Friday, January 23, 2004

Bishop Burke's Wake Up Call
(Roe v. Wade + 31 years)

The Diocese of La Crosse Wisconsin recently created a stir with the release of a notification from Bishop Raymond L. Burke stating that the Holy Eucharist should be withheld from lawmakers who support abortion or euthanasia. I wholeheartedly applaud the stance Bishop Burke (now Archbishop Burke of St. Louis) took. No Catholic in the state of mortal sin should be receiving Holy Communion.

Unfortunately, many besides politicians receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. Are politicians being singled out for punishment? No. First of all, the action taken by Bishop Burke is not a punishment. Not only is he protecting the Body of Christ from being profaned, he is also protecting the politician from compounding his sin. (1 Cor 11:27) The Eucharist should be withheld from any person in the state of mortal sin. The difference is that politicians publicly declare their sin while the sins of another may be known only to that individual. Neither should partake in the Body of Christ.

Reaction to the Bishop's decree was swift and predictable. An article by Gayda Hollnagel in the January 16, 2004 edition of the La Crosse Tribune quotes several Wisconsin lawmakers expressing their disdain. La Crosse Mayor John Medinger, described in the article as "an active Catholic", said he was shocked. Medinger was quoted as saying, "If they're going to tell Catholic politicians if they vote in a certain way, are they also going to say that Catholics have to vote for certain politicians or they can't receive the sacraments."

You are not quite getting it, John. The bishop is not telling Catholics who to vote for. He is, however, warning Catholics who NOT to vote for. It is about time Catholics realize the responsibility they have to cultivate Christian ideals over deadly evils in our society. When an action contributes to the potential propagation of evil, it becomes a serious sin. Receiving the Holy Eucharist in a state of serious sin is itself a serious sin.

"What is the role of an individual to work within the realm of his own conscience?" Medinger asks in the article. He needs to understand the responsibility of forming one's conscience in accordance with Catholic teaching if indeed he wants to call himself a Catholic. Too often, people use conscience to validate their own personal definition of right and wrong. Worse yet, some politicians know they are propagating evil, but do so because that is what the majority of their constituents want.

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have relinquished pro-life views held earlier in their political careers in order to gain the support of abortion advocacy groups such as NARAL, Emily's List, and NOW. I cannot believe that growth in personal wisdom could lead anyone to decide killing unborn babies is okay after all. Rather, these politicians seem to be saying, "I will have a better chance of winning the election if I sell my soul to the devil." What does that say about their character?

State Sen. Julie Lassa had an interesting quote in the Tribune article. She said, "I hold Bishop Burke in high regard; however, I believe any effort to pressure legislators by threatening to deny them the sacraments is contrary to the principles of democracy." Does Senator Lassa believe the Church is bound by the principles of democracy? Bishop Burke's authority is sanctioned not in majority rule, but in Christ Himself.

Today, Americans have a distorted view of what the separation of church and state means. Our founding fathers desired to practice their religion free from government interference. The idea was to keep the government out of religion - not to keep religion out of the government. A government set apart from God is a government that will succumb to evil. Discerning right from wrong must be rooted in the righteousness of God, not the self-righteousness of man.

The Tribune article describes Medinger's concern that non-Catholic voters will be unwilling to elect Catholic candidates for fear they will listen to the church rather than their constituents. Concerns about abortion and euthanasia extend beyond Catholic boundaries to all Christians and those of other faiths. The Democratic Party, historically the choice of Catholics, now finds itself alienated from God-fearing people because of their pro-abortion platform.

People of faith cannot vote for pro-abortion candidates in good conscience. Yet, polls show that many Catholics do. Some believe there are other issues to consider besides abortion. Sadly, others may agree with the pro-choice stance. While the Church speaks out frequently on these issues, it becomes painfully obvious that some Catholics are not listening. Merely speaking out is not enough. Bishop Burke sent out a wake-up call. Hats off to him and may all other Bishops follow suit.