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March 30, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke said that pro-abortion Catholics in public life such as President Joe Biden, who “obstinately and publicly” deny truths of the faith and act against them, must not only be denied Holy Communion but must now face the charge of the “crime of apostasy” where the “canonical penalty” for the guilty is “excommunication.”

“Such a person who claims to be a Catholic and yet promotes in such an open, obdurate, and aggressive way a crime like procured abortion is in the state, at least, of apostasy,” the cardinal said in an interview this week with Thomas McKenna of Catholic Action for Faith and Family.

“In other words, to do this is to draw away from Christ and to draw away from the Catholic faith. And so the second action, which needs to be considered, is a canonical penalty, a sanction, for the crime of apostasy, which would be excommunication,” the cardinal added.

Cardinal Burke, one of the world’s foremost canon lawyers who was formerly the prefect of the Church’s highest court, made the above comment while responding to McKenna’s question about “what can be done now … what is the next step” for Catholic leadership to take in response to President Biden professing to be a practicing Catholic who takes his faith seriously while signing executive orders that directly promote abortion.

Biden has identified himself as a devout Catholic despite working to expand abortion, an act that the Catholic Church condemns as a “moral evil” that is “gravely contrary to the moral law.” In his first two weeks in office, Biden pledged to make abortion available to “everyone” by “codifying” the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which imposed abortion on all 50 states. During that same time, he also revoked by executive order the Mexico City policy that blocks federal funds from going to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide or promote abortions overseas. 

Democrats have pledged to eliminate the pro-life Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funds from going to pay for abortions in programs like Medicaid. In February, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a COVID-19 relief bill which, among other things, will use taxpayer money to fund abortions and the abortion industry across a host of federal programs under the guise of coronavirus relief.

The Catholic Church teaches that excommunication, incurred by “certain particularly grave sins,” is the “most severe ecclesiastical penalty.”

It “impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Excommunication is intended to bring the sinner to repentance for his sins and back into full communion with the Church.

Cardinal Burke, in his interview this week, began his answer to McKenna’s question about what can be done by noting that there are “two things that should be done immediately.”

The first action is that it must be communicated to Biden that he may not present himself for Holy Communion while championing abortion.

“A person who obstinately and publicly denies truths of the faith and actually acts against the truths of the faith or of the moral law, may not present himself or herself to receive Holy Communion,” said Burke.

“And, at the same time, the minister of Holy Communion, usually the priest, is not to give them Holy Communion, should they present themselves. Now, normally speaking, people should understand that the crime of procured abortion is a grievous violation against the first precept of the moral law, namely the safeguarding and promoting of human life. But the priest should warn such a person that he should not present himself to receive Holy Communion,” he added.

Burke said that should such a person after receiving such a warning still present himself to receive Communion, that person “should be denied” the sacrament.

The cardinal said there are two truths at work that must be upheld in this kind of situation that pertain to the reality of the Eucharist and to its worthy reception.

“One [truth] is the holiness of the Holy Eucharist. It is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And to receive the body of Christ knowingly and willingly in the state of sin is a sacrilege. It’s one of the worst sins. And Saint Paul said it already in the first letter to the Corinthians in Chapter 11, ‘He who eats the body and blood of Christ without recognizing it, eats his own condemnation.’ And so, in order to prevent a commission of a sacrilege, we have to insist that such people not approach to receive Holy Communion,” he said.

“It’s not only for their own salvation, certainly, but also then to avoid the scandal given to others who see someone who’s publicly promoting grievously immoral acts and yet presents himself to receive Holy Communion. And so that is the first thing and that has nothing to do with a penalty. And people say, ‘You’re punishing.’ No, it has to do with a worthy reception of the sacrament. It’s simply the discipline that is necessary because of the reality of the Holy Eucharist,” he added.

At this point, the cardinal pointed out that the second action that could be taken against Biden is excommunication.

The cardinal pointed out that even those who do not agree with the Church’s teaching on abortion know that it’s wrong for a Catholic to claim to practice the faith and to be receiving Communion while at the same time being a public promoter of abortion.

“They might not even agree with the Church’s teaching on procured abortion, but they know what it is, and they say to themselves, ‘How can the Church that teaches that procured abortion is intrinsically evil, that it can never be right, how does that same Church give the Holy Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist to a public promoter of this evil?’”

“It’s not only a sin against faith, which certainly it is, but even against reason,” he said.

Burke said that any action taken against Catholics in public life who merit such penalties is not for the sake of wishing such a person “harm,” but for the sake of “wishing his ultimate good.”

“Sometimes it is said that if the Church denies Holy Communion to these politicians, that it’s making the sacrament into a political weapon. But that’s not the case at all. The Church is safeguarding its most sacred realities and safeguarding the souls of the faithful,” he said.

“In my judgment, it’s these politicians who are using the sacrament for a political end, in other words, pretending to be devout Catholics and to give this impression so as to gain the support of Catholics when, in fact, they’re not at all devout Catholics,” he added.

Cardinal Burke joins Archbishop Joseph Naumann, head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life office, in calling out Biden for calling himself Catholic while publicly promoting abortion. Naumann has stated that the U.S. bishops need to “correct” Biden for “acting contrary” to the Catholic faith.

The cardinal said that Archbishop Naumann is “giving wonderful leadership.”

“Let’s hope we hear a whole chorus of bishops who are giving the same message to their faithful.”