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23 September 2007
  Archbishop Burke, Abortion, and "Communion Cops"

Archbishop BurkeAccording to a Religion News Service article at the Pew Forum, Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis has strengthened a call he made in 2004, while still Archbishop of La Crosse, to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians. Already in 2004, he said that it is gravely sinful for Catholic politicians to support abortion rights and euthanasia. He was the one who spearheaded a group saying that if John Kerry presented himself at the Mass, he would deny the pro-choice Democrat the Sacrament.

In 2007, with another presidential election looming, he's upped the ante. Instead of speaking of people "gravely sinning," Burke introduced mortal sin in the discussion. And while he's concerned with the sins of those voting to keep or expand abortion rights, his emphasis has shifted to warn those who allow these politicians to commune at Catholic altars.

For Burke, it's a given that the politicians are already in a state of mortal sin. Since this is so, his impeccable logic and years of experience in canon law have led him to say that those distributing the Eucharist "are held, under pain of mortal sin, to deny the sacraments to the unworthy," since "church discipline places an obligation on the minister of Holy Communion to refuse Holy Communion to persons known, by the public, to be in mortal sin." Noting this, it's easy to understand why so many recent news and blog headlines are mentioning "Communion cops."

Already Burke holds the enthusiastic support of the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus. According to RNS, the editor of First Things calls Burke's article "a scholarly tour de force." We'll see how this all plays out through the coming months. For one thing, the Roman church's episcopal government frowns on lower ranking clerics going against their superiors — so what will happen when a parish priest goes against his bishop or a lay assistant defies his priest and refuses to commune a known abortion supporter? Rome doesn't like anarchy. Of course, Rome also doesn't like killing the unborn, the weak, and the helpless. Hmm.

Perhaps Burke will be able skirt such problems by rallying more archbishops and bishops to his cause this time around. And if the Vatican strongly backs him and the pope issues a pastoral letter along similar lines, dissent largely would be checked.

We see fairly strong institutionalized opposition to the pro-death people in Catholicism and Lutheranism and in varying degrees in some other Christian bodies. Would that more of Christendom would so plainly understand both sin and admission to the Lord's altar — and once having a good understanding, do something about it!

HT: Originally spotted by Mrs. Vark in the Faith section of the Kansas City Star.

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Comments:
We see fairly strong institutionalized opposition to the pro-death people in Catholicism and Lutheranism and in varying degrees in some other Christian bodies.

I must have missed it. Tell, me again now, where was the "fairly strong institutionalized opposition" a few years ago to IL Sen. Paul Simon and MN Gov. Jesse Ventura, both members of Missouri Synod congregations and both well-known supporters of pro-death abortion legislation?
 
I have to admit I am not a supporter of abortion - certainly not of abortion on demand, nor of casual late abortions. I believe firmly that all life is sacred, but I am with the Anglicans on the view that the life of the unborn is not absolutely sacrosanct.

I still have a huge problem with the stance of the Catholic Church over women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. I simply can not accept, as Catholic doctrine states, that EVERY conception is willed by almighty God. Abortion is not the "merciless slaughter of unborn babies". Note the emotive language. This church never talks about terminations, it always talks about murder. It does not talk about an embrio, or a foetus, it is always an unborn baby.

Make abortion harder, by all means. Reduce the legal limit if you will, make women more accountable for their decisions if that helps, but don't allow a male dominated church hierarchy to take away the right of women to end an intolerable pregnancy.

Pax Christi
D.P. (5.06 pm GMT)
 
In its document, "Render unto Caesar… and unto God: A Lutheran View of Church and State" (A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, September 1995, pp. 86-87), the Missouri Synod stated:

One of the few social issues concerning which the Synod has been willing to take a (more or less) "activist" role is abortion. While presumably recognizing the risks and dangers of such an approach, the Synod has nevertheless concluded that the question of abortion is addressed so clearly by Scripture, that it is such an extraordinary social problem, and that this problem is so fundamentally tied up with what Scripture says about the God-given duty of the state, that failure to speak and under certain circumstances to act would be tantamount to the failure of the German church under Hitler.

I consider the "(more or less)" to be a CTCR "weasel phrase", primarily because:

1. Synodical officials have not specifically supported excommunication for those congregational members who are unrepentant in their support for pro-murder-by-abortion (aka "pro-choice") or in their demonstrated support for politicians who vote for pro-abortion legislation.

2. Synodical officials have not equally supported, in addition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and murder-by-abortion legislation, a Nuremberg-type prosecution of the major abortion politicians, judges, and enablers who are responsible for many of the 40+ million murders by abortion in this country.
 
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