Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vatican Archbishop Issues Apology

By Jacqueline L. Salmon Washington Post Staff Writer

A Catholic archbishop who believes abortion rights politicians should be denied Communion has apologized that his comments are being used as an attack on Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, a former St. Louis bishop who heads the Vatican supreme court, said yesterday that a videotaped interview he made with anti-abortion activist Randall Terry was used out of context. He said in a statement that he didn't realize it would be used "as part of a campaign of severe criticism of certain fellow bishops."

In the videotape, Burke responds to a question from Terry about the "deafening silence" from bishops such as Wuerl and Loverde during last year's campaign as to whether they would serve Communion to then-vice presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Catholic who supports abortion rights.

"I would encourage the faithful when they are scandalized by the giving of Holy Communion to persons [who] 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," Burke replied.

Wuerl and Loverde say such decisions are up to the bishop within the politician's home diocese.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said Burke -- in the oblique language of the Vatican -- was calling Loverde and Wuerl's position a scandal. "He really violated the episcopal etiquette. You don't criticize other bishops in public, and you don't tell other bishops how to run their diocese," Reese said.

Terry led a delegation of abortion opponents to Rome to meet with Vatican officials this month, where the activists demanded the removal of Loverde and Wuerl. Terry released the videotape of the interview with Burke at the National Press Club on Wednesday, which Burke responded to yesterday.

Burke did not retract what he said in the interview but said, "I am deeply sorry for the confusion and hurt which the wrong use of the videotape has caused to anyone, particularly, to my brother bishops."

Terry said yesterday that he thought Burke, who lives in Rome, was "deceived" by some U.S. bishops who he alleged were inaccurately describing to Burke how the videotape was being used.

The issue of Catholic politicians who disagree with the Vatican's position on abortion has gained new urgency for conservative Catholic groups as such public officials have risen to prominence in Washington.

Catholic groups have been active in opposing the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), a Catholic who supports abortion rights, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. They have also demanded that Wuerl and Loverde deny her Communion if she moves to their dioceses.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., has urged Sebelius to stop taking Communion until she repudiates her abortion views. He said this month that she has not presented herself for Communion lately.

Yesterday, Washington Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said Wuerl would expect Sebelius to follow Naumann's request while in Washington. Arlington Diocese spokeswoman Joelle Santolla said Loverde would also act in accord with Naumann's wishes.