Wisconsin Bishop Refuses Communion to Pro-Abortion Catholic Lawmakers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 13, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Wisconsin Bishop Refuses Communion to Pro-Abortion Catholic Lawmakers

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
January 13, 2004

Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — Archbishop Raymond L. Burke formally notified the Diocese of La Crosse that Catholic lawmakers in that diocese who persist in their support of abortion or euthanasia will be refused Holy Communion until they publicly renounce their "grave public sin."

"Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive holy Communion," the notification said. "They are not to be admitted to holy Communion, should they present themselves, until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices."

Archbishop Burke, who will be installed as Archbishop of St. Louis on January 26, had his "Notification," published in the La Crosse diocesan newspaper on January 8, the diocese where Archbishop Burke serves as diocesan administrator. His pastoral letter, "On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility" was released simultaneously.

Burke has said the notification became necessary after correspondence with three Catholic lawmakers, whom he declined to identify. None of the lawmakers accepted an invitation for a private meeting, and in their responses they indicated they were not open to changing their positions.

"After several exchanges of letters, it became clear in all three cases that there was no willingness to conform to the teaching of the church," Archbishop Burke told the Catholic News Service. "So the notification became a necessity in order that the faithful in the diocese not be scandalized, thinking that it is acceptable for a devout Catholic to also be pro-abortion."

Secular reports have suggested that state Sen. Julie Lassa and U.S. Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI) are two of the three pro-abortion legislators the Archbishop had approached.

In his "Notification," Archbishop Burke cited the 1998 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in stating "It is my duty ‘to explain, persuade, correct, and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their action and policies.’" He also quoted Pope John Paul II, who has stated that lawmakers "have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life."

As the lawmakers refused to change their position despite the counsel of their bishop, "universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,’" stated the Archbishop’s "Notification," citing the Code of Canon Law.

"Communion means union with Jesus, and with his teachings. To permit the killing of children contradicts everything Jesus taught. Bishop Burke is simply calling for consistency," explained Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and President of the National Pro-life Religious Council.

Rep. David Obey has said he takes exception to "a set of marching orders given by church hierarchy, prelate or associated lobby group," and Sen. Julie Lassa has said she "would not let religion decide how she serves her constituents."

"Both Obey and Lassa have abysmal voting records on abortion and related issues," stated a Wisconsin Right to Life news release. 

Archbishop Burke has stated previously that he will issue similar decrees in St. Louis if necessary.