The head of the Church’s “Supreme Court,” Archbishop Raymond Burke, recently granted an interview to the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, during which he discussed the reaction of the media to his appointment in Rome, the Democrat Party and denying Communion to pro-choice politicians.
Last June, Archbishop Burke was appointed as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome. Originally from Wisconsin, Burke was ordained in 1975 and was named Bishop of LaCrosse in 1994. In 2004, Burke became the eighth archbishop of St. Louis and was known as one of the strongest voices in the American Church, as well as one of the leading American experts in Canon law.
During the interview, the prelate countered claims that he was appointed to the Vatican-based position in an effort to remove him from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, saying, "I have too much respect for the Pope to believe that in order to move someone away from a diocese he would nominate him to a very sensitive dicastery like this one."
In his new position, Archbishop Burke serves as the head of the Church’s Supreme Tribunal, which ensures that justice is correctly administered. Also known as the Church’s Supreme Court, the Tribunal examines matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia, as well as questions from the Holy Father.
Speculation that the archbishop was being "removed" stemmed from the fact that he was found in the spotlight several times as the Archbishop of St. Louis. During his tenure in the archdiocese, he corrected a Catholic parish that practiced like a “protestant one,” he took action when abortion-supporting Sheryl Crow was invited to a fundraising event for a Catholic Pediatrics Hospital and he spoke up when two women were “ordained” to the priesthood in his archdiocese.
“In all these cases I had to intervene with discipline in order to avoid scandalizing the faithful. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to," he told Avvenire.
Turning to discuss the Democrat Party, Archbishop Burke warned that the party is “at risk of becoming the ‘Death Party,’ due to its positions on bioethical questions as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, ‘The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts and the Disregard for Human Life’.”
The Democrat party once was the “party that helped our Catholic immigrant fathers and grandfathers to prosper in the American Society. However, it is no longer the same,” he remarked. While there are some pro-life Democrats, they are very rare, unfortunately.”
Catholic Democrats who flaunt the teachings of the Church was also an issue commented on by Archbishop Burke.
Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden drew ire from American bishops for their pro-choice positions. These run-ins, Avvenire noted, have brought the conversation on whether or not these politicians should be denied the Holy Eucharist - a stance that Archbishop Burke has strongly affirmed- to the fore.
“Mine is not an isolated position. It is shared by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput from Denver, by Bishop Peter J. Jugis from Charlotte and a few others,” he answered, while noting that the bishops' conference has not "assumed this position, leaving each bishop free to make his own decision.” He continued, “I have always maintained that there must be a united position in order to demonstrate the unity of the Church when facing this serious issue.”
Though a united decision has not been made, the archbishop noted: “Recently, I have noticed that other bishops are coming to this position” after statements from Pelosi and Biden. Though both have stated that they are “good Catholics, they have represented the Church teaching on abortion in a false and tendentious way.”
This same theme was touched upon by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 in a letter to the American bishops, Burke noted. The Holy Father made it clear that “it is not licit to give Holy Communion to one who is publicly and commonly in a sinful state. In this sense, it is logical that one who publicly an commonly supports abortion falls into this category.”
However, Archbishop Burke emphasized the need for the Church to continue to clarify its position on this point. “Some time ago, a protestant American politician asked me if the Church changed its position regarding abortion. I answered ‘no,’ obviously. He then told me: ‘It’s weird, because in the United States Congress, many Catholics easily support laws in favor of the right to abortion’.”
It is because of this, he concluded, that the Church “must always be very clear on this point.”