Skip to comments.Legislators can't have Eucharist, bishop says: Don't serve supporters of abortion rights, euthanasia
Posted on 01/09/2004 9:20:48 AM PST by Salvation
In what one national group called an unprecedented action, La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke has issued a document that says Catholic legislators who support abortion rights or euthanasia should not present themselves to receive Communion and should be refused if they do so.
Burke's four-paragraph "Notification" was published in the weekly diocesan newspaper Thursday and was posted on the diocesan Web site, along with a 10-page pastoral letter titled "On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility."
Citing Vatican doctrine, canon law and teachings by the U.S. bishops, Burke says in the notice that it is his duty as bishop "to explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their action and policies."
The notice says: "Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive Holy Communion. They are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, should they present themselves, until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices."
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League in Stafford, Va., said of Burke's broad ban, "This is the first time this has ever happened in the history of the pro-life movement, and I am so grateful to Bishop Burke."
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., a former Wauwatosa pastor, excommunicated Catholics in his diocese in 1996 for belonging to groups that support abortion rights and the right to die, but he did not target legislators, Brown said.
Brown's group launched a "Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church" last year, in which it began naming Catholic politicians who support abortion rights and calling for bishops to crack down on them.
Gov. Jim Doyle is among 14 Wisconsin officials on the group's list. Doyle has said that he was obligated to listen to all the state's residents, and that a group in Virginia should not have much say about what is done in Wisconsin.
Burke's pastoral letter says Catholic politicians cannot defend voting for an unjust law, whether it supports abortion rights or an action such as racial discrimination, "on the grounds that they are following their constituency or the will of the 'majority.' "
Pope John Paul II named Burke archbishop-elect of St. Louis on Dec. 2. An installation is scheduled for Jan. 26.
Burke sparked a national church-state debate two days after his appointment, when it became known that he had sent private letters last year to three unidentified Catholic officials from Wisconsin: a member of Congress and two state legislators. The letters warned them that they risked their spiritual well-being if they continued to support "anti-life" legislation involving issues such as abortion rights.
One of the legislators was state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point).
U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), whose name is on the American Life League's list, said last month that he welcomed clergy to influence him on issues that affect people of all religions. He did not say whether Burke had written to him.
When it became known that he had sent the private letters, Burke said in reply to a question that Catholic politicians in the diocese who refused to mend their ways would be told not to present themselves to receive Communion.
What he did not indicate was that he had signed the pastoral letter and the notification Nov. 23, before his new papal appointment limited his role in La Crosse to that of diocesan administrator.
The Catholic Times diocesan newspaper reported Thursday that "Bishop Burke affirmed that both the letter and the notification carry the full weight of his authority as bishop of the diocese."
How Burke's notification, which was issued on diocesan letterhead, will play out was unclear Thursday night. Neither Burke nor his spokeswoman could be reached for comment.
Father Robert Cook, pastor of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Viroqua, said the notification in the newspaper was the first he had heard of the bishop's directing priests to refuse Communion.
Father Richard Gilles, a canon lawyer and Burke's chief of staff, said: "That is a direct statement to the priests. They have an obligation to not give them (politicians) Holy Communion. But I think any pastor who has any sensitivity or common sense would sit down in private with these people and dialogue and talk to them and ask them not to come to Holy Communion."
Gilles said Burke's document was not as strong as a decree because it essentially reminded legislators and priests of the teachings of the church without making new law. But Burke goes a step further and removes doubt by specifically applying church law and teachings to Catholic politicians, and by saying that those who continue to support abortion rights after such warnings should be denied Communion, Gilles said.
Gilles said that Burke had previously communicated with the pastors of the three legislators who received letters from Burke last year.
On the Web: www.dioceseoflacrosse.com</A< I>
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Legislators can't have Eucharist, bishop says: Don't serve supporters of abortion rights, euthanasia