(Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
A prominent official in the Roman Catholic Church has stated that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should be denied the sacrament of Holy Communion over her pro-choice politics.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's highest court, said in an interview with the Catholic publication The Wanderer earlier this month that he believed Pelosi violated Canon 915. Part of the Church's Code of Canon Law, Canon 915 is part of several canons that deal with who can and cannot receive the sacrament of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.
"Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion," reads Canon 915.
Cardinal Burke, who heads the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, explained that regarding Pelosi and her support for abortion access "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," said Burke to The Wanderer. "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."
Burke's opinion as a canon lawyer has been denounced by some Catholics who see belief in denying Pelosi communion for her pro-choice political stance as wrong.
Catholics for Choice, a Washington, DC-based pro-choice group, released a statement Wednesday denouncing Burke's remarks. Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told The Christian Post that Burke has a track record of advocating for clergy to deny pro-choice politicians communion. "Cardinal Burke has long argued that the sacraments can be used as a political lobbying tool, something that the vast majority of bishops appropriately shy away from," said O'Brien. "This is clearly an attempt by the cardinal to influence the votes and public statements of a democratically elected politician. It is, as such, inappropriate."
John Ritchie, representative of conservative Catholic group The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), told The Christian Post that he agreed with Cardinal Burke. "Any Catholic politician who publicly opposes Catholic doctrine and morals – supporting abortion and sodomy, for example – causes scandal. That's why they must refrain from receiving Holy Communion," said Ritchie. "One cannot be Catholic and not Catholic at the same time. That's crazy. If politicians say they are Catholic – fine. Great. But they must act accordingly."
Ritchie also told CP that he and other Catholics found it "perplexing" that the Church does not enforce Canon 915. "We need to stop the confusion of politicians who say they are Catholic, but in their public behavior as politicians act contrary to the Church's perennial moral positions," said Ritchie. "If they don't want to act as Catholics, they shouldn't say they are and present themselves for Communion."