Cardinal Burke’s Advice to Nancy Pelosi: Back Off Holy Communion

The prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura also shared his views on Pope Francis, Fatima and the threat of U.S. government persecution of Catholics.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (photo: Dave Uebbing/CNA)

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s repeated public support for abortion is a “grave sin” that means she should not be admitted to holy Communion, out of concern for her spiritual state, said Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Cardinal Burke, who heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court of appeal other than the Pope, explained that Canon 915 of canon law “must be applied” in Pelosi’s case. That canon states that people who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” should not be admitted to Communion.

“This is a person who, obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic,” Cardinal Burke said in a July interview with the Minneapolis-based newspaper The Catholic Servant, republished recently in the Catholic newspaper The Wanderer.

“This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must,” the cardinal said, noting that Catholic political leaders have a duty to safeguard and promote “the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn.”

Cardinal Burke is prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest legal body in the Catholic Church.

Rep. Pelosi, D-Calif., a Catholic, has long supported legalized abortion. At a June press conference, she responded to a question about the difference between legal abortion and the crimes of Kermit Gosnell, a notorious Philadelphia abortionist convicted of murdering several infants born alive during failed abortions.

“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me, when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics,” she said.

Cardinal Burke said it is “just false and wrong” to say abortion and related matters are questions about the Catholic faith that have no role in politics.

“I fear for Congresswoman Pelosi if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is. I invite her to reflect upon the example of St. Thomas More, who acted rightly in a similar situation, even at the cost of his life,” he said.

He noted that the rejection of abortion is not only a matter of Catholic teaching, but part of the “natural moral law written on every heart” and “illuminated” by Jesus Christ’s teaching, passion and death.

Cardinal Burke added that it is a “contradiction” and a “scandal” when high-profile political figures who reject Catholic teaching on life and the family are honored at Catholic university commencement ceremonies, saying that this helps “contribute to the sinfulness of the individuals involved.”

He deplored a “false sense of dialogue” in the wider culture and in some areas of the Catholic Church, where people simply “pretend to dialogue about open and egregious violations of the moral law.”

Pope Francis and Fatima

Pope Francis was also discussed during the interview, with Cardinal Burke noting that everyone is “adjusting” to the Pope’s “distinctive style,” which has “very much” appealed to the Catholic faithful.

The Holy Father “has a way of communicating with people that is direct and which demonstrates his fatherly concern for them as individuals. When people see the fatherly and spiritual care that he gives to others, they understand that he also has the same care for them,” he said.

The Pope’s May 13 consecration of his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima shows his “profound devotion,” the cardinal added.

He suggested that Pope Francis is mindful of Our Lady’s warnings about the attacks of Satan upon the Pope and is invoking her protection. Noting that Pope John Paul II credited his survival of the 1981 assassination attempt to Our Lady of Fatima, the cardinal said Pope Francis may be seeking that same intercession.

On the topic of low Mass attendance, Cardinal Burke said that lay witness to fellow laypeople is “the only solution.”

“More and more sincere and informed Catholics must be ready to give an account of their faith to others, even if they are not the most eloquent and articulate,” he said.

“If one understands what the Mass truly is — Christ himself coming down from heaven to renew the sacrifice of Calvary — how could you possibly not be there on Sunday?” Cardinal Burke added.

U.S. Totalitarianism and Persecution

The cardinal also called for better religious instruction, as well as prayer and fasting, to turn back negative trends in American culture, including the push to redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex couples.

He had strong words for the U.S. government, calling it “totalitarian” and warning of “persecutions” if present trends continue.

“It will not be possible for Catholics to exercise most of the normal human services, whether in health care, education or social welfare, because, in conscience, they will no longer be able to do what the government demands: to cooperate in grave moral evil,” he said. “We are heading in that direction and even see it now.”

He pointed to the HHS mandate requiring coverage of contraceptive drugs and procedures that Catholic teaching rejects. This regulation, he said, is putting pressure on Catholic owners of small companies whose consciences are troubled.

However, Cardinal Burke said the situation “can be turned back.” He noted the massive protests against the redefinition of marriage in France and said that he sees the “greatest sign of hope” among young people, who are strong in their beliefs and “recognize how bankrupt our culture is and want the truth.”

Older people should encourage the youth and invest in helping them “build a better future,” he said, recognizing that the modern world requires Catholics to be “courageously strong.”

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