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Cardinal-Designate Burke Says Catholics Cannot Vote for Candidates Who Are Pro-Choice

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Just ahead of Election Day, one of the most influential American churchmen in the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Raymond L. Burke, has warned Catholic voters in the United States that they may never vote for politicians who support abortion rights or same-sex marriage, position usually associated with Democratic candidates.

Burke, an outspoken conservative and the former archbishop of St. Louis who will be made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI next month, made his remarks in a videotaped interview in Rome with Thomas J. McKenna, head of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, a conservative lobbying group based in San Diego.

In the interview, which Catholic Action taped on Oct. 20 and started promoting Thursday on YouTube, McKenna asks Burke, "Is it ever licit for a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, a candidate who either in a platform or who has voted, has shown himself to support that. Is it ever valid?"

"No," Burke answers. "You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion."

He adds that voters "may in some circumstances, where you don't have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country. But you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone."

Burke also cited same-sex marriage as the other great threat to American society that Catholic voters, like Catholic politicians, are bound by their faith to oppose. And he rejected the charge that such a position discriminates against gays and lesbians just as laws once discriminated against African-Americans.

"Where there is unjust discrimination -- for instance, where you say that a fellow human being, because of the color of his skin, is not a part of the same race as someone, say, who is a Caucasian -- that is a kind of discrimination which is unjust and immoral," Burke said.

"But there is a discrimination which is perfectly just and good, and that is the discrimination between what is right and what is wrong -- between what is according to our human nature and what is contrary to our human nature. So the Catholic Church, in teaching that sexual acts between persons of the same sex are intrinsically evil, are against nature itself, is simply announcing the truth, helping people to discriminate right from wrong in terms of their own activities."

Since 2008, Burke has been the top judge on the Vatican's supreme court and serves on the powerful Vatican committee that makes recommendations on the appointment of bishops to the pope. When he is formally made a cardinal in November, the 62-year-old Burke will also have a vote in the conclave that will eventually elect a successor to the 83-year-old Benedict.

Burke's interview comes at a politically volatile moment and at a time when conservative Catholic lobbies and bloggers in the United States are more active than ever in trying to make their voices and views the dominant ones within the church and in Catholic political circles.

Burke has often been at odds with some of his brother bishops in the United States, whom he sees as too lenient in speaking out against abortion rights and same-sex marriage and in denying communion to Catholic politicians who take positions contrary to those of the bishops.

The cardinal-designate's latest comments on Catholic voters also seem to diverge somewhat from the current policy of the U.S. hierarchy, as developed in 2004, and based in part on advice from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief doctrinal officer who a year later was elected pope on the death of John Paul II.

In a letter to the American bishops meeting in 2004 to formulate their policy of Catholics in public life, Ratzinger noted that a Catholic voter would be unfit to receive communion "if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia."

Ratzinger added: "When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

Burke's latest statements, however, seemed to take a harder line on Catholic voters.

"No matter what good I'm trying to achieve by voting for a candidate who favors that good, but at the same time favors the intrinsic evil, the grave evil of abortion, they can never justify that, voting for that candidate," he told McKenna.

McKenna said he thinks the statements by Burke -- one of two bishops advising his organization -- are not partisan but make the electoral choices crystal clear for Catholic voters.

"Millions of Catholics have no idea it's a sin to vote for candidates who favor these grave evils, which attack the very foundations of society," he said. "This matter-of-fact, pointed interview granted to me by Archbishop Raymond Burke in Rome last week makes it very clear what the responsibility of every American Catholic will be next Tuesday."

In the interview, Burke said he also rejects the common criticism that highlighting opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage effectively endorses Republican candidates.

"Sadly, in the society in which we live, it is oftentimes difficult for bishops to carry out their office because they are accused of being partisan or other accusations are made against them," Burke said. "But what a bishop should simply do is say to himself, 'What does the Catholic faith teach about this matter and how can I best announce it to the people, to alert them so that they do what in their consciences they are obliged to do?'"

Burke's arguments may be moot, as Catholic voters already seemed to be swinging -- along with many other blocs -- away from Democrats and toward Republicans, though not always because of the moral issues Burke highlighted.

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All catholics should read works by Marshall Gauvin to better understand the history of the catholic church.

November 20 2010 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm off the issue here, but I am wondering about how the IRS says that if churches talk about politics in their untaxed churches, then they say that those churches are taxable. Now the Vatican has stated these political issues, and it owns Catholic Churches. And since this is political, will they now be taxed?

October 29 2010 at 9:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Catholic faith teaches that abortion is a moral evil. It has no teaching on voting issues. To say someone has a right to do an action is not to say that they should. The good Bishop would have us voting for people who advocate all kinds of sins except this one, which is a ridiculous stand to take. I accept his teaching on faith and morality whenever they conform with the historical teachings of the church, but on how we should vote, the man is clueless!

October 29 2010 at 9:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

If any Catholic official were to tell me I can't vote for this one or that one - that is exactly who I WILL vote for. If they are against it, I am for it. These bishops need to get their own houses in order. The Catholic Church has absolutely no influence over me. I spent 16 years under their thumps at school - no more!

October 29 2010 at 9:13 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jpmeville's comment

Very anti-catholic sentiments. Your bitterness is showing.

October 29 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Fitz

I'm a Catholic. I drink to my conscience then the Pope or Bishop. This is the same old shame, blame and guilt game. The essence of the Catholic Church is Christ's death on the cross. He preached love and forgiveness, even among the sinners he sometines traveled with. What about the Church teaching on capital punishment' or pedaphilia' or other mortal sins? What about separation of Church and State. The Church teaches ex cathedra, infallible teaching, but what about the inquisition? Was that 'ex cathedra' and the Crusades where people were slaughtered being ordered to do so on the advice of the thtt Pope who said they would go to heaven. For heavan's sake get real. Sin is a conscienable concupisence (see Augustine and doctors of the Church) who have fought this stuff before. "Judge not lest you be not judged", Christ said. Or are we going to re-interpret that. The Church does a lousy job on hermaneutics (interpretation) and the Bishop's statement sounds like cafetaria Catholicism or expedient elective teaching.

October 29 2010 at 8:47 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

The Catholic Church is not a Democracy. It is not governed by the Constitution. If you disagree with the Churches edicts you need to find another that coincides more with your belief values. To call yourself a devout Catholic and pick and choose what edicts you choose to follow is hypocritical. To say "Separation of Church and State" does not give you an exeption. I am pro-choice. I believe in equallity for gays. It was for these very reasons I left the church. I am also a conservative independent. You may want to share my opinion with Nancy Pelosi.

October 29 2010 at 7:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Religions are made by people... not Gods and it is becoming clear that the current hierarchy of the very conservative Catholic church are Republican, right wing, conservatives that have a strong feeling that women should not have the rights of men to be priests or rights over their bodies as in pro-choice and lean toward criminalizing abortion but have only slightly pooh-poohed the right wing's having started two long (interminable) and deadly wars. It is clear that in the right wing (and Catholic church's) minds, abortions aren't acceptable but killing people in the middle east (is it because they are muslims?) is no reason to not vote for a candidate.

October 29 2010 at 7:02 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dwood69743's comment

Ninety percent of my relatives who are catholic are also registered democrats going all the way back to Roosevelt. The church told us to vote for JFK cause he would be the first catholic president. The church also supports left wing causes like illegal immigration and amnesty. The church supports issues not political parties.

October 29 2010 at 1:01 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I'm inclined to disagree with your last statement, David. I think that Catholics are swinging toward conservativism because of the moral issues that are being addressed in this election. Even though the Church is embroiled in it's own scandals, are we not taught to follow Church teaching? I think all Catholics know their obligations (but may not follow them). One thing that I would promote as Canon Law is the excommunication of all politicians who publically oppose Catholic Doctrine. Since a priest can be excommunicated for breaking the seal of confession, why not?

October 29 2010 at 3:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bishop Burke is entitled to his views. However we have many pro life people who feel once an unwanted child is born they feel it is not their respsobsibility. It is our responsobility every one who professes to be a Christian. We should all be working on adoptions of unwanted children. Does Burke endorse the Republican philisophy of me first and I dont reall y care what happens to anybody once they are born. I am not an abortion advocate but lets say what we are all going to do to help the unwanted children. Burke needs to walk the walk not talk the talk. He is a Cathoic attayloa. We do not need extremests like him around. I am a former catholic turned protesant for many years.

October 29 2010 at 12:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Would a true Christian even participate in voting for anyone? There is ample proof that Christians living in the fisrt Century, such as Paul and Peter, did not participate in voting or running for political office. They were neutral in world affairs and followed Jesus example to flee when the Jews wanted to make him King. Besides, there is little chance that very many Catholics care about what some Cardinal says. In the past, they have ignored even the Pope's demands that they not get abortions themselves, so why shoul;d they care about voting for someone who is pro life or pro choice.

October 29 2010 at 12:28 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply


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