Catholic Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an American and a member of the Vatican's highest court, said that a priest's recent decision to deny Communion to Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden was "right and just," and that it was also correct for a priest to deny Communion to a lesbian judge in Michigan who is "married" to her female partner.
"What the priest did in South Carolina" with Joe Biden "was right and just — would that more priests would act in a similar manner!" said Cardinal Burke in an interview with The Wanderer, published on Jan. 8.
"[I]n the whole tradition of the Church, the discipline with regard to not admitting people who are involved in public grave sin, after having been admonished, has been constant and that it certainly applies to those who publicly support abortion and so-called same-sex marriage legislation," said the cardinal.
On Oct. 27, former Vice President Joe Biden, who often boasts about his Catholic faith, was denied Holy Communion by Pastor Robert Morey of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, S.C. Morey said Biden was denied Communion because "any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching."
In late November, Rev. Scott Nolan, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in East Grand Rapids, Mich., contacted District Court Judge Sara Smolenski, who is "married" to her lesbian partner, and advised that under those circumstances she should not present herself for Communion.
In the interview, The Wanderer asked the cardinal, "In light of the recent news report that a priest in South Carolina denied Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden, please explain the Church’s teaching on the priest’s action. More recently, Fr. James Martin, SJ, also appeared in the news for his comments on a similar matter. How would you counsel bishops and priests who hold that reception of Holy Communion should not be 'politicized'?
Cardinal Burke said, "The incident regarding Fr. James Martin that you allude to occurred in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. A priest rightly told a judge who was living in an open lesbian relationship that she should not approach the altar to receive Holy Communion until she corrects her situation."
"I am pleased to say that Bishop [David] John Walkowiak made an excellent statement in support of the priest," said Burke. "It is clear to me that Fr. Martin does not teach the Catholic Faith in these matters and has no particular authority to make statements on this point of Church discipline."
Fr. Martin is a pro-LGBT Jesuit priest and a consultant to the Vatican's Dicastery for Communication.
Cardinal Burke continued, "What the priest did in South Carolina was right and just — would that more priests would act in a similar manner!"
"I wrote an extensive article in 2007 on the Church’s discipline regarding the denial of Holy Communion to those persevering in manifest grave sin, which I plan to update and reissue soon [see https://mariancatechist.com/cardinal-burke-on-canon-915/]."
"I demonstrate that in the whole tradition of the Church, the discipline with regard to not admitting people who are involved in public grave sin, after having been admonished, has been constant and that it certainly applies to those who publicly support abortion and so-called same-sex marriage legislation," said Burke.
"This whole matter is not a question of politics — it is a question of the moral law," he said. "The moral law applies to politicians as much as anyone else. If one is ignorant of the truth and promotes abortion legislation, that is one thing. But if one is a professed Roman Catholic who has been admonished that he (or she) cannot support legislation against the natural moral law, he (or she) is bound to be obedient to that law."
"How can bishops stay out of the matter," said Burke, "when politicians who profess to be Catholic are giving scandal to the whole nation by voting in favor of abortion? How can they silently stand by?"
"I remember an incident in 2004 when a non-Catholic, high-ranking government official in Washington, D.C., asked me if I thought the Church’s teaching on abortion could possibly change," said the cardinal. "I recall being shocked by the question and responded, 'How can you ask that question?' After all, the question was one of the natural moral law and did not have to do with any specific denominational or confessional matter."
Burke continued, “'Well,' he replied, 'I could give you the names of probably 80 to 100 Catholic legislators who regularly vote in favor of abortion legislation. So, I figure it cannot be a very firm teaching of your Church.' This is a major scandal!"