A senior Vatican official has said that the Irish prime minister Enda Kenney's description of himself as a prime minister who happens to be a Catholic rather than a Catholic prime minister 'does not make any sense.'

According to the Irish Times, the Irish American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura (which has been called its Supreme Court) said: 'One cannot, as a Catholic politician, excuse oneself from the question of abortion by claiming one should not bring one’s Catholicism into the political realm.'

'Of course, the church does teach that abortion is evil, but the evil of abortion can also be known by human reason. The natural law is to do good and avoid evil and the first prerequisite is to safeguard and promote human life. The distinction made in the prime minister's statement - therefore does not make any sense.”

Cardinal Burke then claimed that abortion will contribute to the breakdown of society: 'If the natural law is not upheld, people enter a culture of death which, when it becomes prevalent, destroys the people.'

'I was raised in an Irish Catholic family which had a keen sense of the moral law. I go back to Ireland regularly and there are many wonderful people in Ireland hungering for leadership,' Cardinal Burke added in a clear swipe at the prime minister.

Cardinal Burke is a well known hard liner. In an interview with the Catholic Voice earlier this year he said priests should exclude from receiving communion politicians who support abortion.

Asked for his views on the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after days of being repeatedly refused a life saving termination, Burke said: 'The death of Savita Halappanavar is indeed tragic. It is, however, contrary to right reason to hold that an innocent and defenseless human life can be justifiably destroyed in order to save the life of the mother.'

'The Irish people, and especially the Irish Government, should be very alert to the kind of argumentation which will be used by the secular media and by secular ideologues, in general, claiming that the destruction of the new human life in her womb could have saved the life of Savita Halappanavar and, therefore, would have been justified. Such an argument is absurd in itself. Even though, if the reports are correct, Savita Halappanavar requested an abortion, her request would not have made it right for the law to permit such an act which is always and everywhere wrong.'

Irish Prime Minister Enda KennySPORTSFILE