St Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke asserted in a recent article that priests and lay deacons who distribute communion "to the unworthy" are guilty of a "mortal sin." He specifically identifies the unworthy as politicians who support abortion rights. He says this also applies to any Catholic who publically supports abortion rights as well. The National Catholic Reporter says Bishop Burke is a "a veteran of clashes between Catholic Bishops and politicians" having tried for years to convince his fellow bishops to order that communion be denied to politicians who support abortion rights as well as Catholics who do the same. In 2004 Burke was one of a handful of Bishops who said John Kerry should be refused communion for his stand on abortion rights until "he confessed his mortal sin." In his article Burke criticized his fellow bishops because the majority of them voted in 2004 to leave the issue up to individual bishops and insists that it should be a uniform rule for the United States.
One Jesuit theologian observed that "Most bishops do not want ministers of communion playing policeman at the communion rail."
I’ve already expressed my view about freedom of conscience for Catholics. (12/10/06) I don’t have a problem with the right of religious leaders to announce religious teachings of a faith. But, it troubles me to see people throwing around phrases like "mortal sin" in attacking and vilifying another person. It also is offensive to me to have one person claim they have the right to pass judgment on another person by deciding the other person is guilty of a serious sin. As I remember, the great St. Paul said he wouldn’t even pass judgment on himself and I read Scripture as condemning judgmental decisions by those who assume the holier then thou role. I think this applies to all of us, even bishops.