Archbp Burke: “They’re using the Eucharist as a political tool”

This from LifeSite.

Vatican Official: Bishops Have no Choice But to Refuse Communion to Pro-Abort Politicians
By Hilary White

ROME, January 30, 2009 ( – Archbishop Raymond Burke, in an exclusive interview last week, told that the issue of pro-abortion politicians continuing to receive Holy Communion is still one of major concern and that it is the duty of bishops to ensure that they are refused.

He told, "I don’t understand the continual debate that goes on about it. There’s not a question that a Catholic who publicly, and after admonition, supports pro-abortion legislation is not to receive Holy Communion and is not to be given Holy Communion."

"The Church’s law is very clear," said Archbishop Burke, who was appointed last year by Pope Benedict XVI as the head of the Church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura. "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."

Among the US bishops directly to address the issue, Archbishop Burke was one of around a dozen who vigorously supported a directive of the Vatican that said pro-abortion Catholic politicians "must be refused" Holy Communion if they attempt to receive at Mass. Others have refused to abide by the Vatican instruction and the Church’s own Code of Canon Law, saying they would rather focus on "education" of such politicians.

Archbishop Burke called "nonsense" the accusation, regularly made by some bishops, that refusing Holy Communion "makes the Communion rail a [political] battle ground". In fact, he said, the precise opposite is true. The politician who insists on being seen receiving Holy Communion, despite his opposition to the Church’s central teachings, is using that reception for political leverage.

In 2004, when self-proclaimed Catholic and candidate for the Democrat party, Sen. John Kerry, was frequently photographed receiving Holy Communion despite his vigorous support of abortion, the US Bishops Conference issued a document which said only that it is up to individual bishops whether to implement the Church’s code of Canon Law and refuse Communion. The issue has remained prominent with the appointment of Joe Biden, another pro-abortion Catholic politician, as Vice President of the United States of America.

Archbishop Burke recalled previous experiences with Kerry, pointing to the several occasions when the senator was pictured in Time magazine receiving Communion from Papal representatives at various public events. Burke said that it is clear that Kerry was using his reception of Holy Communion to send a message.

"He wants to not only receive Holy Communion from a bishop but from the papal representative. I think that’s what his point was. Get it in Time magazine, so people read it and say to themselves, ‘He must be in good standing’."

"What are they doing? They’re using the Eucharist as a political tool."

In refusing, far from politicising the Eucharist, the Church is returning the matter to its religious reality. The most important reasons to refuse, he said, are pastoral and religious in nature.

"The Holy Eucharist, the most sacred reality of our life in the Church, has to be protected against sacrilege. At the same time, individuals have to be protected for the sake of their own salvation from committing one of the gravest sins, namely to receive Holy Communion unworthily."

Archbishop Burke also dismissed the commonly proffered excuse that such politicians need more "education". [RIGHT!] Speaking from his own direct experience, he said that Catholic politicians who are informed by their pastors or bishops that their positions in support of pro-abortion legislation makes it impossible for them to receive Holy Communion, "I’ve always found that they don’t come forward."

"When you talk to these people, they know," he said. "They know what they’re doing is very wrong. They have to answer to God for that, but why through our pastoral negligence add on to that, that they have to answer to God for who knows how many unworthy receptions of Holy Communion?"

Archbishop Burke said that the issue had been debated enough. He rejected the idea that the matter should be left to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying the Conference has no authority in the matter. "This is a law of the universal Church and it should be applied."

"I think this argument too is being used by people who don’t want to confront the issue, this whole ‘wait ’til the Conference decides’…well the Conference has been discussing this since at least 2004. And nothing happens."

When asked what the solution was, he responded, "Individual bishops and priests simply have to do their duty. They have to confront politicians, Catholic politicians, who are sinning gravely and publicly in this regard. And that’s their duty.  [Thus, do not wait for direction from your local bishop?  Or bishops wait for the conference?]

"And if they carry it out, not only can they not be reproached for that, but they should be praised for confronting this situation."

Thank you, Archbishop Burke.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in The future and our choices. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Steve K. says:

    Amazing! Can teeth be put into what he said, now that he is the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura? I believe there are many bishops who will not enforce this short of being compelled to do so. Can they be compelled?

  2. Tominellay says:

    This is leadership; many American bishops will be encouraged by Burke’s words. We probably won’t see this in TIME Magazine, though…

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    Buzzword bingo, everyone! Play along and check off these tried-and-true talking points as they’re trotted out when (if) politicians decide to reply to this statement.

    > “The USCCB document ….”
    > “I’m against abortion personally, but won’t impose my personal religious views on another person…”
    > “Full spectrum of ‘life-issues’ ….”
    > “I believe it’s more effective to make the need for abortion rare than to ban abortion…”
    > “I can’t do anything about it, Supreme Court has spoken, it’s decided law…”
    > “I look forward to the opportunity to speak with my home bishop if he has any concerns, so that we may move forward with a better understanding of the full meaning of the Church’s teaching…”
    > “…believe presenting myself for Communion is a private matter of conscience between myself and our compassionate, understanding God…”

    Come on, everybody! I’m sure I’ve omitted some classics. Add them to the list, so we don’t miss any!

  4. Umberto says:

    WHAN KAN FUN KUNG FOO always important to eat the cheese sunny side up when it comes to this prohibition in canon law…. never pay the man and keep your shoes tied when crossing steam train chasm tracks!

  5. All hail the future Pope Gregory XVII!!

  6. Jim says:

    Right on, Archbishop!

    Now what happens when a priest, mindful of the above, denies communion to a prominent politico, and is silently ostracized by the diocesan bishop and his chancery pals? The law may be clear, but its application in concrete instances is not so.

  7. Maureen says:

    Then you refer to those parts of the Gospels which inform you that you’re going to suffer for it.

    And yes, it’s very sad that bishops and priests sometimes command bad things, but then, so do other kinds of employers command bad things. I never heard anybody say, “Well, if your employer will ostracize you for objecting to sending out infected peanut paste, Catholic teaching says it’s okay to stand by and watch hundreds of people sicken and die.”

    It’s actually a lot more excusable to simply kill people’s bodies with peanut paste. “Don’t fear the one who can kill the body; fear the one who can kill both body and soul.”

  8. Brian Day says:

    A good article. I’d really be impressed if it appeared in America magazine instead of LifeSite News. (No disrespect to LifeSite)

    I won’t hold my breath.

  9. Matt says:


    True enough, but it\’s better to be ostracized by your bishop than to rest in eternal damnation…

  10. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    Again the Archbishop undermines his position and comes across as a Republican hack by limiting this to abortion. Politicians that support funding for contraception are also committing grave sin. Politicians that reject the Church\\\’s teaching on just war are also committing a grave sin. Politicians that support no fault divorce legislation are committing a grave sin. The canon speaks of those who publicly persist in grave sin, not those who publicly persist in support for abortion. Of course if we were going to take this canon seriously, practically no Catholic politician, Republican or Democrat, would be able to receive communion. BTW, I am for all of them being refused communion, I just think the Archbishop undermines the canon by restricting it to abortion.

  11. Paladin says:

    Kevin wrote:

    All hail the future Pope Gregory XVII!!

    Aagh! Don’t tease, like that! If only that were feasible…

    (Translated: from your lips, to God’s ear!)

  12. Credo says:

    Christopher Sarsfield,

    There are degrees of gravity for sin and those which are intrinsically evil are the worst, those are sins which are always wrong no matter what the circumstances. Abortion and contraception are both intrinsic evils, no exceptions.

  13. Marilee says:

    [Edited out by Fr. Z. Just too much SHOUTING. Writing in all CAPS is generally considered shouting in cyberspace. It sure is around here. Thanks!]

  14. Rob says:

    The future successor to Pope Benedict XVI has spoken!

  15. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    I am a little lost. Are you saying that rejecting the Church’s teaching on just war is not sinful? or that supporting serial polygamy (ie divorce) is not sinful? BTW this is off topic and makes no difference to the argument, but where is your authority to say sins that are intrinsically evil are the worst? I have never read that in any book of moral theology. For example telling a lie is intrinsically sinful, yet telling a white lie is usually only considered venially sinful.

  16. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    Imagine- a bishop speaking clearly about the Church’s teaching- and about other bishops not doing their job! Thanks be to God for Archbishop Burke. There is a common thought held that he was “kicked out” of the US because he was being too vocal and his brother bishops couldn’t handle it. If that is indeed the case, they have no idea what they bargained for! Now he can and is being more vocal than ever about the Church in the US.
    God has a sense of humor. Deo Gratias!

  17. Canonist says:

    Three cheers for Archbishop Burke! He is a true shepherd!
    With respect to Mr. Sarsfield’s caustic comments – Nobody said it only applied to abortion. Canon 915 applies to people in “manifest grave sin”, so it also applies to people who have divorced and remarried (without annulling the first marriage), to people who publicly support embryonic stem cell research, to people who publicly support gay “marriage”, etc. Archbishop Burke is well aware of this. He has very correctly in an interview with “LifeSite News” (note the name of the interviewing organization)focused on abortion. Abortion has become so commonplace in this country that we are losing more Americans to abortion than to heart disease. It is our current Holocaust (even worse because parents are volunarily doing it to their children), and the support of Catholic politicians for abortion is despicable. That the USCCB is ignoring this rhinosaurus in the living room is even more contemptible. Perhaps the USCCB has some Democrat “hacks” in it? And before you go off and call the good Archbishop a “Republican hack”, you had better consider that Canon 915 would apply to pro-abortion Republicans as well.

  18. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    What does the USCCB have to do with anything. Yes, they appear to be a bunch of Democratic hacks. So is your argument that Archbishop Burke being a Republican hack is okay, because it balances the USCCB out?! Show me where the Archbishop has said that politicians who support contraception should be refused communion? The canon is clear, no matter how bad abortion is, you can not limit the canon to abortion. I assume that you agree with me that the Church should refuse communion to ALL politicians that support evil? And if that is the Archbishop’s position, he should be clear about it.

  19. TJM says:

    Christopher Sarsfield, well you come across as a Democratic Party hack. War and capital punishment are not intrinsically evil, abortion is.
    And the “minimum wage” is neither a doctrine nor particularly good economics. Lastly, you should show a modicum of respect for Archbishop Burke and his high office. Tom

  20. Matt says:

    I am a little lost. Are you saying that rejecting the Church’s teaching on just war is not sinful?

    More than 50% of Catholic politicians are not publicly rejecting the Church\’s teaching on just war (while a large portion do reject the prudential conclusions on the justness of a particular war)…

    where is your authority to say sins that are intrinsically evil are the worst?

    You are correct, but the canon would be very hard to enforce in the case of politicians supporting legalization of things which are NOT intrinsically evil, such as war. The Church rarely proclaims definitively on the justness of a particular war.

    Civil divorce is not intrinsically evil because the Church instructs there are circumstances under which it is permitted, and in fact teaches that there are circumstances where civil divorce and civil remarriage are permitted. While it would be laudable for Catholic politicians to support putting the brakes on the divorce epidemic, it is not such a grave moral imperative as ending the slaughter of one million innocent babies a year…

  21. mpm says:

    Comment by Charivari Rob — 5 February 2009 @ 3:05 pm


    “WHAT? I’m just an Extraordinary Minister of Communion. I didn’t sign up
    for this!”

  22. kat says:

    I personally volunteer to “educate” Nancy “contracept and abort the poor to save the economy” Pelosi. She can join right in every morning when my 6,8, and 10 year olds learn real Catholic teaching from the Baltimore Catechism and Seton Home Study books. They learn what God and the Church say, not what they decide to make up in their heads; they learn that stealing (pork spending), killing (abortion), lying (“500 million Americans will lose their jobs”), and coveting (spread the wealth socialism) are all sins against God and if they perform these sins with full consent then they can go to Hell.

    Part of me feels sorry for these politicians because they must not have been educated properly (sarcasm), but they certainly have the means and opportunity to learn as adults what being a Catholic is. Their eternal souls are at stake and they need to be told the facts by their priests and bishops if merely to save themselves.

  23. mpm says:

    Christopher Sarsfield,

    \”The canon is clear, no matter how bad abortion is, you can not limit the
    canon to abortion.\”

    That is correct. But, for example, to apply this canon 915 to a politician
    supposedly violating the Church\’s just war doctrine, he would have to be
    persistent, you know, like declaring wars (and able to execute on it) all
    the time, i.e., persistently and publicly.


  24. Sean says:

    –“makes the Communion rail a [political] battle ground”–

    Most bishops that give Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians don’t allow the faithful to receive from a Communion rail…

  25. Aelric says:


    Perhaps you could enlighten us as to what Catholic politician has formally declared that he or she rejects the Church’s teaching on just war as compared with making a prudential decision in a specific case that does not agree with the thinking (to be generous) of certain individuals in the Church? Exactly what do you think the Church’s defined dogmas are with regard to a just war since you are familiar with the tomes of moral theology? Please cite them. Note that American bishops releasing some document or other on this topic has no magisterial weight, per se. You might discover that the Church teaches that it is the role of civil authority to make such prudential decisions in cases where there might well be many conflicting moral imperatives.

  26. EDG says:

    That was a great observation by Burke. Biden was picked precisely because he was a Catholic, and he used the unfortunate fact that no bishop dared deny him Communion to convert the Eucharist into a vote-getting tool.

  27. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    You obviously did not read my post or are deliberately lying about my position. No one of good will could read my post and consider me a Democratic hack.

  28. Canonist says:


    Archbishop Burke’s comments need no clarification. He was courageously speaking on a very timely issue…and I suspect that he knows all the perturbations of Canon 915 far better than you ever will.

  29. Francesco says:

    Can’t the pope appoint this man as his successor? PLEASE???

  30. mpm says:

    For those interested in Archbishop Burke’s famous 2007 paper on this matter,
    it can be found here:

    It’s definitely technical, but I think the main principles are summarized.

  31. depeccatoradvitam says:

    Mr Sarsfield brings up a good point that abortion is not the only issue. in fact, it is important to note that not only does the canonical discipline Canon 915 include the estimated 500 so-called ‘Catholic’ pro-abortion politicians (Democrat as well as Republican) in the U.S., but it also includes other manifest, obstinate, persistent sinners.

    The key word here is manifest. The quickest path to counter-Church teachings and manifest sins is in the limelite of the politician and aside from albingensianas and other blatantly heretical activities of days (mostly) gone by, the life issues are most obvious cause for scandal, not only for the politicians, but also for the sinence from the episcopal chairs, the very shepherds charged with teaching the flock. Indeed, politicians are but a tip of the iceberg.

    A short list of other such sinners would include homosexual couples approaching the Eucharist arm-in-arm or with sodomite, rainbow banners over their shoulders, public bearers of false witness, as well as those divorced and ‘remarried’ without benefit of annulment. [Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration ‘Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics,” nos. 3-4, 6/00.]

    Also, included would be employees of abortion mills and Planned Parenthood, Mafia figures, drug lords, notorious criminals, couples living openly in fornication or adultery (this is certainly not an exhaustive list of manifest sinners).

    But where to start? The most graven is key, clean up where the most good can be done and others will fall in line when they are next on the list. This is not ecclesial McCarthyism. It is about manifest sinners, and forming their souls and prevention of scandal to other souls.

    But to think that Archbishop Burke and others shortsell CIC 915 in a slant only toward abortion is missing the point and the methodology for which we hear the message (or dig it up) here in the US.

    “Heretics, schismatics, the excommunicated, the interdicted, public criminals, the openly infamous, as also prostitutes, the publicly cohabiting, major usurers, fortune-tellers, and other evil-doing men of the same kind, however, are not to be admitted to the reception of this Sacrament, according to the precept of Christ: “Do not give the Holy to dogs’.” (Rutheninan Synod of 1720)

    nb, In June 2004, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a memorandum, entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.” The third principle underlines the diversity of moral weight between abortion and euthanasia, on the one hand, and war and the death penalty, on the other. The memorandum declares: <> . This was censored from the Denver USCCB meeting members by ABp. McCarrick and others.

    The “non-negotiables” are clearly the ones that need to be shored up first as this could save the most souls the quickest.

    Archbishop Burke most generously and completely covers with all possible totality of this entire issue (including the above-mentioned lsits of sins) in PERIODICA DE RE CANONICA where in 2007, he wrote “CANON 915: THE DISCIPLINE REGARDING THE DENIAL OF HOLY COMMUNION TO THOSE OBSTINATELY PERSEVERING IN MANIFEST GRAVE SIN” a copy can be found here:

    He clearly backs this up as clear ordinary teaching of the Church and additionally that it is a duty to fulfill.

    May God Bless Archbishop Burke.

    Please say a Memorare for his continued profession of faith, health, safety, welfare, leadership and teaching accumen.

  32. Deo Gratias! Ad Multos Annos Abp. Burke!

  33. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    You seem to be making a number of errors. First the just war principles do not have to be defined to be binding on the Catholic faithful. I personally do not know of any definition with regard to abortion, euthanasia, or contraception. Yet the teaching of the Church is clear and binding. Second any Catholic that supports the Bush doctrine of preemptive strike is by doing so rejecting the Catholic Church’s teaching on just war. Any Catholic that supports torture is also supporting an intrinsic grave evil, according to JPII. With regard to your final statement that the Church teaches that it is the role of civil government to declare war, this is true, but that does not mean that they are not bound to fulfill the requirements for a just war. These requirements are objective and clear, and the justness of any war must be defended using these objective principles. Rejection of these principles by civil leaders is not allowed.

  34. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    My problem with the Archbishop on this is that he is not going to convince many Catholics of good will on this issue who are not conservative Republicans, because he APPEARS to limit the canon to abortion. Most are not going to read his position paper on the topic, most will only see his interviews. Certainly, he could emphasize abortion, while at the same time acknowledging the other sins. I do not believe this is an either/or situation. Abortion is evil and those Catholics that support it should be refused communion, but we can not stop there. All politicians must be called to fidelity, on all issues that do not allow diversity of opinion.

  35. mpm says:

    Mr. Sarsfield,

    I’m not sure whether you are some sort of specialist, with a divining rod for
    detecting political orientation, and immediately being able to erect that into
    one’s religious convictions, vice versa, or what.

    But to add to your “data-bank” let me share with you that I am not a Republican,
    I am not a Democrat, I think of myself as an orthodox Catholic, I have several
    academic degrees, have been working since the early 1970s, I attend Mass in
    both of the forms of the Latin Rite, and in spite of all that I hope I am
    of good-will.

    I’m not sure what it means to “have a problem with Archbishop Burke”. Do you
    dislike the fact that he knows what he’s talking about (Canon Law), or that
    he publishes scholarly articles in obscure Canon Law Journals (read throughout
    the world), or that he is insistent, or that he wears a cassock, or what?

  36. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    Did you not see the “because” after the “My problem with Archbishop…” In case you missed it, I reproduce it below:

    “because he APPEARS to limit the canon to abortion.” (caps for emphasis not volume)

    I hope that clarifies what I meant by the phrase you found so enigmatic.

  37. Aelric says:

    Mr. Sarsfield,

    Since you seem unable to find any citation for your claims, one has to now wonder where your “authority” for such claims lie.

    Kindly demonstrate the magisterial level of authority for your claims.

    I am aware that even the ordinary magisterium when so invoked in a matter of faith and morals is binding on the conscience. The same teaching authority has also taught that civil authority has wide discretion in making prudential judgments in such matters. Clearly, history shows that Popes have made errors in such prudential matters.

    You appear to find anyone who disagrees with you “in error” yet seem unable to document the basis for your own claims.

    As for “definitions” regarding abortion, Canon Law speaks to this. Please cite a canon regulating just war theory.

  38. Aelric says:

    With regard to your final statement that the Church teaches that it is the role of civil government to declare war, this is true, but that does not mean that they are not bound to fulfill the requirements for a just war.

    This is not what I said. What I claimed was that the Church acknowledges that legitimate governments have the authority to make prudential decisions regarding whether a war is just not simply that they can declare a state of war. In other words, the Church has not taken upon herself to declare that such and such a war was unjust; she does, of course, speak out regarding particular moral laws that must, in conscience, be considered in any such conflict, and, in certain cases, that such laws have or are in danger of being violated. None of which is a determination that the state of war itself or the necessity of military action is “unjust.”

  39. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    There are no definitions in canon law. Canon law gives penalties for certain acts like obtaining an abortion, but other issues like euthanasia and contraception and just war are not going to be dealt with there. Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

    the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    there must be serious prospects of success;
    the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

    Notice that the very first requirement is that the aggressor (whom you are going to war with) must inflict damage that is lasting, grave and certain. Preemptive strikes are not allowed. Notice also the application belongs to the prudential leaders of the nation, but they must apply these principles and not others. It also says nothing of “wide discretion.” The discretion has to be within the limits of the principles set out.

  40. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    I would also like to point everyone to the post by Fr. Z on the Bishop of Scranton’s letter to Sen. Casey. Notice the Bishop brings up contraception, and I feel by doing so, he in no way detracts from the strength of his statements on abortion.

  41. mpm says:

    (It also says nothing of “wide discretion.” The discretion has to be within the limits of the principles set out.)

    The “wide discretion” obviously doesn’t apply to the principles, which are
    effectively delimited. It refers to the use of means to determine what the
    factual situation is, to the best of the government’s ability. The application
    of the principles to the facts is precisely the prudential decision.

  42. Magdalene says:

    These are the FEW bishops who have publicly said they will enforce c.915 and refuse Holy Communion to those politicians who persist in public grave sin and materially cooperate with the murder of abortions:

    Archbishop Raymond L Burke, Bishop Emeritus, St. Louis

    Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Lincoln NE

    Bishop Joseph A.Galante, Camden, NJ

    Bishop John M. Smith, Trenton, NJ

    Bishop Michael Sheridan, Colorado Springs, CO

    Bishop Robert F. Vasa, Baker, OR

    Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, Evansville, IN

    Bishop Robert J. Baker, Birmingham, AL

    Bishop Peter J. Jugis, Bishop, Charlotte, NC

    Bishop Samuel Aquila, Fargo, ND

    Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Phoenix, AZ

    Bishop Paul S. Coakley, D.D., Salina, KS

    Bishop Joseph F. Martino, Scranton, PA


    Bishop Henry Rene Gracida, Bishop Emeritus, Corpus Christi, TX

    Archbishop John F. Donoghue Bishop Emeritus, Atlanta, GA

    Bishop John Y. Yanta, Bishop Emeritus, Amarillo, TX

    Are there not over 200 bishops? Their weak stance as a whole gave this election to a very evil administration. If Catholics would truly live their faith, beginning with the shepherds, the world would be a much better place. But, no, they go with the flow into the darkness.

  43. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    The context of the discussion with Aelric had to do with the principles of the just war, and the incompatibility of those principles with the Bush doctrine of a preemptive strike. A preemptive strike is not just.

  44. Byzshawn says:

    Mr. Sarsfield,

    Given the number of linguine-spined prelates we must endure, can’t you just be happy when a good, holy bishop like Msgr. Burke takes a bold stance for the faith?

    Honestly, you do sound like a Democrat hack and chronic complainer. I’m sorry if that seems uncharitable but truth is truth. Oh and BTW, George Bush is retired now. Time to get over it.

    May the Holy Father soon see fit to raise Archbishop Burke to the Sacred College of Cardinals.

  45. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    I expect a great deal from bishops, and the ones that act the boldest need to be the most careful. Archbishop Burke needs to avoid any appearance of acting politically. By solely focusing on abortion, he fails to do that and does damage to my cause. I want all politicians that vote against non-negotiable Catholic principles to be denied communion. And I want none of them to be able to say they are being denied for “political” reasons, whether those reasons be Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal. BTW, I find it assuming you would think I sound like a Democrat, when I have not mentioned a single democratic issue. I have only mentioned issues that are non-negotiable from a Catholic stand point.

  46. Aelric says:

    A preemptive strike is not just.

    This is simply wrong and there is no magisterial statement to support it (statements by US bishops conferences are not magisterial).

    Some certainly argue that the prudential decision by President Bush regarding preemptive use of force was mistaken and that it did in fact fail properly to account for all the nuances of Catholic just war teaching. That is quite another thing from saying that President Bush or any Catholic politician who supported military action *denied* Catholic just war teaching.

    No binding magisterial declaration was made regarding the War in Iraq although most of the Vatican political apparatus certainly did along with many of the US bishops. The Crusades, however, were preemptive from a certain point of view. Were they unjust by their nature or only in certain means? What about the Pope’s authority in calling them?

    As for Mr. Sarsfield’s concern about the word definition and Canon Law, he conveniently fails to note my use of scare quotes in referring to “definition” in an effort to find some means of making a point. Canon Law does more than “gives penalties for certain acts” as Mr. Sarsfield claims. Canon Law also states positive law e.g. Canon 897 containing doctrine regarding the Holy Eucharist. My only point was to state that Mr. Sarsfield’s conflation of the gravity of procured abortion and just war issues has no basis in the Church’s law nor in her doctrinal magisterium. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, by its own admission, is not a compendium of theology nor of magisterial declarations: one will not find there an exhaustive analysis of such a nuanced subject as just war theory; the short citation he provided is quite general.

    Lastly, I still stand by the claim that the Church acknowledges the State’s legitimate right to exercise prudential judgment in a matter that pertains to its own competence, not that of the Church, in assessing “the strict conditions of legitimate defense.”

  47. Steve K. says:

    Honestly, Christopher, who cares what you want? When a priest gives a sermon on, say, the evils of divorce, or of lying, do we say it’s not valid because he didn’t mention blasphemy or theft? No, we don’t, that would be silly, and so it is here that your posts are tendentious and an attempt to change the subject. Stop pulling discussions down the rabbit hole.

  48. Bill Carrico says:

    The True Church is known by it 4 marks .
    One voice leading the way.
    Only the devil deals in confusion.
    Which brings us full circle.
    The plain unadulterated truth cannot be usurped.
    It is what it is…nothing like the absolute truth is there?

  49. This is an awesome statement by Archbp Burke! Not understanding his role exactly, I wonder if it has teeth and will have to be observed. Sure hope so. I long to see this aspect of the public desecration of the Eucharist come to an end.

    I also think his citation of the lack of authority of the USSCB is superb and way overdue.

  50. ED says:

    I see a successor to Pope Benedict on the horizon in Archbishop Burke!!!!

  51. TNCath says:

    Thank you, Archbishop Burke. No doubt he will be included in the next consistory, which shouldn’t be too terribly far away.

  52. Brian says:

    Christopher Sarsfield wrote, “I am a little lost.”

  53. Marilee says:

    Fr Z
    I do not usually make any comment on article I read in your blog. I am new at this blogging thing. So sorry for using capital letters.

    Some of your bloggers do not make any sense in their comments. [Truer words were never written!]


  54. Chris M says:

    God love this man. If only he could become the first American Pope!

  55. TJM says:

    Christopher Sarsfield, you stated that Archbishop Burke was acting like a Republican hack. Maybe Republicans should take that as a compliment because at lease most
    of them are on the same side of this issue of the great Archbishop Burke. You are being intellectually dishonest when you lump war into the same
    category as abortion. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, NEVER justified, while war can be. By the way, that’s how some Democratic “Catholic”
    politicans seem to justify their pro-abortion votes. Quite frankly, I’m surprised Father Z hasn’t called you on this insult directed
    at the Archbishop. Tom

  56. irishgirl says:

    Bravo to Archbishop Burke!

    Please, Holy Father, give him the red hat….and send someone with a like “lion’s heart” to Syracuse!

    [almost had caps on-yikes]

  57. TerryC says:

    Christopher Sarsfield the only way that the war in Iraq can be framed as a preemptive war is by ignoring the entirety of the history of the region prior to the war.
    1. In 1990 Iraq invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait, which requested aid from the international community. As part of the cease fire agreement Iraq agreed to dismantle its efforts to continue to produce Weapons of Mass destruction and allow international inspectors to verify this fact. Iraq though not yet possessing nuclear weapons had stockpiles of chemical weapons (which it had used during its 1980\’s conflict with neighboring Iran, and against its own Kurdish population.)
    2. After the conflict Iraq\’s Kurdish population in the north and its Shiite population in the south rebelled, expecting help from the international community in their efforts to depose Hussein. Instead the U.S. imposed a no fly zone to prevent Iraq from using air launched weapons against the rebelling factions, but refused to give them the level of support they would need to actually remove Hussein and his family from power.
    3. For the next decade Hussein continued to import materials to support continuing research into nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, in the face of an international blockage.
    4. Meanwhile Hussein managed to use the greed of European conglomerates and the naivety of the international community. He imported material in contravence of U.N. resolutions and the agreements he made when signing the 1990 cease fire. He also managed to strip money out of the well meaning, but misguided \”Oil-for-Food\” program. By contracting with European firms for oil drilling rights to be valid only after sanctions were lifted he gained powerful International lobbyists for the removal of sanctions in Germany, France and other European countries.
    5. When these lobbyist were not successful in getting the sanctions lifted (primarily because of the strong stand of the United Stats on the issues,) Hussein kicked the inspectors out, abrogating the agreements he had made at the end of the Gulf War.
    I have personal knowledge that Iraq was importing banned material. I participated in searches of ships in the Persian Gulf which contained these materials and saw them.
    6. It is my belief that the Bush administration flubbed many parts of the Iraq War, including the justification argument. We know that Iraq had Weapons of Mass destruction. They had and used chemical weapons which is against international law. They even used these weapons in the second Gulf War against American units, not that the MSM reported it.
    But in my opinion no preemptive strike justification was necessary. The Iraq War meets the requirements of the just war doctrine on its own merit.

    1.The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    Iraq invaded Iran in the 1980\’s, Kuwait int he 1990\’s. It used chemical weapons against its Kurdish population. It was paying the families of suicide bombers who attacked Israel and other nations. It was stealing money from its own population that was to be used for medicine and food, and in this was creating grave harm to the international community by supporting corruption at the highest level of international government.

    2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    The United States and the International community spent TEN YEARS trying to get Hussein and his Iraqi government to live up to the promises made at the end of the Gulf War. During that time the greatest number of victims were in Iraq itself. Meanwhile Iraq continued to attempt to make more weapons of mass destruction, as well as attacking a neighboring country, Israel, thourgh the use of suicide bombers.

    3.There must be serious prospects of success;

    The war has been successful. Hussein and his family no longer rule Iraq, which had a successful democratic election just last month.

    4.The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    The number of people killed in the post war sectarian violence is almost certainly less than the number which would have been killed during a continued Hussein reign. The number of U.S. and allied troops killed in the entire war are less than the number killed in almost any major WWII battle. The level of evil present in a post Hussein Iraq would have to be very high indeed to be graver than that which existed while the Hussein family was in power.

  58. Maureen says:

    How on earth would anyone define the Crusades as “preemptive”? Muslims from further East attacked the Holy Land. Muslims attacked the Byzantine Empire. Muslims attacked Christian pilgrims from Europe to the Holy Land. Muslims basically created the entire mess.

    The Byzantine Empire did not force Muslims at swordpoint to invade and conquer Jerusalem, and neither did anyone in Western Europe.

  59. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    Do you think God is pleased when you lie (something that is intrinsically evil) about a fellow Catholic to make a political point? I never brought up the war in Iraq. I brought up the Bush doctrine of preemptive strike. Most of the others realized that I was talking about politicians that reject the principles of a just war. Just like I never mentioned any of the other policies you mentioned in your first post. You seem to be the Republican equivalent of Nancy Pelosi.

  60. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    I never brought up the war in Iraq, I brought up the Bush doctrine of a preemptive strike. I am not going to debate the Iraq War here. However, I hear the Pope has email now, perhaps you can send him your comments, and he would be interested in discussing this topic with you. He seemed quite confident in his belief that the war was unjust, but perhaps you have written something he never thought of.

  61. TerryC says:

    I would be glad to discuss the topic with the Holy Father. Since the specific example of the Iraq War as an application of the just war doctrine it is a subject on which the Holy Father himself has stated that good Catholics can disagree.
    In and of itself the doctrine of preemptive strike does not contravene the just war doctrine. As they say: past performance is the best indicator of future results. One does not have to wait until after the next case of “damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain” when previous actions have already inflicted lasting grave and certain damage. So attacking Hitler after he invaded Belgium, but before he invaded France would be preemptive strike, and meet the requirements for just war.
    In the case of President Bush and preemptive strike any discussion of support for it must include the Gulf War or it is not an honest discussion. Bush wasn’t talking about engaging in a preemptive strike against Holland, he was talking about Iraq. When mentioning politicians who support preemptive strike your premise, which I find untenable, is that they de facto do not support just war. I do not agree with that assumption. I am allowed not to agree with that assumption and still remain a Catholic who follows Church teaching.
    I am not allow to hold that abortion is not gravely evil and remain a Catholic who follows Catholic teaching, and neither are you. Neither are politicians who support abortion, yet present themselves as Catholics in good standing.

  62. Hidden One says:

    Marilee was right.

    (My anti-spam word is “think then post”… so I did.)

  63. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    Catholics, like George Wiegel, who want the just war principles to include preemptive strike are honest enough to admit that preemptive strikes are not a part of the just war theory. They want that to change, however, they have made no head way. With regard to your example from WWII it is false. Germany invaded Poland (part of the community of nations see CCC), England immediately declared war. This is not an example of a preemptive strike. The same goes for Belgium (I just thought I would pick the invasion that started the war). A preemptive strike would be Germany invades Poland. There is a war. Germany withdraws from Poland. Ten years later, England decides to invade Germany, because England feels Germany might someday do something bad to someone else. This is preemption, and it has not been endorsed in any magisterial document, and contrary to your assertion it does not fit within the first requirement for a just war as appears in the CCC. Even the supporters of a preemptive war admit as much.

  64. jbb says:

    “makes the Communion rail a [political] battle ground”.

    If only we had a Communion rail to battle over. Off point but just agreeing with Sean above.

  65. TerryC says:

    Fair enough.
    My contention is that it is impossible to separate preemptive strike from the Iraq War when discussing Bush. Further I would maintain that under your definition of preemptive strike the concept does not apply to the Iraq War.
    Further I would say that the whole subject is a smoke screen anyway. Just War doctrine is not dogmatic. The reason Wiegel and others are even attempting to change the doctrine is that they understand this.
    The intrinsic evil of abortion is dogmatic. It is not subject to change or modification.
    Whenever premises which are not dogmatic, like just war, are lumped with things that are dogmatic like abortion, then in my opinion the speaker has an agenda. The bishops are not going to excommunicate members of the faithful who hold divergent views on non-dogmatic teachings, nor should they. They should be taking action on intrinsically evil acts like support for abortion.
    The bottom line is if you don\’t want Archbishop Burke to reprimand Democrats tell them to stop supporting abortion. Tell them to stop supporting acts of intrinsic evil.

  66. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    Orthodox Catholics that argue the legitimacy of the Iraq War, argue based on the fact that Iraq violated the terms of peace of the last war, they do not use preemption, because they know that the teaching of the Church on just war is binding, even though it does reach the level of dogma (and neither does the Church’s position on abortion reach the level of dogma).

    Finally, I want Archbishop Burke to reprimand all those who support abortion “rights”, including Democrats. Read my posts. I only want him to also reprimand all those politicians that support all evils, not just abortion. Unfortunately, the people on this list seem to be brainwashed into believing the false dichotomy given by our leaders that you must be a Republican or a Democrat. I pointed out something I disagree with and that Republicans generally believe, and therefore it was assumed that I must believe all sorts of Democratic garbage. So for the record, I will point out that very few Democrats have a correct understanding of just war, and so most of them would be condemned as well.

  67. Anthony says:

    abortion is the ultimate evil. it deserves to be set aside from all other evils and those who endorse it deserve to be given special attention from the leaders in the church. anyone who says otherwise needs to rethink why they are arguing against giving abortion the attention it deserves.

Comments are closed.