February 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On his official blog, Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl made a rather obvious reference to Cardinal Raymond Burke, calling him a “dissenter.” Referring to “an interview and an article by brother bishops who are less than enthusiastic about Pope Francis,” Cardinal Wuerl was unmistakably pointing to Cardinal Burke, whose interview with France2 days earlier was making the rounds on the Internet.
While newsworthy, the interview with Cardinal Burke was rather mundane in that he merely said he would be willing to “resist” Pope Francis, if the pontiff were to attempt to change the Church's practice of denying Communion to those in “second marriages.” Pope Francis has never said he would change the current Church practice, even though powerful cardinals surrounding him have suggested the move.
After introducing the unnamed bishop who was critical of Pope Francis in an interview, Cardinal Wuerl runs through dissenters from papal teaching in recent history, noting, “a common thread that runs through all of these dissenters” is that “they disagree with the Pope because he does not agree with them and therefore follow their position.”
Cardinal Wuerl is here on new ground. For years he was, by his own definition, the “dissenter” under Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict. The issue also revolved around Holy Communion. However, rather than giving Communion to divorced and remarried, the previous popes were asking that Communion be denied to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II had the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith intervene in the US Bishops deliberation over the question of Communion for pro-abortion politicians. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his letter titled “Worthiness to receive Holy Communion,” that a Catholic politician who would vote for “permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” after being duly instructed and warned, “must” be denied Communion.
Ratzinger's letter explained that if such a politician “with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
As pope, Benedict XVI confirmed this position. Answering a reporter on an in-flight press conference in 2007, Pope Benedict addressed a question on the Mexican bishops excommunicating politicians who support legalizing abortion. “Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ,” said the pope.
In the comment, Pope Benedict was referring to the Church's Canon law 915, which states: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Archbishop Wuerl repeatedly refused to comply with that directive. In fact, he was open in his dissent. Asked by various media since the mid-1990s, he said it was not his pastoral style, and also claimed that denying Communion is tantamount to wielding the sacrament as a weapon.
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But for the Washington archbishop it wasn’t only a matter of words – he backed up his rhetoric against the pope’s wishes with action. In March 2012, he stripped a priest of his faculties to publicly celebrate Mass for refusing Communion to a woman who was known to have been living in a homosexual relationship.
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo was “placed on administrative leave” by the archdiocese after he refused to distribute Communion to Barbara Johnson, a self-identified Buddhist who had reportedly introduced her lesbian “lover” to the priest in the sacristy right before her mother’s funeral Mass. The archdiocese issued an apology to Johnson and said that Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were “against policy” and that an investigation was underway.
In 2012, when asked about refusing notorious pro-abortion politician Nancy Pelosi Communion, Wuerl opined, “I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon was never intended to be used this way.''
At that time the head of the Catholic Church’s highest court dealing with canon law was none other than Cardinal Raymond Burke. Burke told LifeSiteNews unequivocally at the time: “The Church’s law is very clear.”
“The person who persists publicly in grave sin is to be denied Holy Communion, and it [canon law] doesn’t say that the bishop shall decide this. It’s an absolute.”
So perhaps Cardinal Wuerl is savoring a little revenge with his dissenter remark. But, the hypocrisy is so very blatant.
Cardinal Wuerl concludes his blog post saying, “Dissent is perhaps something we will always have, lamentable as it is, but we will also always have Peter and his successor as the rock and touchstone of both our faith and our unity.”