Last June, when Pope Benedict yanked Archbishop Raymond Burke out of St. Louis and put him in charge of the Vatican’s canon law office, there was some speculation that it was to make him a noncombatant in the wafer wars of the impending general election campaign. As the most consequential of the “no-communion-for-pro-choice-politicians” prelates, Burke had the capacity to create far more commotion than, some supposed, Rome wanted. In the event, some bishops–Scranton, Kansas City–made a Burkean show of it, but for the most part the communion issue was kept where most bishops seem to want it, quietly within the Catholic fold.
Now we have a little more insight into what Burke’s episcopal brethren, if not the pope, had reason to be concerned about. In a sequence of events that has the Catholic blogosphere a-twitter, Burke granted a videotaped interview to pro-life provocateur Randall Terry in which he, among other things, egged on the Catholic faithful to agitate against bishops who fail to stop pro-choice politicians from taking Communion.
And so I would encourage the faithful when they are scandalized by the
giving of Holy Communion to persons are publicly and obstinately in
sin, that they go to their pastors, whether it’s their parish priest or
to their bishop, to insist that this scandal stop. Because, it is
weakening the faith of everyone. It’s giving the impression that it
must be morally correct to support procured abortion, in at least in
some circumstances, if not also generally. So they need to insist that
their parish priest and the bishops, and for the rest…to my brother
bishops and brother priests…simply to say: the service of the Church in
the world today has to begin first and foremost with the protection of
the life of those who are the most defenseless and the most innocent,
namely the unborn…
Terry promptly proceeded to release the video at a press conference at the National Press Club, as part of his campaign to get Washington D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde removed from office because of their refusal to take the anti-Communion hard line. Whereupon, Burke issued a pseudo-apology, as in: “I am deeply sorry for the confusion and hurt which the wrong use of
the videotape has caused to anyone, particularly, to my brother
And what, pray tell, does Burke think the right use of the videotape would have been? For Terry just to have shown it to his own folks, quietly using the archbishop’s authority to put pressure on those of Burke’s brother priests and bishops who are not with the program? If I were Wuerl or Loverde, I’d certainly think so–and recognize that Burke was in no way apologizing for that. In May, Burke will be in Washington for the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. It will be interesting to see if Wuerl turns up, or makes time to see him.