Raymond Cardinal Leo Burke has cited Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law in an attempt to discourage House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion at church. The canon states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.
Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, claims that Pelosi’s public support of abortion rights should prohibit her from receiving communion from the Catholic Church. Although Burke is an official at the Vatican, he is American, and disagrees with Pelosi’s stance on the country’s abortion issues.
“I fear for Congresswoman Pelosi if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is,” Burke told The Wanderer, a Catholic publication.
Pelosi claims to be a devout, practicing Catholic. She also claims that her political life is separate from her religious life. The House Minority Leader was asked about the difference between abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and the crime of infanticide at a press conference in June, and she responded by stating the following: “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 stance on Pelosi is not the first time a Catholic official has been outspoken against politicians that support abortion rights. In 2003, Arcbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley claimed that “a Catholic politician who holds a public, pro-choice position should not be receiving communion.” He then was subject to criticism after allowing Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to receive Communion from him at a mass in July 2003, NY Daily News reports.
Burke elaborated on his position that Pelosi be denied Communion, quoting Pope John Paul II’s statement that many Catholics separate their faith from their daily lives. “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,” Burke said.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” Thomas Jefferson and other early Americans interpreted these words as calling for “a separation of church and state,” a topic which has been debated by politicians and citizens for centuries.