Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

January 24, 2008


Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis declared last Tuesday at the Annual March for Life in Washington that St. Louis University basketball coach, Rick Majerus, should be disciplined for remarks he had made supporting pro-choice and stem cell research views. Burke said that he would not give Majerus Holy Communion. Majerus had made his remarks at a rally for Hillary Clinton. A spokesman for the university stated that Majerus was speaking as a private person and not as a representative of the university.

Burke will be remembered for stating in 2004 that he would deny Holy Communion to presidential candidate Senator John Kerry because of his support of abortion rights. Then last fall, he said much the same about presidential candidate Rudoph Guliani. After some controversy and much discussion, with Cardinal Ted McCarrick acting as a hopeful catalyst, the acceptable approach reached was to advise the pro-choicer not to approach the altar to receive the sacrament. General dismay was voiced at the notion of using the Sacrament as a tool to force an expression of belief.

Burke's public rebuke, Majerus reported, had seriously upset his aged mother, who thought her son was being excommunicated and would be denied Communion at Mass. Burke's position also seems to be at odds with the notion of a university. And in this case specifically with St. Louis University. Last year, the university won a law suit that had challenged, under the old Blaine Amendment formula, a grant of $8 million in initial financing from the City of St. Louis for an $80 million arena. The Missouri Supreme Court declared that, as the university claimed, SLU "is not controlled by a religious creed".

Majerus was respectful towards Burke and his comments, according to a reporter, but was unyielding in his personal views. Long a political activist, he told a story to sum up his position: Holding an anti-death penalty sign outside an Illinois prison one night, a prison guard offered him some friendly advice: "Coach, stop it, because you can't change the world." "You're right, buddy", Majerus replied, "But I won't let the world change me!" His Catholic faith had brought him to be an opponent of the death penalty, but he was not going to change his conscientious views by pressure of a church official who, Majerus might well say, did not understand conscience and the First Amendment!