In the past, as archbishop of St. Louis, Mo., Burke said he would deny Communion to then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the current secretary of State, and that Kathleen Sebelius, the current secretary of Health and Human Services, should not receive Communion. Burke is among the cardinals in Rome who will vote for the next pope.
"There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins," Cardinal Burke told the Irish newspaper Catholic Voice on Feb. 1. Once “a Catholic politician [who supports abortion] has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion, as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion," said the cardinal.
The Irish parliament is considering legalizing abortion for those cases where the mother's life is at risk. Those instances, however, do not mean “an innocent and defenseless human life can be justifiably destroyed," said Cardinal Burke.
He also explained that bishops and priests must do all they can to ensure that Communion is received properly to avoid the "grave sin of sacrilege" and to prevent public scandal. If a Catholic politician who supports abortion then receives Communion, it "gives the impression that the Church's teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is not firm," said the cardinal.
“Whether Governor Sebelius is in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, or in any other diocese, she should not present herself for Holy Communion, because after pastoral admonition, she obstinately persists in serious sin,” Archbishop Burke said in a March 13, 2009 interview with Catholicaction.org.
Sebelius, who became HHS secretary in April 2009, “is well known for her support of the right to procured abortion and for her public association with some of the more notorious agents of the culture of death,” said Burke.
Cardinal Burke, the archbishop emeritus of St. Louis, Mo., is the Prefect (chief justice) of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court at the Vatican.