    Does Roman Catholicism reject any and all procedures that might cause the death of the child, including, for instance, treatment for tubal/ectopic pregnancies?]]

  10. August 24th, 2008 at 12:28 | #10

    For the first point, just to clarify: In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, there is NO way to save the baby. It is not murder…It is simply a case of one person dying or two. It is tragic, but not a sin to resolve the situation. That is different than an abortion, and even different from a uterine pregnancy that can place the mother’s life at risk.

  11. Gleason
    August 25th, 2008 at 21:47 | #11

    It seems that there are two issues here:
    1. How should the church punish sinners?
    2. Under what exceptional circumstances should an individual be denied communion?
    In the first case, I would guess that 1 Cor 14.40 would apply: are these individuals creating an impossible environment for the divine service to continue? There doesn’t seem to be any case for that. Should sinners who are publicly known as sinners be permitted to participate in the divine service? Rom 7 applies here in that we are all publicly known as sinners. I guess that the resolution is that we punish sinners exceptionally.
    The second question is even more difficult to grasp. The politicians in question were baptized and that they appear to hold that the elements of the communion to be the very body and blood of Christ. In that sense, they would appear to be worthy. There is the sense in which communion is a means of grace – that is forgiveness for sins. To share in the body and blood of that gift through the last testament of Christ on the night in which he was betrayed is counted by me as one of which I am singularly unworthy. Scripture supports me in that presupposition of my unworthiness except in that Christ’s suffering and crucifixion have been imputed to me through baptism – that is God’s way past my unworthiness.
    That brings us to the crux of the matter – how does a person hold that abortion is a matter of individual choice? It seems that in this fight, Lutherans are Johnny come lately and there is a sense in which Lutherans have the blood of non-declaration on their hands (but this point is not truly germane to the issue). In some fashion, Satan has taken on the education of these politicians over and against the teaching of the Roman church. It is in the sense of sin ranking that I have issue with the abp. We know that if we sin in one point, we sin in all points – that is that we have superceded God’s will with our own and we are guilty of the whole sin. As I go to the altar for communion, then I have to be conscious that I am as guilty as those politicians. Should I be denied communion? It would be more potent if the abp decided that no priest could have communion until each of them catechized all communicants in the nature of sin. That would get at the very problem of relativization of sin that the abp used as his reason for recommending that these politicians not take communion. That relativization (that is my decision to rank-order sin) needs to be attacked until every communicant realizes the full extent of their sin in the face of a holy, holy holy Lord of hosts.
    In Christ,

  12. Ben George
    August 26th, 2008 at 03:10 | #12

    Hello Pastor McCain. Regards the RC position on ectopic pregnancies etc, I believe the RC position is equivalent to the Lutheran position that you have described. I am RC myself, and in the many readings that I have done on this subject, the ectopic example has come up often and is the “classic case” of when an abortion might be acceptable as the lesser evil. Commenter Ken Howes sums it up quite nicely above.
    Bonus: an LCMS catechesis on abortion:

  13. Dennis Voss
    August 28th, 2008 at 19:26 | #13

    Actually, Archbishop Burke’s comments are not new. When he was still bishop of the La Crosse WI diocese, before he became Archbishop of St Louis, he said the same thing. A lot of RC in Wisconsin were glad to see him move to St Louis. And now he’s moving to Rome.

Comments are closed.