Thursday, October 21, 2010

Red Hats for Archbishops Burke and Wuerl

I was happy to hear that two American Bishops had been elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. I have had the pleasure of meeting Archbishop Wuerl, one of the recipients of the Red Hat. He seems like a lovely man and a sincere servant of God's people.

As I was reading an account of Archbishop Wuerl's reaction to his elevation to the College of Cardinals, I notice that in citing his joy, the article also brought up an issue of controversy. Apparently, he maintains an interesting interpretation of Canon 915. I had forgotten that the Archbishop had said he would not deny the Eucharist to Nancy Pelosi although she publicly supports and promotes abortion rights.

Perhaps the Archbishop was looking to Canon 916 to support his perspective. This canon requires that the person in grave sin must receive the Sacrament of Confession before approaching the Eucharist. One can hope that the Archbishop wants to presume the best about a person, thus avoiding judgment of the state of someone's soul who may have confessed his/her sins to a priest and been absolved. However, since Pelosi's grave sin is public and not private -- I would suspect that it would be necessary to make a public statement retracting her support for abortion.

The article also mentioned that Archbishop Burke, who is currently in Rome serving as the head of the Vatican's Supreme Court, also received a letter from Pope Benedict XVI elevating him to Cardinal. But, what I found was interesting was this: Archbishop Burke takes the opposite position on the issue of pro-abortion politicians being admitted to Holy Communion, stating:
"I don't understand the continual debate that goes on about it [denying communion to pro-abortion politicians]. There's not a question that a Catholic who publicly, and after admonition, supports pro-abortion legislation is not to receive Holy Communion and is not to be given Holy Communion."

"The Church's law is very clear," said Burke. "The person who persists publicly in grave sin is to be denied Holy Communion, and it [canon law] doesn't say that the bishop shall decide this. It's an absolute."
It seems that they are clearly at odds over the meaning and implementation of Canon 915. But, now that they both have Red Hats, perhaps they'll have a chance to get together more frequently to clear and come to some resolution.


Congratulations to both men! God love them for their service to the Church. May the Father and the Son keep them, and the Holy Spirit guide them as they continue to serve God's people.

***Correction***The original piece listed Burke as "Bishop" and not "Archbishop"

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