Archbishop Burke to release Pastoral Letter stressing priority of abortion issue


The St. Louis Review, the newspaper of  the Archdiocese of St. Louis, revealed this week that  Archbishop Raymond L. Burke will issue a pastoral letter addressing Church teachings on voting.

James Rygelski, the Review Editor, said that Burke's letter will address "more fully questions raised by his reported statements last week that Catholics commit a mortal sin by knowingly voting for a candidate who advocates abortion."

Archbishop Burke stated that Catholics sin by voting for candidates who favor abortion during an interview June 24 on local radio station KMOX (AM-1120). It was in response to one of many questions he was asked about a variety of subjects.

He said later that his answer to the question on voting for candidates who favor abortion merely reiterated what the Church teaches.

"I didn’t say anything novel or extraordinary," the Archbishop said. He added that Pope John Paul II has touched on such matters in writings such as his 2003 encyclical "Eccelesia de Eucharistia" ("On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church")."

"It is a serious sin," Archbishop Burke told the Review, adding that a person who voted that way could receive Communion only after a "true repentance" and obtaining absolution through the Sacrament of Confession. "It’s not right to support candidates who are for abortion," he added.

"It is not a matter — as in the case of politicians whose positions are public — of denying Communion to voters who support pro-abortion candidates," the Archbishop said. "But Catholics who support such pro-abortion candidates participate in a grave evil. They must show a change of heart and be sacramentally reconciled or refrain from receiving Holy Communion," he said.

The Archbishop recently wrote in an article for America magazine that Church law supports a bishop’s right to refuse Communion to a Catholic politician who gives "serious scandal" by supporting abortion. He also said that Church law "imposes a responsibility on the local bishop to address this grave error."

He said that his recent statements were not so much influenced by the recent pastoral letter by Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, which warned that Catholics who vote for pro-abortion politicians commit a mortal sin. The Archbishop said, however, that he agreed, in substance, with Bishop Sheridan’s statement.

"To support such candidates is clearly to participate in their support of abortion," the Archbishop said. "We must never do that."

Archbishop Burke said that in the KMOX interview he avoided commenting on specific candidates and political races. "I am not a Democrat or a Republican," he said. He added that people who charge that bishops favor the Republican Party or are trying to influence the election by their pro-life pronouncements "are trying to silence the bishops."

The Archbishop repeated his earlier statements that the abortion issue takes priority over other issues in a candidate’s campaign. "The Holy Father has written in ‘Evangelium Vitae’ (‘On the Gospel of Life’) that abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable," the Archbishop said.

Archbishop Burke said in closing that those who have voted for a pro-abortion candidate would have to "confess the sin with sincere contrition."

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