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Cardinal Burke and Catholic historian Professor Roberto de Mattei at the 2019 Rome March for Life.Stephen Kokx / LifeSiteNews

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VATICAN CITY, April 8, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) –– Raymond Cardinal Burke, the former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has released a statement declaring that those who “publicly and obstinately violate the moral law” are in a state of apostasy, automatically excommunicated, and thus must not be permitted to receive Holy Communion. 

Cardinal Burke, a doctor of canon law, entitled his work, a “Statement on the Reception of Holy Communion by Those Who Persist in Public Grave Sin.” 

He explained that it had been written to clarify the question which Catholic and non-Catholics alike pose, with regard to how Catholics, particularly politicians, are being allowed to receive Holy Communion, whilst publicly promoting programs and laws which violate Church teaching. 

Such a question applied particularly to those who engaged in promotion of “abortion on demand,” as well as laws violating the “dignity of human life…the integrity of human sexuality, marriage and the family, and…the free practice of religion.”

This “touches on the very foundations of the Church’s teaching regarding faith and morals,” wrote the cardinal, who re-presented the Church’s teaching in his statement, so as to help those who are “rightly confused and indeed frequently scandalized by the all too common public betrayal of the Church’s teaching on faith and morals by those who profess to be Catholic.”

Quoting directly from canon law, Cardinal Burke wrote: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

As a result, priests and bishops must “instruct and admonish the faithful” who are in such a state, in order to prevent offences against God through unworthy reception of Communion, which lead to “their own eternal harm and, likewise, leading others into error and even sin in such a serious matter.” 

Whilst not mentioning him by name, the statement is likely aimed at pro-abortion, pro-LGBT, U.S. President Joe Biden. Biden, although he claims to be Catholic, has called abortion an “essential health service” and advocates a number of policies which would promote LGBT ideology in everyday life in America and across the world.

Since entering the White House, Biden has marked his tenure with a number of policies and appointments that radically advance the abortion agenda, and serve to undermine many of the pro-life victories achieved under former President Trump.

Despite his prolific, public support for abortion, Biden continues to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, with the newly appointed Archbishop of Washington, Wilton Cardinal Gregory, having promised that he would not refuse Holy Communion to Biden.

Yet, the clergy are not permitted to allow one to receive Holy Communion, if he is in “public and obstinate grave sin,” added Burke. 

The former archbishop of St. Louis appeared to take aim at the policy of “dialogue” which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), as well as individual bishops, have taken with regard to Biden and his pro-abortion policies. 

“Neither is it a question of a discussion between the priest or Bishop and the one who is committing the sin, but a matter of admonition regarding truths of faith and morals, on the part of the priest or Bishop, and a matter of reform of an erroneous conscience, on the part of the sinner,” Burke’s statement continues.

The cardinal re-iterated Church teaching on the “grave moral disorder” of abortion, since such an action violates both the “natural law” and Church teaching as contained in the “written Word of God…the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

He also rejected the notion that a politician can be privately against abortion, yet publicly advocating or defending it, observing that such an “erroneous moral theory” has already been twice rebuffed by Pope John Paul II.

In light of this, the Church’s refusal to distribute Holy Communion to “politicians who obstinately persevere in grave sin,” was born from the ecclesial duty to “safeguard the holiness of the Holy Eucharist, to prevent the faithful from committing sacrilege, and to prevent scandal among the faithful and other persons of good will.”

Whilst some have accused the Church of acting politically in so withholding Holy Communion, Burke noted that it was in fact the pro-abortion politician himself, who “uses the Holy Eucharist for political purposes.”

“It is rather the Catholic politician, who publicly and obstinately promotes what is contrary to the moral law and yet dares to receive sacrilegiously Holy Communion, who uses the Holy Eucharist for political purposes. In other words, the politician presents himself or herself as a devout Catholic, while the truth is completely otherwise.”

Apostasy and excommunication

In addition to the denial of Holy Communion to politicians who “publicly and obstinately violate the moral law,” Cardinal Burke stated that the Church required the imposition of a “just ecclesiastical penalty,” not in order to persecute the individual, but rather to call him to conversion and for the sake of “repairing the scandal” which his actions had caused.

“Those who publicly and obstinately violate the moral law are, at least, in a state of apostasy, that is, they have effectively abandoned the faith by the obstinate refusal, in practice, to live in accord with fundamental truths of faith and morals (cf. can. 751),” wrote Burke, formerly the prefect of the Church’s highest court. 

“An apostate from the faith incurs automatically the penalty of excommunication (cf. can. 1364).” Burke noted that the person’s bishop was also required to “verify the conditions” for the excommunication, although it had been “automatically incurred.”

If a politician continues in his rejection or doubt of the truth concerning the “intrinsic evil of abortion, as it ‘is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith’ (can. 751),” then the individual may also be in “heresy,” revealed the cardinal. 

Such a state also “automatically” leads to excommunication, although once again, the individual’s bishop must verify the conditions” for the automatically incurred excommunication.

“The failure to follow the discipline results in the desecration of the most sacred reality in the Church – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ – , constitutes the most grave sin of sacrilege, and causes most serious scandal by the failure to witness to the truth of Holy Communion and the moral truth, for example, the inviolable dignity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the family, and the freedom to worship God ‘in spirit and truth’.”

Concluding, Cardinal Burke reaffirmed the teaching consistently taught the Church, outlining that a  Catholic who “publicly and obstinately opposes the truth regarding faith and morals may not present himself or herself to receive Holy Communion and neither may the minister of Holy Communion give him or her the Sacrament.”

Escalation of statements

This most recent declaration by Cardinal Burke, comes on the back of a number of pronouncements and interviews he has given, in which he has directly attacked Biden by name, for his stance on abortion, LGBT issues and Catholic moral teaching. Just days ago, he gave a glimpse of his recent statement, discussing the issue of apostasy and excommunication, and calling on clergy to deny Biden Holy Communion should he remain obstinate in his willing promotion of abortion.

In September of last year, Burke gave an interview in which he referenced Biden, saying that “a Catholic may not support abortion in any shape or form because it is one of the most grievous sins against human life, and has always been considered to be intrinsically evil.”

Then, just days before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in an interview on EWTN, Burke rejected the idea of Biden as a “devout Catholic” and accused him of “promoting the attack on the innocent defense of the unborn.”