In an implicit rebuttal to Cardinal Sean O'Malley's presiding at the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as well as a more overt rebuke to the Obama administration, Arcbishop Raymond Burke addressed the question of how the church should respond to Catholics in public life who do not espouse church teaching, specifically surrounding pro-life issues. His talk is entitled Reflections on the Struggle to Advance the Culture of Life. Archbishop Burke is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and these remarks were delivered to a dinner sponsored by InsideCatholic.com last week in Washington, DC.
He begins by saying, "The administration of our federal government openly and aggressively follows a secularist agenda."
But the heart of his talk is his commentary on not giving scandal:
To ignore the fact that Catholics in public life, for example, who persistently violate the moral law regarding the inviolability of innocent human life or the integrity of the marital union, lead many into confusion or even error regarding the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, in fact, contributes to the confusion and error, redounding to the gravest harm to our brothers and sisters, and, therefore, to the whole nation. The perennial discipline of the Church, for that reason among other reasons, has prohibited the giving of Holy Communion and the granting of a Church funeral to those who persist, after admonition, in the grave violation of the moral law (Code of Canon Law, cann. 915; and 1184, § 1, 3º).
It is said that these disciplines which the Church has consistently observed down the centuries presume to pass a judgment on the eternal salvation of a soul, which belongs to God alone, and, therefore, should be abandoned. On the contrary, these disciplines are not a judgment on the eternal salvation of the soul in question. They are simply the acknowledgment of an objective truth, namely, that the public actions of the soul are in violation of the moral law, to his own grave harm and to the grave harm of all who are confused or led into error by his actions. The Church confides every soul to the mercy of God, which is great beyond all our imagining, but that does not excuse her from proclaiming the truth of the moral law, also by applying her age-old disciplines, for the sake of the salvation of all.
When a person has publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts, leading many into confusion and error about fundamental questions of respect for human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, his repentance of such actions must also be public. The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders. The repair of such scandal begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation.
James Martin, SJ
Cathy Kaveny over at Dotcommonweal notes the following:
Taken together, O”Malley’s and Burke’s talks seem to outline the state of the debate.. Nonetheless, I was troubled by one particular aspect of Burke’s speech, which struck me as going further rhetorically than he has gone before.
If there has always been the danger of giving scandal to others by public and seriously sinful actions or failures to act, that danger is heightened in our own time. Because of the confusion about the moral law, which is found in public discourse, in general, and is even embodied in laws and judicial pronouncements, the Christian is held to an even higher standard of clarity in enunciating and upholding the moral law. It is particularly insidious that our society which is so profoundly confused about the most basic goods also believes that scandal is a thing of the past. One sees the hand of the Father of Lies at work in the disregard for the situation of scandal or in the ridicule and even censure of those who experience scandal. (emphasis added).
Am I wrong, or is Burke here implying that McCarrick and O”Malley were influenced by the Devil himself in making the decisions they made? If so, this strikes me as quite a new level of accusation by one brother bishop to another. Maybe not absolutely, as my friends who study early Church history tell me. But quite new for us.--Kaveny