Majerus abortion rights comment gets St. Louis bishop's attention

Updated: January 23, 2008, 12:24 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- A Roman Catholic archbishop said Tuesday that he will ask officials of Saint Louis University to take "appropriate action" against its basketball coach, who said in a television interview that he supports abortion rights.

[+] EnlargeRick Majerus
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesSt. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke says he's concerned abortion rights comments made by basketball coach Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus (above) could "lead Catholics astray."
One of the game's winningest coaches, Rick Majerus made the comment at a weekend rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke declined to say what the action against Majerus should be, saying that was a decision for the Jesuit university. But he said the coach is a leader and shouldn't support views in opposition to church teaching.

"I'm concerned that a leader at a Catholic university made these comments. It can lead Catholics astray," Burke said by telephone as he attended March for Life anti-abortion events in Washington. "I just believe that it's of the essence for people to understand as a Catholic you just cannot hold these beliefs."

Burke said he will seek to speak with university president Rev. Lawrence Biondi, or a representative, when he returns to St. Louis.

During an interview with KMOV-TV at Saturday's Clinton rally in suburban St. Louis, the first-year Billikens coach identified himself as a Catholic and called himself pro-choice. At first when asked for his views on abortion, he said he didn't want to "go there," but then said he is personally "pro-choice."

Saint Louis University spokesman Clayton Berry said Majerus was at the rally as an individual, not as a representative of the school.

Majerus has one of the best winning percentages among active college basketball coaches with a 432-154 career record. Most of those wins, and a 1998 Final Four appearance, came at the University of Utah, which he left in 2004 due to health concerns.

Before taking the Saint Louis job he worked as an ESPN analyst, and accepted and quickly gave up the coaching job at Southern California.

Burke set off a national debate in 2004 when he said he would deny Holy Communion to John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, because the Catholic Massachusetts senator supports abortion rights.

The archbishop resigned last year as board chairman for the Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation because of a benefit-concert appearance by Sheryl Crow, a native Missourian who supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press