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burke on bad catholics

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 06, 2007

Passing through the supermarket check-out this morning and having surveyed the tabloid rack ("Di's Love Secrets Revealed!" &c.) I picked up this week's copy of Periodica de Re Canonica (vol. 96, 2007), which not only happens to be the swimsuit issue, but which includes an article by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke with the provocative title: "Canon 915: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin."

I was not disappointed. Burke, you remember, put his fellow prelates in a flutter during the 2004 presidential campaign by declaring that Catholic pro-abort pols would be denied communion in his diocese. In the spirit of episcopal collegiality, a special commission was appointed to research the matter into oblivion. That makes Burke's own study of the problem (available in its entirety here) all the more interesting. No one with a regard for metaphor can say Burke takes the bull by the horns -- the beast in question has long been gelded and polled -- but at least his two-by-four thwacks the steer hard enough to get its attention. He is critical of the Statement of the United States Bishops, "Catholics in Political Life," which was issued in the course of their June 2004 meeting, and which sidestepped the key problem by kicking back to the local ordinary the decision to pursue "the most prudent course of pastoral action." Burke himself does not sidestep the problem:

The Statement also seems to take away the serious responsibility of the minister of Holy Communion, resting the matter entirely with the Bishop. One bishop issued a statement on the same day as the statement of the body of Bishops, which intimated that can. 915 is not to be applied in his diocese. He stated:
The archdiocese will continue to follow church teaching, which places the duty of each Catholic to examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive holy communion. That is not the role of the person distributing the body and blood of Christ.
The statement of the bishop in question confuses the norm of can. 916, which applies to the self-examination of the individual communicant, with the norm of can. 915, which obliges the minister of Holy Communion to refuse the Sacrament in the cases indicated.

The bishop quoted by Burke is Cardinal Roger Mahony, whose decision to "follow church teaching" by doing the opposite is of a piece with his judgment that "for a small slice of Church history, Latin was the language of Mass." The pastoral approach.

Burke gives an extensive overview of the theological and canonical background pertinent to the denial of communion. I was interested by his reference to a 1962 work discussing a pertinent canon in the 1917 Code (#855: "The publicly unworthy, who are the excommunicated, the interdicted and the manifestly infamous, unless their penance and conversion have been established and they will have first made up for the public scandal, are to be excluded from the Eucharist"):

Father Felice Cappello, S.J., noted commentator on the Pio-Benedictine Code, describes the principle which underlies the discipline of can. 855. He reminds us that the minister of Holy Communion is held, under pain of mortal sin, to deny the sacraments to the unworthy, that is, "to those who are indeed a capable subject of the sacrament, but are not able to receive its effect, because they are in the state of mortal sin without the will of reforming themselves."

Basing himself on Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Father Cappello goes on to explain the reason for the discipline:
The dignity itself of the sacraments and the virtue of religion demand it, lest sacred things be exposed to profanation; the fidelity of the minister demands it, who is forbidden to give holy things to the dogs and to throw pearls before the swine; the law of charity demands it, lest the minister cooperate with those who unworthily attempt and dare to receive the sacraments, and offer scandal.

Archbishop Burke also cites contemporary canonists opposed to his interpretation of the key texts, including Father John Huels, who argues that "what causes scandal in one part of the world may not cause scandal elsewhere. In North America the faithful often are more scandalized by the Church's denial of sacraments and sacramentals than by the sin that occasions it."

Huels ... Huels ... why does that name ring a bell? Of course! He made headlines back in 2002 for not causing scandal the old-fashioned way. It was generous of Burke to give him a look in.

Well, I did say it was the swimsuit issue. Read it all.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 09, 2007 4:14 PM ET USA

    I agree that Communion should never be given to those who perservere in mortal sin. Pray for such people. Until a few months ago I would have spoken the same but without charity. Recently due to my interest in music I have met some gay men one of whom is actively Gay and actively Catholic. Charity demands we speak of the eternal danger they are in, it may also have us speaking truth with a breaking heart.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 8:43 PM ET USA

    Communion is such a central question of Faith with so many ramifications that we all understand, and yet only Burke speaks out about it. It is not a question reserved just to America. It seems to me that it contains the substance of both heresy and schism. Are we not very close to one and/or the other? When, under what circumstances, do we cut reject the local Bishop? The need for advice on this is no longer just theoretical, regardless of the loneliness we will impose on ourselves.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 6:08 PM ET USA

    There begs two questions: 1. Can a Bishop be held accountable for the contemptuous graven counsel to other bishops to allow those who manifest in obstinately persevering grave sin even until collegial entities that act agains the will of the Church of Chirst? 2. Is a case being laid well beyond bad egg politicians and for CDF indictments? God Bless this good and faithful son of the true Church. Thank you Archbishop Burke.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 6:07 PM ET USA

    Jurisprudence with plenty of precedence. The case seems set begining with Decretal Law, that punishmnet by excommunication can be applied to those who counsel even the Bishop to allow graven presentation of the Holy Eucharist to a person obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin with further conclusions regarding scandal and the allowance of such manifest confusing acts are called out as "insidious fruits of scandalous behavior" nb. 7/10/06 Burke appointed to Apostolic Signatura.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 3:39 PM ET USA

    For Cdl. Mahony to blatantly misinform the people of his diocese on canon law is in itself a serious sin. He "should" know better. If he does not then he should not have been ordained. Presuming that he knowingly and with deliberation makes decisions to give Communion to individuals in the state of grave sin, it would place him in the same state that they are in; consequently, he should not take Communion either. I still think he should Mahony should be called to Rome to explain himself.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 2:36 PM ET USA

    What? They publicised your love secrets? Seriously, my old dad had a way of characterising something with no value, that was worthless, as: 'It's not worth 10pence in Chinese scrip'. That, I'm afraid, is my opinion of the USCCB in general, and Mahoney in particular. They have proven, by their actions, that THEY are also obstinate sinners by virtue of their refusal to crack-down on the supporters of sin and scandal, abortion and euthanasia, homosexuality and ESCR. God bless Burke(& Bruskewitz).

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2007 12:31 PM ET USA

    From THE COMMANDMENTS OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT TO PRIESTS: "See in whose presence you stand, how you serve and to whom you dispense. Do not ignore the Master's commandment and those of the Holy Apostles [Matt 7:6]. See that you do not deliver the Son of God into the hands of the unworthy. To those worthy of communion dispense the gifts freely, as you also have received. Do not dispense unto him who does not observe the divine canons." Wish I had room to post the whole text -- it's great!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2007 9:14 PM ET USA

    We would give anything to have Archbishop Burke back in Wisconsin and especially in Milwaukee. We are proud and happy to see the good work he is doing in St. Louis and the Church in general.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2007 9:13 PM ET USA

    The cesspool of Cd. Mahoney's Los Angeles diocese has yet to be opened and smelled.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2007 7:50 PM ET USA

    Thanks be to God for shepherds like Archbishop Burke, but the scandal of pro-abort politicians receiving Holy Communion will end when Rome addresses the even greater scandal caused when wolves like Mahony and McCarrick are the ones offering the holy Sacrifice and confecting the Holy Eucharist.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2007 5:51 PM ET USA

    Can anyone imagine what the Church would be like without a bishop such as Archbishop Burke? The entire institution is a vast homosexual clique and the proof is that no other priests are protecting nthe flock. I phone the police if there is a radio blaring after 10 PM. Uncle Di had a recent piece of a woman in the Archdiocese of Boston who had seven nephews preyed upon by Fr. John Geoghan and she merely wrote to the pastor! No police????

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2007 3:29 PM ET USA

    That Diogenes sure can write. The stuff on Huels in the link is just heartbreaking.