Vatican official attacks U.S. Democrats as “party of death”
Vatican officials seldom single out political leaders who differ with the Church on issues like abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research. But now that the Vatican’s highest court is led by an American, the former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, we can expect things to get more explicit in Vatican City — at least when when it comes to U.S. politics.
Burke, who was named prefect of the Vatican’s Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature in June, told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire that the U.S. Democratic Party risked “transforming itself definitively into a party of death for its decisions on bioethical issues.” He then attacked two of the party’s most high profile Catholics — vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for misrepresenting Church teaching on abortion.
He said Biden and Pelosi, “while presenting themselves as good Catholics, have presented Church doctrine on abortion in a false and tendentious way.”
Pelosi drew U.S. bishops’ scorn for saying in a television interview last month that the Church itself had long debated when human life begins. Biden is a practicing Catholic who also supports abortion rights and analysts have said he could help woo wavering Catholics into Obama’s fold. Both argue that they cannot impose their religious views on others.
Burke said pro-life Democrats were “rare” and that it saddened him that the party that helped “our immigrant parents and grandparents” prosper in America had changed so much over the years.
Burke made headlines as archbishop of St. Louis for his public attacks on public figures who strayed from Catholic teaching. He suggested during the 2004 presidential campaign that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic, should be denied communion because of his views on abortion. Several bishops said at the time they would not give him communion and the media staked out churches where he attended Mass to see if he received it.
“Lately, I’ve noticed that other bishops are coming to this position,” Burke told Avvenire, which is owned by the Italian bishops’ conference.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a letter in 2004 to American bishops restating the Church position that a priest must refuse to distribute communion to a Catholic politician who supported abortion rights. But Burke lamented that the letter was never distributed.
Burke’s criticism isn’t limited to Democrats. Last year, he accused singer Sheryl Crow of being “a high profile proponent of the destruction of innocent lives” for defending a woman’s right to have an abortion and for being a proponent of stem cell research. He resigned as head of a children’s medical charity that featured the singer for a benefit concert.
Pope Benedict has been encouraging Catholic bishops to speak out more openly on public policy issues to make the Church’s voice heard. Any bets on when we’ll hear from Burke next?