Skip to comments.Archbishop Raymond Burke - "Voting for candidate who backs abortion a sin"
Posted on 07/01/2004 8:42:56 AM PDT by NYer
ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- St. Louis Archbishop Raymond L. Burke will issue a pastoral letter following his comments in a radio interview that Catholics commit a mortal sin by knowingly voting for a candidate who advocates abortion.
"It is a serious sin," Archbishop Burke told The St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese. He added that a person who voted that way could receive Communion only after a "true repentance" and obtaining absolution by going to confession. "It's not right to support candidates who are for abortion," he added.
The archbishop was in Rome to receive the pallium June 29. The pallium is a circular white band of wool that symbolizes an archbishop's authority and his unity with the pope.
Issuing a pastoral letter will fulfill an earlier promise to address the voting issue, Archbishop Burke said.
"It is not a matter -- as in the case of politicians whose positions are public -- of denying Communion to voters who support pro-abortion candidates," the archbishop said. "But Catholics who support such pro-abortion candidates participate in a grave evil. They must show a change of heart and be sacramentally reconciled or refrain from receiving holy Communion."
Archbishop Burke publicly stated that Catholics sin by voting for candidates who favor abortion during an interview June 24 with St. Louis radio station KMOX-AM. It was in response to one of many questions he was asked about a variety of subjects.
He said later that his answer to the question on voting for candidates who favor abortion merely reiterated what the church teaches.
"I didn't say anything novel or extraordinary," the archbishop said. He added that Pope John Paul II has touched on such matters in writings such as his 2003 encyclical, "Eucharistia de Ecclesia," on the Eucharist and its relation to the church.
The archbishop recently wrote in an article for America magazine that church law supports a bishop's right to refuse Communion to a Catholic politician who gives "serious scandal" by supporting abortion. He also said that church law "imposes a responsibility on the local bishop to address this grave error."
He said that his recent statements were not so much influenced by a recent pastoral letter by Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo., which warned that Catholics who vote for politicians who support legal abortion commit a mortal sin, though the archbishop added that he agreed, in substance, with Bishop Sheridan's statement.
"To support such candidates is clearly to participate in their support of abortion," the archbishop said. "We must never do that."
Archbishop Burke said that in the KMOX interview he avoided commenting on specific candidates and political races.
"I am not a Democrat or a Republican," he said. He added that people who charge that bishops favor the Republican Party or are trying to influence the election by their pro-life pronouncements "are trying to silence the bishops."
The archbishop repeated his earlier statements that the abortion issue takes priority over other issues in a candidate's campaign.
"The Holy Father has written in 'Evangelium Vitae' ('The Gospel of Life') that abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable," the archbishop said.
Archbishop Burke said that those who have voted for a candidate who supports legal abortion would have to "confess the sin with sincere contrition."
"Confession is not a mechanical thing," he said. "Our Lord calls us to a true change of heart."
The gloves are off!
The Catholic bishops of the United States, at their meeting in November 1998, approved Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, a statement that constitutes a collective exercise of the episcopal responsibility to shepherd by speaking for justice. We declared: No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life (No. 32). We acknowledged that the greatest good that a Catholic politician, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion is well known, may be able to accomplish, at a given time, is to limit the harm done by a law which allows or promotes a moral evil. At the same time, we made it clear that no appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official from defending life to the greatest extent possible (No. 32; see Evangelium Vitae, Nos. 73-4).
On Nov. 24, 2002, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope John Paul II and by his order, published a Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life for the purpose of recalling some principles proper to the Christian conscience, which inspire the social and political involvement of Catholics in democratic societies (No. 1d). The note states the constant teaching of the church that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life (No. 4a). It further makes clear that the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the church cannot mean an autonomy of the political order from morality, and that for the Catholic involved in political life, serving the common good certainly means acting in conformity with ones own conscience (No. 6c). In this regard, the doctrinal note observes that it is a form of intolerant secularism that disqualifies Christians from political life because of their duty to act according to their conscience (No. 6d). It is understood that a correctly formed conscience cannot be set in opposition to the moral law or the magisterium of the church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2039; see also No. 1783).
It is the bishops duty to give pastoral care to Catholic politicians who offer a most important service to the whole of society. The bishops pastoral care in no way constitutes an unjust involvement of the church in politics. The bishop leaves to Catholic politicians and all politicians the practical decisions about the best way to serve the common good. A politicians practical decision regarding how to safeguard the common good necessarily includes protecting the life of every individual. The failure to protect the life of the unborn, a violation of the moral law, violates the common good and betrays the trust given to elected officials. The bishops pastoral concern is for the spiritual good of the Catholic politician and of the many Catholics who are influenced by his or her exercise of political leadership. More fundamentally, the bishops concern is for the good of the innocent human lives threatened and taken by procured abortion.
The intolerant secularism, which tells a Catholic politician that he may not act according to his conscience, characterizes the exercise of the bishops pastoral responsibility as a violation of the legitimate autonomy of the political sphere from the church. Right reason, on the contrary, tells us that a bishop, if he truly cares for the flock, must admonish Catholic politicians who choose to depart from church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life regarding the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin (Living the Gospel of Life, No. 32). Once again, it must be noted that the bishop always has before his eyes the most fundamental good of life from the moment of conception.
The danger of scandal is real. In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II describes in a compelling way how the moral gravity of abortion has become progressively obscured in our time (No. 58b). It was brought home to me recently when a highly placed government official who is not Catholic, reflecting upon the great number of Catholic politicians who vote for laws that provide for abortion and the seeming acceptability of such a position in the church, asked me sincerely, Is it possible, Archbishop, that a different pope would change the churchs teaching on abortion? As a bishop, I cannot be naïve about the fact that the churchs clear and consistent teaching and discipline regarding procured abortion over nearly 2,000 years is, in our time, badly obscured in the minds of many, including Catholics. The bishops call to be a prophet for justice on behalf of the innocent and defenseless unborn is clarion clear.
Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law requires that those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion. Some have wrongly characterized my application of this norm in the case of Catholic politicians who support anti-life legislation as the imposition of a canonical sanction.
First of all, Canon 915 is not part of Book Six of the code, which treats of ecclesiastical sanctions. It is true that ecclesiastical sanctions may involve exclusion from the reception of holy Communion, even as the first part of Canon 915 notes, referring to those who have been excommunicated or interdicted. But the second part of the canon refers to an exclusion that is inherent in the nature itself of the sacrament of the holy Eucharist.
The Eucharist, our greatest good in the church, is the culmination of all the sacraments in perfecting our communion with God the Father by identification with his only-begotten Son through the working of the Holy Spirit (John Paul II, encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church (April 17, 2003, No. 34b). The reception of Communion, therefore, requires certain dispositions within us, lest we sin against the holiness of the sacrament.
In his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II presents, in a full way, the visible and invisible dimension of the communion with Christ and the church that must exist for a worthy reception of the body of Christ (Nos. 34-46). Regarding the invisible dimension of communion, he reminds us of what we have been taught or should have been taught from our first preparation for holy Communion, namely that it is a sacrilege to receive the sacrament when one is not in the state of grace. One who publicly condones and promotes objectively grave sin also lacks the proper disposition for the worthy reception of holy Communion. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, following the ancient admonition of St. Paul, reminds us, we must examine our conscience before approaching to receive Communion; and if we are involved in a grave sin, we must repent and be absolved of the sin in the sacrament of penance before receiving Communion (No. 1385 and 1 Cor 11:27-29). I write this as one who must and does examine his own conscience every time he celebrates Mass and receives Communion, as one who is only too well aware of his own need of constant conversion.
The matter is complicated further by the public nature of the Catholic politicians violation of the moral law in supporting or voting for legislation that permits the taking of an innocent human life, for the sin risks scandal to others. The scandal is especially grave when Catholic politicians not only fail to restrict the evil of abortion within the bounds permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court, but even promote the right to abortion, praising the historical extension of this right and harshly criticizing those who favor laws to protect unborn human life. How can one not be gravely scandalized by the spectacle of Catholic politicians who advance the agenda of pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League?
In other words, for the Catholic politician to receive Communion when he or she has publicly violated the moral law in a grave matter like procured abortion risks leading others into thinking that they can accept procured abortion with a right conscience. In such a case, if the Catholic politician does not recognize the lack of the proper disposition to receive Communion, then the church herself must refuse the sacrament, in order to safeguard the worthy reception of the sacrament and to prevent a serious scandal among the faithful. I mentioned above the conversation with a prominent non-Catholic public official who was confused about the firmness of the churchs teaching on procured abortion because of Catholic politicians who support pro-abortion legislation and yet claim to be good Catholics. After I had set forth the churchs discipline in the matter during my service as bishop of La Crosse, many Catholics and non-Catholics alike wrote to thank me for making clear what had been very confusing for them. The teaching and discipline that I set forth is not in any way new, and it should not be exploited as a political tool by anyone.
Did I impose a canonical sanction on the Catholic politicians from the Diocese of La Crosse, who had departed from the churchs teaching on the inviolability of human life? I did not. I merely declared that public cooperation in a gravely sinful act, which has always excluded one from the worthy reception of the sacrament and is the cause of scandal, was present in the situation I was addressing. Here I note that the declaration regarding the exclusion from holy Communion came only after a personal communication of the churchs teaching and the request to speak with the Catholic politicians about the gravity of their position. Canon 915 does not require that the competent authority in the church actually judge the state of a persons soul, which only God can do, but rather the objective contradiction between the faith the person professes and his or her persistent actions contrary to clear teaching, after pastoral admonition, especially in the light of the harm that such counter-witness causes.
In this regard, it seems to me that there has been a general failure in the church to teach effectively the truth about the holy Eucharist and what is required to approach the sacrament worthily. I have frequently had the impression that some Catholics today believe that mere presence at Mass means that one may receive Communion. Reception of Communion can become a kind of social action of those present at Mass. In such a climate, to state that anyone is excluded from Communion is seen as the imposition of a harsh sanction, when, in fact, it is merely the recognition that one is involved in objectively grave sin.
Finally, some have questioned whether a Catholic politicians public departure from the churchs teaching on the inviolability of human life constitutes manifest grave sin. Certainly procuring an abortion is a gravely sinful act. Supporting legislation that provides for procured abortion is participation in a gravely sinful act, what the churchs moral teaching calls formal cooperation. The natural and divinely revealed moral law forbids this cooperation in the taking of an innocent life (Evangelium Vitae, No. 73b). Therefore a Catholic politician who supports or votes for laws that are unjust, because they permit procured abortion, persists in a gravely sinful act.
Some have accused me and other bishops of introducing division within the church and between the church and the political order of our country by our public declaration regarding the moral duty of Catholic politicians and their exclusion from Communion, in the case of their serious failure in carrying out their moral duty. Others have questioned the prudence of such declarations because of the attack they bring upon the church or their adverse political effect. I have often reflected upon these accusations, in examining my conscience regarding my action in the matter.
Having considered the matter carefully, I respond that the division is already present, both in the conscience of Catholics who dissent from a most fundamental church teaching and in the intolerant secularism prevalent in our nation, which would exclude Catholics from political life unless they be willing to violate their conscience. In our habit of political correctness, we do not like to acknowledge these divisions, but they must be recognized for the sake of our consciences and for the good of the nation.
For a bishop or any pastor to exclude someone from Communion is always a source of great sorrow. The sorrow is caused by the care that a pastor naturally has for a soul who rejects the teaching of Christ and his church. What would be profoundly more sorrowful would be the failure of a bishop to call a soul to conversion, the failure to protect the flock from scandal and the failure to safeguard the worthy reception of Communion.
Oh what joy to see a teacher of the Faith actually doing what God has ordained him to do!!!
God bless Archbishop Burke.
"procure" they seem to leave a gray area by using that word.
Any Catholic who obstinately denies that abortion is always gravely immoral, commits the sin of heresy and incurs an automatic sentence of excommunication.
Canon Law and Church Teaching
Canon 1398: A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Canon 751: Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
Canon 1364 §1: an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
The phrase latae sententiae literally means a broad sentence or wide judgment, in other words, a sentence or judgment which is applied widely. In this context, it refers to a type of excommunication which is automatic. Such a sentence of excommunication is incurred by the very commission of the offense, (CCC 2272) and does not require the particular judgment of a case by competent authority.
Apostasy, heresy, and schism are all offences which incur a sentence of excommunication automatically. Heresy is the obstinate denial of any truth of the Catholic faith, on a matter of faith or morals, which has been definitively taught by the Magisterium. The Magisterium has repeatedly and definitively taught that abortion is always gravely immoral. (CCC 2270 to 2275)
Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 57: Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
Obtaining an Abortion
Any Catholic who deliberately and knowingly obtains a procured abortion commits a mortal sin and is also automatically excommunicated, under canon 1398.
Under the laws of secular society, if one person commits a crime, then anyone who deliberately and knowingly provides essential or substantial means for that person to commit that crime is called an accessory to that crime and is also subject to the penalties of law. Similarly, any Catholic who deliberately and knowingly provides essential or substantial means for any woman to procure an abortion also commits a mortal sin and also incurs the same sentence of excommunication.
Any Catholic who substantially assists another in the deliberate sin of abortion is also guilty of serious sin and also incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Believing in Abortion
Any Catholic who obstinately denies that abortion is always gravely immoral commits the sin of heresy. The sin of heresy also incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Unfortunately, some Catholics obstinately deny that abortion is always immoral, and some Catholics claim that abortion can, at times, be a morally-acceptable choice, and some Catholics claim that a person can, in good conscience, choose abortion. Under the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, canons 751 and 1364, all such Catholics are automatically excommunicated for the sin of heresy.
This sentence of latae sententiae excommunication applies to any Catholic who denies that abortion is gravely immoral, regardless of whether they keep this denial hidden or publicly reveal it.
Those Catholics who publicly announce their denial that abortion is always gravely immoral, or who publicly promote abortion, or who publicly argue in favor of legalized abortion, also commit a mortal sin and also incur a sentence of automatic excommunication.
This sentence of excommunication applies to Catholics who are politicians, as well as to those Catholics who are political commentators, or public speakers, or who write or otherwise publicly communicate their erroneous view that abortion can be morally-acceptable or that abortion should be legal. This sentence of excommunication also certainly applies to those Catholics who claim to be theologians or Biblical scholars, but who believe or teach that abortion is not always gravely immoral.
Those Catholics who promote abortion are automatically excommunicated for two reasons. First, they have fallen into the sin of heresy by believing that abortion is not always gravely immoral (canons 751 and 1364). Second, these Catholics are providing substantial assistance for women to obtain abortions by influencing public policy to make abortions legal, and to keep abortions legal, and to broaden access to abortion. Those who provide such substantial assistance commit a mortal sin and incur a sentence of automatic excommunication (canon 1398).
Voting for Abortion
Any Catholic politician who casts a vote with the intention of legalizing abortion, or of protecting laws allowing abortion, or of widening access to abortion, commits a mortal sin.
When such a vote indicates that the Catholic politician believes that abortion is not always gravely immoral, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canons 751 and 1364, because of heresy.
When such a vote is intended to have the effect of making abortion legal, or more easily obtainable, or more widely available, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canon 1398, as someone who is attempting to provide substantial or essential means for women to obtain abortions. Catholic politicians who pass laws which legalize, protect, or widen access to abortion, are providing essential assistance to women who want to obtain abortions.
It is not sufficient for Catholic politicians to claim that they are personally opposed to abortion. If any Catholic politician favors legalized abortion, despite a claim of personal opposition, such a politician commits a mortal sin by promoting abortion and by voting in favor of abortion.
The same is true for any Catholic who casts any vote with the intention of legalizing abortion, or of protecting laws allowing abortion, or of widening access to abortion. Such a voter commits a mortal sin and incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication for two reasons. First, they are committing the sin of heresy by believing that abortion should be legal and available. Second, they are committing the grievous sin of providing women with substantial or essential assistance in obtaining abortions, by attempting to legalize or broaden access to abortion.
However, if, for a period of time, Catholic politicians and voters are unable to enact a law prohibiting all abortion, then Catholic politicians and voters may in good conscience vote for whichever law offers the greatest restrictions and limits on abortion. Subsequently, Catholic politicians and voters are required by the moral law to continue to enact further restrictions and limits on abortion, to the greatest extent possible, and, at every possible opportunity, to vote for laws which completely outlaw abortion.
Voting for Politicians
In general, the moral law requires Catholic voters to vote for those candidates who oppose abortion over those who favor abortion. However, there are exceptions to this general principle. For example, if a political candidate favors abortion, but is a member of a party which generally opposes abortion, a Catholic voter may, in good conscience, vote for that candidate, with the intention of giving more political power to the party which opposes abortion.
In another case, a Catholic voter might, in good conscience, vote for a pro-abortion candidate, if the political office would offer no opportunity for the elected candidate to vote for or against abortion. Even so, every Catholic voter should consider that anyone who supports abortion, as if it were a womans right, or as if it could ever be a moral choice, must necessarily be someone who has a seriously limited understanding of morality and justice. Such a person would not often be the better candidate for any office in place of one who understands that abortion is gravely immoral.
In every case, a Catholic should vote in such a way as to obtain as many restrictions on abortion as possible, and so as to obtain the end to legalized abortion as soon as possible.
Within any constitutional form of government, it would be ideal to have a constitutional clause or amendment which permanently and completely outlaws all procured abortions. Such an amendment must ban all abortions, regardless of circumstance, so that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent prenatal human being will be always contrary to human law, just as it is always contrary to the moral law.
A constitutional amendment can permit certain medical procedures, which are absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother, and which indirectly result in the unintended and unsought death of the prenatal, only if there is no possible way to save the life of the prenatal. A prenatal is defined as any human being from conception to birth. Every reasonable effort should be made to save the lives of both mother and prenatal. If the life of the prenatal can be saved by no other possible option than by risking or allowing the death of the mother, then the prenatal must be saved.
Catholic teaching clearly allows for certain medical procedures, which indirectly and involuntarily result in the death of the prenatal, to save the life of the mother, but only when all options to save the life of the prenatal have been exhausted. Such a procedure is not an abortion and is not an exception wherein abortion is allowed.
On the other hand, a constitutional amendment which bans abortion with exceptions for various cases, such as rape, incest, or a risk to the mothers life, would be worse than having no such amendment at all.
Any woman who is willing to commit the sin of abortion, would also be willing to lie. If a constitutional amendment permitted abortion in cases of rape, then any woman willing to lie and to falsely claim that she was raped, would be able to also claim that she had a constitutional right to an abortion. The result would be that a constitutional amendment, which seems to ban abortion with some exceptions, would end up giving every woman who is willing to tell a lie, a purported constitutional right to abortion. This situation would be worse than having no such constitutional amendment at all.
Therefore, the only acceptable pro-life constitutional amendment would be one that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, bans all procured abortions without exception.
Here is an example of a just constitutional amendment protecting human life.
--- by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Canon 1398: A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
"procures" does that include all who own, rent to, or the doctors and nurses and secretaries, guards, employees, those who drive the mothers, the boyfriends/husbands who facilitate, the politicians who approve funding for abortions via Medicaid including transportation, or just for the mother and doctor?
"procures" does this include all those rent to, own, operate, work for and attend fertility clinics who abort about 15-20 babies per session?
"procures" = gray area
Does anyone pray the rosary in front of fertility clinics where there are probably MORE abortions committed than in regular abortion mills?
Why are so many Catholic Couples seeking that procedure?
Who is Catholic Planet? are they in concert with the holy see? Does the local ordinary approve? It the link an opinion or is it fact with the bishops' approval?
Archbishop Burke is certainly a bellwether in this regard, let's hope the other bishops follow.
Hey, this is spooky, I just told cpforlife that I was watching one of your shows I had taped while replying to his post along with you being pinged.
I believe the article to be accurate - but from an era when these standards were much higher. >>
It's too bad the faith is being watered down and standards lowered. Mass attendance by me is very low, we have churches in both the rich and poor towns sponsoring "group" absolution services during lent. Food is being served out front "before" mass and everyone accepts communion without the hour fast, lines for confession are non-existent. And we have pro-abortion "Catholics" voting for abortion and homosexual unions.
Hmmm. That's an interesting coincidence.
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