- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

A prominent Catholic Church official on Friday rebuked the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as the nation’s new Health and Human Services secretary and mourned the “anti-life and anti-family path down which our nation is being led.”

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, told about 1,300 Catholics at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast that it was their job to help reform American society through living “a faithful Catholic life.”

But not all Catholics are faithfully resisting the culture, he added, criticizing the University of Notre Dame for planning to grant an honorary doctorate to President Obama when he speaks at the campus commencement ceremonies on May 17.

“The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is a source of the gravest scandal,” he said Friday morning at the Washington Hilton event.

“Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law. In a culture which embraces an agenda of death, Catholics and Catholic institutions are necessarily counter-cultural.”

He said Mr. Obama has appointed Catholics to public office “who cooperate fully in the advancement of a national agenda that is anti-life and anti-family.”

As governor of Kansas, Mrs. Sebelius vetoed several pro-life bills. Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wants Mrs. Sebelius to no longer receive Holy Communion because of her abortion stance.

Archbishop Burke called the Sebelius appointment “the source of the deepest embarrassment to Catholics and a painful reminder of the most serious responsibility of Catholics to uphold the moral law ….”

Plus, liberal Catholics who have been elected have added to the problem, he said.

“It grieves me to say that the support of anti-life legislation by Catholics in public office is so common that those who are not Catholic have justifiably questioned whether the church’s teaching the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging,” he said. “It gives the impression that the church herself can change.”

Formerly the head of the St. Louis archdiocese, Archbishop Burke began working in his current position last June and now lives in Rome. He said he felt the “deepest concern” for his homeland and for the erosion of rights for the pre-born and the elderly.

He listed several actions he said are negatively impacting American families, such as states legalizing same-sex marriage, the Obama administration’s appeal of the Mexico City policy that forbids funding of foreign abortions, and the proposed lifting of additional conscience protections for health workers who refuse to participate in abortions.

As the church’s chief legal officer, it’s Archbishop Burke’s job to interpret canon law. Although he did not in Friday’s speech mention Canon 915 - the church law that deals with who may take Communion - he has said in the past it is the church’s duty to make sure pro-choice Catholic politicians do not partake of the sacrament.

Locally, Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl in a Politics Daily interview published Thursday, repeated an assertion he has made since 2007: that he has no intention of denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - and by implication other pro-choice Catholic politicians - Communion.

“There’s a question about whether this canon (Canon 915) was ever intended to be used” against politicians, he said. “I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon was never intended to be used this way.”

• Julia Duin can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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