Wednesday, November 15, 2006

St. Louis Archbishop Becomes Major Leader In U.S. Catholic Church

By Tim Townsend

BALTIMORE — St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke took center stage during debate on two controversial topics Tuesday as the nation's Roman Catholic bishops met in Baltimore for their annual fall meeting.

Burke, who is trained as a canon, or church, lawyer, submitted 10 amendments to two proposed documents, more than any other bishop except former St. Louis and current Philadelphia archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali, who submitted 15.

During the debate on preparing to receive Holy Communion, Burke was adamant that the bishops address an issue he's dealt with in the last few years.

In early 2004, Burke said he would deny Communion to Sen. John Kerry, who was running for the U.S. presidency and who supports abortion rights.

Burke said there was "a clear presence of scandal" in situations involving Catholic politicians who repeatedly legislate contrary to church teaching and yet receive Holy Communion. Many bishops spoke in support of Burke's words. The document was approved overwhelmingly, 201-24, with two abstentions.

The other document was a set of new guidelines for bishops interested in ministry to gay Catholics. It also was approved by a huge margin, 194-37, with one abstention.

During debate before the vote, Burke asked that a national, Vatican-approved group called Courage, which counsels gay Catholics to lead chaste lives, be added to the text as an example of an organization doing the kind of work spoken of in the guidelines. He mentioned that the Courage annual meeting was held this summer in St. Louis and said he'd met with "members and priests who serve as directors and advisers, and it confirmed my view that they are filled with hope and joy, assisting one another in leading a chaste life."

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