Tens of thousands of clergy members will soon receive a copy of Cardinal Raymond Burke’s firm but clear instructions to Catholic priests and bishops on when to deny someone Holy Communion.
“The Church cannot remain silent and indifferent to a public offense against the Body and Blood of Christ,” that book says.
Catholic Action for Faith and Family, a group devoted to defending the principles of the Catholic faith, published Burke’s instructions in book form in “Deny Holy Communion?” The organization’s founder and president, Thomas McKenna, told The Daily Signal that he is mailing a copy to every Catholic clergy member as part of a campaign to inform American bishops, priests, and deacons on the biblical and theological basis of Church teaching.
“There is a great misunderstanding and many misconceptions about the issue,” McKenna said. “It is presented by some clergy, including members of the hierarchy, that there really is never a situation where Holy Communion should be denied to a public and unrepentant sinner who professes to be Catholic.”
“Most clergy have not studied the issue in a formal canonical way and only know what is presented in discussions and the media,” he added. “Cardinal Burke wrote this study to better explain the Church’s history and wisdom in having canon law that addresses the issue. This is not a position of Cardinal Burke followed by others of the same bent, so to say. But this is a position that the Church has upheld for 2000 years. Cardinal Burke bases the book on formal teachings and doctrine, not on an opinion.”
Cardinal Burke originally wrote the book in 2007, which was published in the “Periodica de Re Canonica Roma: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana,” volume 96.
“No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow,” the cardinal wrote. “To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law.”
He does not specifically name any Catholic politicians — McKenna says the book was not intended as a statement to address any specific politician, but rather to “set forth in a clear way, the principles and teachings for clergy to address individuals who are defiant of Church teachings in a public way.”
The Catholic Action for Faith and Family campaign comes as high profile Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden repeatedly and publicly support and promote abortion, though the Catholic Church teaches that abortion ends the life of a human being and is a crime against human life.
McKenna hopes that mailing the book out will help clergy understand Church teaching. “And in some situations,” he adds, “where it is warranted, take steps to privately confront public figures who are defiant of Church teachings, and begin a process to correct them, and if they don’t repent and continue to publicly cause scandal, then to ask them to not present themselves for Holy Communion.”
“A point that Cardinal Burke shows in the book is that Canon (law) 915 is based on charity and not penal,” McKenna pointed out. “It is charity to correct someone who is going down a wrong and sinful path of perdition. And that is the role of the clergy.”
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