Cardinal Raymond Burke has a long history of involving himself in politics.
As the November presidential election edges closer and the Catholic vote remains evenly split between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, right-wing Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke made a public statement decrying Biden for taking Communion, citing the Democratic nominee's support for abortion rights.
"Certainly, he is not a Catholic in good standing, and he should not approach to receive Holy Communion," Burke said in an interview conducted on Aug. 31, shown in footage obtained by Newsweek from Zenger News.
While he stated that his intention was not to make a political statement, Burke's political positions have long been entangled with his ecclesiastical duties.
In January, he supported the decision of a priest who refused Communion to Biden during Mass at a church in South Carolina.
"What the priest did in South Carolina ... was right and just — would that more priests would act in a similar manner!" he said afterwards in an interview with The Wanderer, an extreme traditionalist Catholic newsletter.
And in 2004, Burke made waves for refusing to give Communion on similar grounds to then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
He hasn't confined his political opinions to liturgical norms for Democratic candidates.
In March, Burke said that faithful Catholics should still attend Mass despite the coronavirus pandemic, in flagrant opposition to Catholic churches throughout the United States canceling the rites and absolving Catholics of their obligation to attend.
"We must must be able to pray in our churches and chapels, receive the sacraments, and engage in acts of public prayer and devotion," Burke said.
He called the shuttering of churches to prevent the spread of the coronavirus "a kind of forced spiritual retreat" and lamented the "profound suffering" of those unable to attend church.
"During a time of contagion, without irresponsibly risking the spread of the contagion, so, in a similar way, we can find a way to provide for the necessities of our spiritual life," Burke said.
Burke, who currently lives in Italy, made his remarks at the peak of the pandemic in that country — on a day on which 793 Italians lost their lives to the virus.
The cardinal has also frequently condemned feminism for its alleged destruction of society. In an interview with something called "The New Emangelization Project," he claimed that divorce and single parenthood have "grievously wounded men" and said: "The goodness and importance of men became very obscured, and for all practical purposes, were not emphasized at all."
In the same interview, Burke decried women's involvement in church leadership, and said that "the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized."
Last year, Burke publicly stated that limiting immigration by Muslims to the United States is "responsible" and patriotic, and that Catholics are not obliged to care for immigrant "opportunists."
He added that banning immigration by Muslims is a wise choice, claiming the chief goal of the religion is conquering the world. In support of his statements, he cited a book published by a former Breitbart reporter that claimed Muslims intend to establish Shariah law in the United States.
In 2017, Burke met with right-wing Italian nationalist Matteo Salvini in his home. Salvini is an admirer of Benito Mussolini who wants to close mosques in Italy and sparked controversy when he celebrated an election victory standing in front of a bookshelf containing a "Make America Great Again" hat, an icon of Jesus — and a book about a Nazi expedition to find the origins of the Aryan race.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper owned by the family of politician Silvio Berlusconi, Burke also expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin's opposition to same-sex marriage. The cardinal also keynoted the 2009 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (an event that recently gave Attorney General William Barr a Christian service award) alongside the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Formerly, Burke had been honorary chairman of the right-wing Dignitatis Humanae Institute, working with former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. It was only when Bannon announced his desire to make a film to expose a subculture of "homosexuality in the Vatican" that Burke cut ties with the organization.
Burke is also the former bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, where a Catholic priest recently went viral with a YouTube video titled "You cannot be Catholic and a Democrat. Period."
But Burke's public condemnation of Biden is in stark violation of both the United States tax code and the Church's own teachings.
The Johnson Amendment, a U.S. tax code provision, prohibits all 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations — including Catholic churches — from endorsing or opposing political candidates. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself states: "It is not the role of the pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens."
Pope John Paul II stated during a Vatican general audience in 1993 that a priest or other Catholic religious leader "ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics."
Burke's statement seems to be nothing more than a baldfaced vote grab, as Catholics are a crucial demographic this year and Trump and Biden are hotly contending for the Catholic vote in key swing states.
Christianity Today reports that while Trump may receive 75% of the white evangelical vote, the white Catholic vote is evenly split, with 47.5% polling for Trump and 49.2% polling for Biden, and only 3% undecided.
But with 56% of American Catholics in favor of abortion rights, Burke's naked attempt to sway the election may not ultimately affect much.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.