Congressman Criticizes Missouri Archbishop on Abortion/Communion Stance

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressman Criticizes Missouri Archbishop on Abortion/Communion Stance

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 11, 2004

St. Louis, MO ( — St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke’s position against giving communion to pro-abortion politicians may be popular within the Catholic Church, but it’s not making him friends with some elected officials. One Missouri congressman is so upset, he’s requested a meeting the Catholic leader.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from the St. Louis area who backs abortion, plans to meet with Archbishop Burke on Monday.

"I think Archbishop Burke has gone too far; he is now delving into politics," Clay told the Associated Press. "Perhaps the Catholic Church should surrender their 501-C status."

That’s the nonprofit status that the Catholic Church, and other churches, enjoy. While it prohibits any organization or entity from engaging in politics, the nonprofit tax status allows donors to possibly receive a tax write-off for donations and contributions.

Archbishop Burke said he would offer the politician a blessing rather than giving him full communion, and said that statement applied to Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry.

Last month, he indicated that Catholic voters who support abortion should go to confession before taking the Christian sacrament.

Rep. Clay attends St. Nicholas Catholic Church and told the Associated Press that, if a priest refused to serve him communion, he would "just stand there."

"That’s such a personal thing, between my God and me," he told AP. "I think it’s an intrusion into uncharted waters that the church has never been in."

Clay said he thought the position would drive people away from the Catholic church.

But, Deal Hudson, publisher of Crisis, a leading Catholic magazine, said the Catholic Church long ago should have started holding Catholic politicians accountable for deviating from such an important issue as abortion.
"The fact that so many Catholics hold public office and flout church teaching is a scandal that many of us have waited a long time to see addressed," Hudson said.

Clay was one of 48 members of Congress to sign a letter in advance of the meeting of the nation’s Catholic bishops, asking them not to impose a ban on pro-abortion politicians taking communion.

Before coming to St. Louis, Burke was the Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse. He told parish priests 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."

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