Cardinal Burke: Pelosi Should be Denied Communion


We hear lots of talk about the importance of “dialogue”, and truly the ability to find common ground and converse with those who do not share our Catholic Faith is the basis of evangelization.

But Our Lord also commanded His disciples to shake the dust from their feet when they encountered a people who would not listen. (Mt. 10:14) Sometimes, we have to move beyond dialog and into the realm of discipline.

In a recent interview with The Wanderer, Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, was asked about whether Canon 915 (which prescribes that communion should be denied to manifest grave sinners) should apply to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Specifically, the interviewer referenced her statement, in response to a question about the Kermit Gosnell case, in which she dodged the issue by saying, “As a practicing and respectful Catholic this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.”

Burke’s response was clear and unambigious:

Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic. This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must — in safeguarding and promoting the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of marriage and the family.

What Congresswoman Pelosi is speaking of is not particular confessional beliefs or practices of the Catholic Church. It belongs to the natural moral law which is written on every human heart and which the Catholic Church obviously also teaches: that natural moral law which is so wonderfully illumined for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ by His saving teaching, but most of all by His Passion and death.

To say that these are simply questions of Catholic Faith which have no part in politics is just false and wrong. I fear for Congresswoman Pelosi if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is. I invite her to reflect upon the example of St. Thomas More who acted rightly in a similar situation even at the cost of his life.

When asked about those prominent, pro-abortion Catholics who have received honors or have been offered speaking engagements at Catholic universities or institutions, Cardinal Burke offered his own assessment about the problems with this sort of “dialogue”:

You cannot reconcile it — it is a contradiction, it is wrong, it is a scandal, and it must stop! We live in a culture with a false sense of dialogue — which has also crept into the Church — where we pretend to dialogue about open and egregious violations of the moral law. Can we believe it is permissible to recognize publicly people who support open and egregious violations, and then act surprised if someone is scandalized by it? For Catholic institutions or individuals to give recognition to such persons, to honor them in any way, is a source of grave scandal for which they are responsible. In acertain way, they contribute to the sinfulness of the individuals involved. There is no way to reconcile it; it simply is wrong.

It is gratifying to be reminded that the Church can stand its ground without equivocation. I fear that so often people get the wrong impression because the Church teaches one thing, but acts another way by turning a blind eye to those who would abuse their reputation as Catholics through their public embrace of anti-Catholic positions on important issues.

I hope that Archbishop Niederauer, who has rebuked Rep. Pelosi in the past, will see to it that Canon 915 is enforced. Further, it would be nice to see Cardinal Wuerl do the same, since she spends most of her time in his diocese. But I’m afraid his past statements on the matter indicate a slim chance that this will ever happen.

Still, with the news last week that Pope Francis excommunicated a Catholic priest in Australia for opposing Church teaching on homosexuality and women’s ordination, I suppose anything is possible. A few excommunications of American pro-abortion Catholic politicians might just go a long way toward reminding the faithful that there are consequences for open defiance on the non-negotiables and that they are, in fact, non-negotiable.

UPDATE – 9/26/13 @ 12:53 PM: Despite a quick lookup of the San Francisco archbishop which landed me here on the diocesan website, I missed the fact that Archbishop Niederauer was replaced by Archbishop Cordileone last year. I do not know of  the new Archbishop’s stance on Rep. Pelosi and her position on abortion. If you do, please feel free to leave a comment.


Categories:Abortion Democratic Party Pro-Life Vatican

  • Julie T.

    Thank you, Steve, for this post. I cannot help but wonder what role allowing those in grave public sin to receive communion plays in the rise in the number of Catholics who either don’t believe the Real Presence in the Eucharist or who are unsure about it. Personally, I believe the two are connected and I wish bishops like Cardinal Wuerl would at least consider the possibility that failure to discipline with charity leads to a wider loss of faith.

  • Priscilla

    How about denying Communion to “Practicing Catholic” Sen. MARY LANDRIEU La-D. She is running for relection in the 2014 Senate race. As a Louisiana Catholic myself I am BEGGING the Church to take a firm VOCAL stand against this blatant supporter of abortion. Let the millions of Louisiana Catholics know that they should not vote for her in 2014. Louisiana Catholics that vote for Landrieu will be committing a sin. THIS IS AN ISSUE THE CHURCH NEEDS TO DEAL WITH NOW! The 2014 election will determine whether our nation will survive or die. If Sen Landrieu refuses to stand up for life, then DEMAND Public Excommunication of Sen. MARY LANDRIEU!!

  • Donna

    Good analysis. Thanks.

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Don’t misused Pope Francis’ words to excuse the inexcusable. Pope Francis, last week, did more than what Burke is calling for, he excommunicated a priest for advocating positions contrary to Church’s teaching!

  • Sheesh

    How is that plank in your eye working out, Steve? Why is it conservative Catholics are so incredibly interested in the spiritual lives of others instead of their own, or on following Christ? Didn’t Pope Francis JUST talk about this?

    • Steve Skojec

      This has nothing at all to do with our spiritual lives and everything to do with our public lives. I’m a sinner, same as anyone. But what I don’t do is use my position and influence (such as it is) to advocate, promote, and legally pave the way for grave sin. When I sin, I take it to confession. I don’t put my name on it and turn it into law, or find myself being honored for it at an awards dinner.

      So let’s not be specious with our arguments. You know the difference as well as I do.

      • Antonio A. Badilla

        Eric, no woman has the “right” to choose the destruction of her child, in, or outside the Catholic Church. Cano law is clear and while some of the Pope’s words can be taken to mean he supports the anti-life forces of this country and other countries, he does not and he jus proved it by excommunicating a priest holding positions contrary to Church teaching and by speaking publicly against abortion the next day of his famous interview,

        • eric

          Antonio, a woman does have the right of choice on when to become a mother. It’s a God given right. The Catholic Church is wrong about this.

      • John Fiarkoski

        Great answer Steve.

  • eric

    In my opinion, your stance conflicts with the Pope. I’m guessing that you agree. Are you suggesting that all those Catholics who believe that a women has the right of choice should be excommunicated? If I’m not mistaken, a majority of Catholics do believe that women have the right of choice. Or are you suggesting that Nancy Pelosi only should be excommunicated,and if yes, why just her?

    • Steve Skojec

      Catholics who publicly advocate abortion should at the least be denied communion, and by canon law those who procure a completed abortion incur a latae sententiae excommunication. (Canon 1398) The argument continues on whether those who make it possible for others to procure an abortion (such as legislators who create the legal framework for this to happen) should justly fall under the same penalty. I think it should be so.

      Better yet, however, would be for those Catholic politicians who are vocally pro-abortion to not only be automatically excommunicated, but expressly so. They should all get nice little letters from the CDF like the priest in Australia.

      Feel free to show me how this stance conflicts with the pope. I hope you’re not taking NARAL’s word for his cooperation.

      • eric

        Steve, I’ll give it one more try. You are using a public forum, a PAC forum, to uphold the denial of a woman’s right of choice. I’ve read that Pope Francis believes that abortion is a sin. I have never heard him say that a woman doesn’t have a right of choice. There’s a very significant difference between what you are upholding and what the new Pope is saying. Additionally, you are doing what you condemn Pelosi of doing: using a public forum. Lastly, even though abortion may indeed be a sin that doesn’t give anyone the right to deny a woman’s right to choose abortion. If anti-abortion advocates could actually understand the significance of this, there would no longer be any need to discuss this issue.

    • Slats

      Eric, to begin with, taking the implicit rhetorical question (re-framed from the personal question to Steve) – “should all those Catholics who believe that a women (sic) has the right of choice should be excommunicated?” – several answers to that. First and foremost, if any faithful Catholic is aware of a Sunday Mass-going fellow sacramental Catholic who holds that it is morally permissible to procure an abortion, he or she needs to fraternally correct that person, and probably make their parish priest aware of the individual’s stance so that he can meet with him or her and offer further counsel and correction. Secondly, were you aware that, as Steve mentioned, by Church law, an individual is automatically (“latae sententiae” is the term) excommunicated from the Catholic Church for participating in a procured abortion in any way shape or form? That means getting an abortion, being the doctor or one of the attending nurses at an abortion, working at an abortion mill, paying for an abortion, pressing someone to get an abortion, driving someone to get an abortion… Other Catholics may not know about the abortion, and the person may be presenting himself or herself for Communion, but until that individual confesses the sin, that person is outside the true spiritual bounds of the Church by virtue of the Church’s power to bind and loose. I would argue further that that would be the case whether the Church said as much or not given the nature of the act.

      Obviously, there’s a difference between procuring an abortion, believing that procuring an abortion is morally permissible, and advocating that abortion be “safe and legal,” as the slogan goes. The first of those three is a heinous crime (whether the state says so or not, ontologically and existentially speaking, the nature of the act is a crime) and a tragedy, but a person can certainly repent of having participated in the act, regretting having done it and seeking God’s mercy, forgiveness, and healing of heart. That person could then ultimately come to eternal blessedness through the Blood of Christ. Many women who seek abortions believe that abortion is wrong, but see no other choice (whereas, if abortion were illegal, it would be available, but far less readily and safely so, in such a way that women in such desperate circumstances would far more clearly see that there have to be, and indeed are, other options), and many of them regret and repent of having procured their abortions. Many who felt differently about the moral nature of abortion at the time come around and repent as well. I say all this well-aware of the argument by some Catholics that part of the heinousness of abortion is that the child (and it is a child, ye politicized naysayers!) dies unbaptized. True, but God has mercy on all who repent. There is no such thing as a sin that God will not forgive if we are truly sorry and trust in His mercy.

      I actually believe that it is many times worse than having procured an abortion to believe that abortion is morally permissible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the nature of the Original Sin, the act of our first parents against God, was to choose for themselves what was right or wrong, as opposed to obeying God’s laws as built into their very design and nature. In fact, that was the only sin at that point that they *could* commit – it would have to precede any other conceivable sins – since right relation with God and one another was written into the fabric of their hearts. Moreover, since God is the designer of the human person, any assertion of what is right and wrong which differs from what He has to say is going to be massively and fundamentally incorrect, asserting that what is evil is good and what is good is evil in some way. So original sin as inherited is the tendency and consequent actual state of being separated from God and others as it flows from the more primal tendency to arrogate the right to say what is right and wrong. Abortion is the killing of an innocent, and is moreover the betrayal of the most primal of human relationships and most fundamental of rightful human responsibilities. The belief by a single individual that abortion is morally permissible is profoundly catastrophic on a spiritual and social level. First and foremost should the person be involved in the commission of a procured abortion, their erroneous and evil belief will prevent them from repenting. Furthermore, they are far more likely to encourage others to procure abortions, and if they publicly use cunning arguments in defense of the moral defensibility of procured abortion, they are likely to lead others not only into the act, but into this ruinous belief.

      Furthermore, I would argue that it is one thing (and certainly bad enough) to believe that abortion is morally permissible. It is something else entirely, as a perspective of public policy, that a right to an abortion exists and that this should thus be enshrined in law. That’s a step worse than a privately-held belief that it is morally permissible to get an abortion. I understand that the argument exists that one may hold that abortion is morally impermissible and yet should be legal for this that and the other reason, but that’s still an assertion, on some level, of right. What the person is actually asserting is that abortion is not a moral good (but should be legal), not that it’s morally impermissible. Openly or otherwise, the moral permissibility of procured abortion must be presumed in order to assert that it should be legal. Once again, this stance is far worse than a privately-held view that abortion is morally permissible, because, in a democracy, it causes both abortions and the erroneous belief that abortions are moral permissible (the attitude in the United States, especially, is that “if it’s legal, it must be morally okay”), to proliferate.

      So yes, it is a serious enough matter that I think it would be a fantastic idea were the Church to declare that the public admission by a sacramental Catholic that he or she believes that abortion should be legal, or that a “right to choose” procured abortion exists, also results in a latae sententiae excommunication.

      One final point – you said that “if I’m not mistaken, a majority of Catholics do believe that women have the right of choice.” Now, the word “Catholic” can have many meanings, in a sense. Once one is baptized Catholic, or confirmed Catholic past the age of reason after baptism according to another Church or ecclesial community’s accepted rite, in a sense one is always Catholic, even if the faith is adjured or the door of the Church never darkened by that individual again. However, how many folks on the street would call that person Catholic? Wouldn’t it be absurd to consult his or her opinion about matters Catholic? Saying that he or she is Catholic has no coherent meaning. From there, there’s a range and scale of externally visible behavior, all the way to living saints.

      Now, in the matter at hand, the question, “Does a woman have the right to choose procured abortion?” is a question about belief. The moral impermissibility of abortion is a fundamental and constituitive belief within Catholicism, a stone without which the heart-and-life-directing edifice of “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” collapses. With that in mind, as well as my above outlining of original sin and this issue, I think it’s pretty clear that asserting that “a majority of Catholics” believe in the “right of choice” is non sequitur. The question is a matter of belief, and belief is what makes a person Catholic in a coherent sense. If someone says they are a communist but then says they believe in the rights of fat rich private owners of factories to exploit the working classes, then an absurdity has arisen – they may for whatever reason be communist in the social, public sense of party membership or whatever, but they aren’t communist in the sense of what is constituitive of being a communist in terms of belief. In short, if a sacramental Catholic says “I believe that procured abortion is morally permissible,” the situation is absurd. With regard to questions about belief, that individual has revealed that they are not “Catholic” in the sense of qualification to speak on Catholic belief, in terms of their representation of the Church, and in terms of reliable identification of what the Church believes.

      100% of those who are Catholic in a reliable sense of being a legitimate source of information about what Catholics believe, would hold that there is no right to choose a procured abortion.

      • eric

        Slats, thank you for your response.

      • Bob

        “If abortion were illegal, it would be available, but far less readily and safely so, in such a way that women in such desperate circumstances would far more clearly see that there have to be, and indeed are, other options.”

        Lost all credibility here. To suggest that making abortions harder and less safe would lead to less abortions, rather than just leading to LESS SAFE abortions, totally flies in the face of, you know…history.

    • John Fiarkoski

      I would like to see every priest stand up and tell there parishioners to follow God’s laws “Thou shall not Kill” or leave the church. Every priest, as our apostles did. should be willing to lay down their lives for God’s words.

  • Rob

    Rick Santorum should be denied Communion for his support of the intrinsic evil of torture, yet this site endorsed him for President.



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