Cardinal Burke’s hypocrisy on intrinsic evil and Communion

In a talk on 24 March 2017, at a parish in Springfield, Virginia, Cardinal Burke insisted the Pope Francis must answer the five dubia of the four Cardinals, or else the Cardinals “simply will have to correct the situation,” by issuing what he called a “formal correction.”

Cardinal Burke: “Until these questions are answered, there continues to spread a very harmful confusion in the Church, and one of the fundamental questions is in regards to the truth that there are some acts that are always and everywhere wrong, what we call intrinsically evil acts, and so, we Cardinals, will continue to insist that we get a response to these honest questions.”

The issue here is that divorced and remarried persons commit objective mortal sin when they have sexual relations, because their current union is not a valid marriage. It is the sin of sex outside of marriage. And if either or both persons are still validly married, under Church teaching and law, to another person, then those sexual acts are a type of adultery. The dubia Cardinals and many other conservatives believe that divorced and remarried persons should be prohibited from Communion, if they are committing this type of objective mortal sin and are unrepentant.

The hypocrisy is found in the fact that most Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics are guilty of one or another intrinsically evil and objectively mortal sin: contraception, abortifacient contraception, sex outside of marriage, homosexual acts, unnatural sexual acts in marriage, masturbation, pornography, as well as various heresies. All these sins are far too common among Catholics who currently receive Communion. And it is not as if they repent, go to Confession, and then receive Communion. The lines for Communion are long, and the lines for Confession are short, if there is a line at all.

Yet the dubia Cardinals utterly ignore all these common intrinsically evil acts, and do not ask the Church to restrict persons guilty of those grave sins from Communion. It is blatant hypocrisy to loudly complain about one of the less common mortal sins among Catholics, and remain silent about all the more common mortal sins.

If the dubia Cardinals were consistent in their position on reception of Communion, they would have to propose that everyone guilty of objective mortal sin refrain from Communion. But if EVERY Catholic guilty of objective mortal sin did not receive Communion, the vast majority of Mass-going Catholics would be unable to receive.

But if the dubia Cardinals get their way — and I’m convinced that eventually they will — it absolutely will not stand that the ONLY objective mortal sin that excludes one from Communion is the type of adultery called divorce and remarriage. The Church will have to prohibit all of the aforementioned sinners from Communion.

And then they will stop going to Mass, and stop donating money to the parishes and dioceses. The Church will be thrown into a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions. Many churches and parishes will be forced to close. Many Catholic schools from K-12 to colleges and universities will close or will no longer be called Catholic. For there will be too few persons who wish to attend a Catholic school. A vast exodus of Catholics away from Catholicism will occur, very suddenly.

And that is the necessary inevitable result of this conflict over Communion for the divorced and remarried. The four Cardinals are pulling at a thread. And as they continue to pull, they will unwind a large portion of the garment, much larger than they realize.

But I am all for it. Persons who commit objective mortal sins should repent, and they should generally be required to go to Confession before Communion. Why should there be so many persons, who claim to be Catholics, whose lives are filled with heresy and unrepentant grave sin? Why should there be so many schools, which claim to be Catholic, among whose faculty, teachers, and students there can be found only a handful of faithful Catholic Christians?

The Church must become smaller, so that She can become holier. And then, once She is renewed, She can call back those who have left, but only by the path of true repentance.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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5 Responses to Cardinal Burke’s hypocrisy on intrinsic evil and Communion

  1. matt z. says:

    Great post. But how do we know that Cardinal Burke is not talking about people who have “actual mortal sin” , or are heretics? These are people who have gone to the confessional, received pastoral council, know the Church teaching on divorce and remarriage, and are still insisting on going to Communion. In all reality these people would be heretics and for that reason should not receive Communion. Someone may say, “well they haven’t come to the proper conclusion in their conscience, therefore they have not committed “actual mortal sin.”” Nonsense! They have separated themselves from the Church by committing heresy. Am I wrong in saying this?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Why should they be prohibited from Communion and not others who commit objective mortal sin, actual mortal sin, or heresy? I would prohibit all persons who commit any kind of mortal sin or heresy or schism from Communion. Cardinal Burke is certainly proposing that all the divorced and remarried, who have sexual relations, be prohibited, and not only those who are somehow judged to have committed actual mortal sin. Some may have committed actual mortal sin; others may have a sincere but mistaken conscience. It is not nonsense to admit that judgments of conscience vary and that some might still be in the state of grace.

  2. Mark P. says:

    Ron, why do you think that most parishes do not encourage confession on a regular basis? Most parishes “advertise” the sacrament in tiny 7-point font in the weekly bulletin, telling the faithful that confession is available for a half hour before Saturday evening Mass. But, like you said, the lines for Eucharist are hundreds long for the weekend Masses. To me, our clergy, who are supposed to be our shepherds guiding us toward salvation, are utterly failing in this regards. We are sadly infected by politically correct Western notions of guilt, where repenting before God is seen as superstitious and quaint. Sorry, we as a church need to face this fact, perhaps less talk on climate change, etc., and more talk on the sacraments. Let’s get the fundamentals back on track before venturing into all of these other areas that are maybe tangentially related to the faith at best. I do not recall any private revelations or appearances of our Blessed Mother warning us about pollution, fossil fuels, etc., but there was plenty of focus on sin and repentance.

  3. Jon says:

    Current Catholic teaching is that anyone with a mortal sin should stay in the pew. The difference with this specific instance is that these people are in a state of “public” sin by remarrying outside of the Church. That ought to elicit a public response. The priest cannot see the hidden sins of contraception or sex outside of marriage. They can however see a sin of a second marriage, especially if it was public. The dubia would in fact answer all of these cases, because they are all mortal sins. You might be right to state that the majority of Catholics shouldn’t receive communion – however you can’t prove it, and the weight of that decision is ultimately on them seeing as those sins are largely private in nature. And if that were true (and I would tend to agree with you), that doesn’t change the teaching – it just means there are a lot of people committing additional mortal sins by receiving communion in an unworthy manner.

    Secondly, the Pope’s exhortation focused specifically on the case of those remarried. It only makes sense that the dubias would specifically address that possibility. It’s foolish to ask them to ask about something that wasn’t talked about. They are addressing the issue at hand – second marriages and mortal sin – not every mortal sin that would prevent one from receiving communion.

    • Ron Conte says:

      You are proposing the error of the Pharisees, who were like whitewashed tombs, as if only public sins prohibited from Communion. Canon law (915, 916) prohibits Communion due to public and private mortal sins. And, in fact, many other mortal sins are committed by Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics which are no less public than remarriage: teaching heresy publicly, an unmarried couple living in sin, homosexuals who live that lifestyle.

      I don’t think the divorced and remarried should receive Communion. But the critics of AL are in no way restricted to only comment on the one sin of divorce and remarriage. They are choosing to ignore all the mortal sins committed by other Catholics who receive Communion and never go to Confession.

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