Canon Fire: Burke vs. Wuerl

April 2014By Christopher Manion

Christopher Manion is Director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae™, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He is a Knight of Malta.

In his guest column “On ‘Politicizing’ the Eucharist” (Dec.), Fr. Regis Scanlon explains the wisdom of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which reads, “Those who are excommunicated…and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” The argument over the canon’s application is not going to go away soon. Recent events, however, have significantly affected the prospects for applying this canon to pro-abortion politicians in the U.S.

In May 2007, as he was traveling to Brazil on his first papal trip outside Europe, Pope Benedict XVI told an inquiring reporter that he would support Mexican bishops who, with recourse to canon 915, excommunicate pro-abortion lawmakers in their country. “It is part of the code,” Benedict said. “It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in communion with the body of Christ.”

Within hours, a reporter from The Hill, a congressional newspaper in Washington, D.C., asked Patrick Leahy, a Democratic senator from Vermont, to comment on the Pope’s statement. Leahy’s reply was blunt: “I’ve always thought that those bishops and archbishops who for decades hid pederasts and are now being protected by the Vatican should be indicted.” Leahy, a Catholic, has served as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary since January 2007, a position he holds to this day. Did his searing remark play a quiet role in a recent Vatican re-assignment?

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Bestowing the Body of Christ Our Blessed Lord on those who canonically are disqualified to receive it is a VERY slippery slope. Think of one more scenario: The Pope's conclusion after the Synod on the Family is that every child of humanity is eligible for economia, ie pastoral discretionary exceptions to the letter of the law - hence, the bestowal of the symbolic host of communion with a messiah event upon those romantics who divorced and remarried without the permission (economia)of a fellowship event, in short, those who through no fault of their own found themselves in an 'irregular marriage.' Less than a year later, a bergoglio event dawned upon the new Pope, Francis Paul (walter kasper), who agreed with (who am I to judge?) all concerned that the definition of 'irregular marriage' could not exclude any on the mere basis of creed or gender. Posted by: shanemattison
May 22, 2015 10:46 AM EDT
Cardinal Burke was likely expecting to take heat over his defense of Can. 915. He did not shrink from it, fortunately, as so many bishops do - unfortunately.
It surprised me that Cardinal Wuerl would make such an error. Did he think it would not register somewhere?

What's so great about this debate is that some lay persons get to see apologetics in action within the episcopacy, and I think it's a healthy thing. Some may even learn that they are living lives that are excommunicated from the Church. In any case, these are not personal battles since both cardinals probably respect and love each other as fellow Christians.

As long as the debate stays at a high, non-personal level, it can only be good for the Church. Look what the Council of Jerusalem did for the Early Church. A lot had to be hashed out during the first centuries. It was all done publicly.

When a culture of secrecy prevails, all we get are scandals. Then it is quite easy to blackmail bishops and demoralize the laity.

Posted by: Rosemary6
April 22, 2014 06:13 PM EDT
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