From the Archdiocese’s Office of Communications:
Questions and Answers With Archbishop Burke Regarding His Article in “Periodica De Re Canonica”
(To download these questions and answers in PDF format, click here.)
Q. Why did you write the article?
A. During the election campaign of 2004, some bishops found themselves under question regarding the application of canon 915. Canon 915 addresses the responsibility of priests and other Eucharistic ministers when it comes to administering Holy Communion.
I wrote the article for a scholarly international canon law journal published in Rome, Periodica De Re Canonica. You can read the entire article at
The article was published in April of this year, but the secular media has just now started covering it.
Q. What does the article mean to priests and Eucharistic ministers?
A. The Church teaches us that if a Catholic is in a state of grave sin, he/she should not approach the altar to receive Holy Communion. If he/she persists in a public and serious sin, the priest or other Eucharistic minister is morally obliged to deny him/her Communion, if he/she should approach to receive.
Q. Do all the bishops agree with this?
A. It is not a question of what number of bishops agree or disagree with the discipline. It is the discipline of the universal Church, which every bishop is required to uphold.
Q. If a politician approaches you to receive Holy Communion, and they have publicly spoken against the teachings of the Catholic Church, how will you handle that?
A. If I or another pastor of the Church had already spoken with the politician and admonished him/her not to approach to receive Holy Communion, I would not give Holy Communion to the politician. If I had not had a pastoral conversation with the politician and did not know that another pastor had spoken with the politician in the matter, then I would give him/her Holy Communion but ask to meet with the politician privately to admonish him/her not to approach to receive Holy Communion, in the future, for as long as the politician persists in a serious and public sin.
Q. Does that mean that, if I sin, the priest will deny me Holy Communion?
A. No. We are all sinners. However, when a person persists in committing publicly acts that are seriously sinful, and the person has been admonished not to approach for Holy Communion until he/she stops committing publicly the serious sin, then the priest or other Eucharistic minister should deny Holy Communion.
Q. I am pro-choice. Can a priest deny me Holy Communion?
A. If a Catholic publicly espouses a pro-choice position, then he/she should be admonished not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, if he/she does approach, then the person should be denied Holy Communion.
Q. What about those politicians who are pro-war or for the death penalty?
A. First of all, a distinction must be made. On the one hand, war and capital punishment are not intrinsically evil. They can be justified in certain situations. The Church teaches that war and the use of the death penalty can only be morally permitted when certain conditions have been strictly met. On the other hand, abortion, euthanasia, human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, for example, are intrinsically evil, that is, they can never be justified for any reason. If the politician publicly denies the Church’s teaching on war or on the use of the death penalty, then his/her pastor should speak with the politician, in order to inform his/her conscience correctly. If the politician persists in the public denial of the Church’s teaching, then he/she should not approach to receive Holy Communion.
Q. This sounds like the Church telling me what I should think or how I should vote.
A. The Church teaches us the truths of the Faith, according to which we are obliged, in conscience, to live. Voting, an important civic act, must also be in accord with the truths of the Faith. In teaching the truths of the Faith, the Church helps us to discipline our thinking correctly, including our thinking about voting. For example, the truth of the Faith, which teaches us the inviolability of innocent human life, requires that our acts of voting safeguard and promote the dignity of every human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, especially the life of the innocent and defenseless human being. The moral duty to respect the inviolability of innocent human life cannot be morally relativized with respect to other concerns which we may have in voting.