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WASHINGTON — The American archbishop who heads the Vatican’s supreme court has apologized for the “confusion and hurt” caused by his criticism of fellow bishops who do not deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis, was interviewed earlier this month by an anti-abortion activist in Rome, where he now is Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
During the interview, Burke implicitly criticized Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., for not denying Communion to Catholic politicians who buck the church’s anti-abortion stance. Wuerl and Loverde were singled out because so many politicians live and work in their jurisdictions.
“It is weakening the faith of everyone,” Burke said in the interview. “It’s giving the impression that it must be morally correct to support procured abortion.”
Burke apologized Thursday (March 26) after a video of the interview was shown to media in Washington by Randall Terry, an anti-abortion Catholic activist who has lobbied the Vatican to removed Wuerl and Loverde from office.
“If I had know what the true purpose of the interview was,” Burke said, “I would have never have agreed to participate in it. 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.”
Burke has long advocated for bishops to take a firm stance on withholding Communion, but several Catholics said the public criticism of fellow bishops was a serious breach of episcopal etiquette.
Burke said he “was never informed that the videotape would be used as part of a campaign of severe criticism of certain fellow bishops.”
Loverde said on Friday that individual Catholics must determine their fitness to receive Communion.
“If you are Catholic, you have the responsibility to think carefully about what it means to present yourself for Communion,” he said. “You should present yourself for Communion when you are in harmony with the church’s teaching, free of mortal sin and living your life accordingly, and not receive when you are not.”
Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said Friday that the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly decided in 2004 to allow individual bishops to determine a Communion policy for their diocese.
Wuerl’s policy is “to respect the pastoral directives and guidance given to a public official by his or her own bishop while the official is working in Washington, D.C.,” Gibbs said. “That individual’s bishop presumably would know the person and the situation best and, therefore, be in a position to make a judgment about or a request concerning the person’s worthiness to receive Holy Communion.”
By Daniel Burke
c. 2009 Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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