Catholic politicians who support abortion legislation should be refused Holy Communion, says Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest legal tribunal that rules on canon law.

"There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins,” The American cardinal told the Irish newspaper Catholic Voice in an interview published recently.

Once “a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion,” the cardinal added, “as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion.”

The National Catholic Register reports that the cardinal said that local bishops and priests must ensure that Holy Communion is properly received to avoid “the grave sin of sacrilege” from those like Catholic politicians who receive Communion in spite of “grave moral evil.”

They must also prevent the “scandal” caused by this kind of reception because it “gives the impression that the Church’s teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is not firm.”

The Irish parliament is considering legalizing abortion where the mother's life is at risk, a push for a change in Ireland's laws after the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died at a Galway hospital after miscarrying.

The cardinal says that while her death is "tragic" it still does not mean “an innocent and defenseless human life can be justifiably destroyed in order to save the life of the mother." He warns the Irish people and the Irish government to be alert for this kind of justification for abortion, an act he says "is always and everywhere wrong."

Cardinal Burke said that Catholic politicians must support legislations that will"most reduce the evils which attack human life and the integrity of marriage."