Friday 25 September 2009

Head of Catholic Church's Supreme Tribunal calls Catholic politicians to account

A senior Vatican prelate has said that Catholic politicians who vote for anti-life and anti-family policies should not be given Holy Communion or Catholic funerals. Speaking at a Catholic awards dinner, Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, said:
"To deny these is not a judgment of the soul, but a recognition of the scandal and its effects."
His comments follow the public Catholic funeral for Edward Kennedy, the pro-abortion American senator.

Following Tony Blair's reception into the Catholic Church, some Catholics said that it was wrong to criticise him for his anti-life and anti-family political record, or even to ask him to repudiate it. One of their arguments was that being received into the Catholic Church wiped Mr Blair's slate clean, so to speak, as reception into the Church involved confession of past sins and a stated agreement with all the Church's teachings. Archbishop Burke, however, says:
"[W]ith greatly sinful acts about fundamental questions like abortion and marriage, [a politician's] repentance must also be public. Anyone who grasps the gravity of what [such a politician] has done will understand the need to make it public."
Not only has Tony Blair refused to repudiate his anti-life and anti-family political record, since being received into the Catholic Church, he has extended it with open attacks on Catholic teaching on sexual ethics.

Archbishop Burke's comments are a refreshing antidote to the pampered treatment Mr Blair received courtesy of L'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper.

In 2007, Archbishop Raymond Burke published a very thorough scholarly article The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Comminion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin in Periodica De Re Canonica (vol. 96 (2007) pag. 3 - 58. He concluded:
First of all, the consistent canonical discipline permits the administering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion only to those who are properly disposed externally, and forbids it to those who are not so disposed, prescinding from the question of their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty.

Secondly, the discipline is required by the invisible bond of communion which unites us to God and to one another. The person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

Thirdly, the discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.

Fourthly, the discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious matter. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under the discipline.

Fifthly, the discipline requires the minister of Holy Communion to forbid the Sacrament to those who are publicly unworthy. Such action must not be precipitous. The person who sins gravely and publicly must, first, be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion. The memorandum, "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion", of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in its fifth principle, gives the perennial pastoral instruction in the matter. This, in fact, is done effectively in a pastoral conversation with the person, so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict. It must also be recalled that "no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it" *.

Finally, the discipline must be applied in order to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law. No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. 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.

*"[…] nessuna autorità ecclesiastica può dispensare in alcun caso da quest'obbligo del ministro della sacra Comunione, né emanare direttive the lo contraddicono." PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM DE LEGUM TEXTIBUS, "Acta Consilii: I, Dichiarazione", Communicationes 32 (2000) 161; English translation from L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 12 July 2000, 4.
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