Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are guilty of apostasy and should be excommunicated and denied communion, an American cardinal says.

Cardinal Raymond Burke made the comments on his website, saying that “many Catholics and non-Catholics” have asked how “Catholic politicians and civil officials” who “publicly and obstinately defend and promote the practice of abortion on demand” can “approach to receive Holy Communion.”

Burke’s answer: They should not receive communion.

Burke did not mention any politician by name, although the issue has become more prominent with Joe Biden, a pro-choice Catholic, in the White House.

“Those who publicly and obstinately violate the moral law are, at least, in a state of apostasy, that is, they have effectively abandoned the faith by the obstinate refusal, in practice, to live in accord with fundamental truths of faith and morals (cf. can. 751),” Burke wrote. “An apostate from the faith incurs automatically the penalty of excommunication (cf. can. 1364). The Bishop of such a person must verify the conditions for the declaration of the penalty of excommunication, which has been automatically incurred.”

Burke is one of about 125 living cardinals in the world. Cardinals are directly below the pope in the Catholic hierarchy.

Such politicians, Burke said, also “may in heresy” if they “obstinately deny or doubt the truth about the intrinsic evil of abortion.”

Withholding communion from pro-choice politicians, Burke argued, is not done for political purposes.

“On the contrary, it is the Church’s solemn responsibility to safeguard the holiness of the Holy Eucharist, to prevent the faithful from committing sacrilege, and to prevent scandal among the faithful and other persons of good will,” he wrote. “It is rather the Catholic politician, who publicly and obstinately promotes what is contrary to the moral law and yet dares to receive sacrilegiously Holy Communion, who uses the Holy Eucharist for political purposes. In other words, the politician presents himself or herself as a devout Catholic, while the truth is completely otherwise.”

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