Archbishop Raymond Burke discusses respect for the Holy Eucharist
There are laws of the Church to control inappropriate actions by the faithful for the good of the public. Could you please comment on this and explain to what degree the Church and the hierarchy have an obligation to intervene to clarify or correct issues.
… Many times, our serious sins are hidden and only known to ourselves or maybe one or another person. In that case, we have to be the one to monitor the situation and discipline ourselves not to approach to receive Holy Communion. But there are other cases in which people are committing grave sins knowingly and publicly. An example is a public official who knowingly and willingly supports actions which are against the Divine and Eternal moral law; for instance, to publicly promote procured abortion, which is the taking of innocent, defenseless human life. A person who is sinning in this way publicly is to be admonished not to receive Holy Communion until he has reformed his life. If a person, who has been admonished but persists in serious or mortal sin in a public way, receives Holy Communion, then the minister of Holy Communion has the obligation to refuse Holy Communion to that person.
Why? First of all, for the sake of the salvation of the person himself, lest he commit a sacrilege. But, secondly, for the sake of the whole Church, lest there be scandal in two ways. Number one, scandal regarding what our disposition should be to receive Holy Communion. In other words, people would be led to think it is alright to be in the state of mortal sin and to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Or it could be scandal, in a second way, in that people think that the public act which this person is committing, which everyone thinks is a serious sin, must not be so serious because the Church permits that person to receive Holy Communion. If you have a public figure who is openly and deliberately supporting abortion rights, and that same person approaches and receives Holy Communion, what are people to think? They could be led
to imagine that some how it is alright to support publicly the taking of innocent and defenseless lives in the womb. So the Church has these disciplines and they are very ancient. They actually go back to the times of St. Paul. But, throughout the Church’s history, She has always had to discipline the reception of Holy Communion which is the most sacred treasure we have in the Church. It is the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church has always had to discipline the reception of Holy Communion so that, number one, people do not approach and receive Holy Communion unworthily to their own serious moral harm; and number two, the faith in the Eucharist is always respected, and members of the Church are not led into confusion, or even error, regarding the sacredness of the Sacrament or of the moral law.
Your Excellency, some say that when a member of the Catholic hierarchy publicly admonishes a Catholic, who holds a position of public office, he is using his influence to interfere in politics. How would you respond to this?
The Bishop or Church authority, it could be the parish priest, who intervenes in such situations, is dealing solely with the good of the soul of the politician or public figure who is involved. This has nothing to do with trying to influence public policy and has to do with the state of the soul of a politician or public official who happens to be Catholic and, therefore is held in the public sphere to follow the divine moral law. If he does not, he should be admonished by his pastor. So, to try to silence a shepherd from doing what is for the good of the soul of a member of the flock by telling him that it is interfering in politics is simply ridiculous and wrong.
This also flows from something that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI recently addressed with the bishops of the United States and, that is, the desire of certain people in our society to relegate religious faith completely to a private sphere and to say that it has nothing to do with the public square. That is simply wrong. We have to give witness to our faith not only in that part of our lives that we live in the privacy of our homes, but also in our public interaction with others to give a strong witness to Christ. So we have to break down that idea that somehow our religious faith is some completely private matter and has nothing to do with our public life.
Note: In June Archbishop Raymond L. Burke was appointed by the Holy Father to serve as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is the administrative appellate tribunal of the Holy See and, consequently, the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church besides the Pope himself.