He was the Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, when he came to my attention. I heard him speak for the first time and I was enrapt, scarcely able to believe my ears. So I closed my eyes instead to concentrate on what he was telling us. His face receded in my mind and St. Paul appeared in his stead, for here was a man with the courage and single-hearted purpose of that great Evangelist and Martyr. Balm for the heart, the mind, and above all, the soul. From whence did such a man in our midst come? From the all-generous mercy of Almighty God to a world struggling to come to terms with Christendom, if at all. While he was addressing his audience and with my eyes still closed, I could also picture the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I did not know then of Cardinal Burke’s devotion to the Sacred Heart, but something in him brought this beautiful sacred Image, so loved by devout Catholics to the fore.
Later I would hear him speak again, his message containing the imperative for genuine catechesis for the Catholic faithful whom he said had not been properly catechized for “two generations”. He had nailed it – what lay at the crisis of Faith, so much so that many many Catholics in the pew were actually unaware what had happened to them over the years of malfeasance in the hierarchy, which had grown increasingly worldly and less militant for the salvation of souls. As our own Bishop would put it later: “The Church is not about the salvation of souls, but the social Gospel”. He would soon be ranked among the Cardinals in the Vatican: on June 27, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura exercises final appellate jurisdiction for conflicts between two or more Vatican congregations and appeals of administrative decisions by diocesan bishops and Vatican congregations. Burke was the first non-European named to head the tribunal. A Catholic always knew what was what – what was Catholic and what was not, while he served in that office, and ever since.
In an interview with the Spanish weekly, Vida Nueva last year he was outspoken about the “turn” the Church has taken:
“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke said.
“Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”
He stated that he was not speaking personally against the Pontiff, but “raising concern about his leadership”.
After the disastrous first Synod on the Family, he did not mince words, saying that same-sexed couples and divorced and remarried Catholics who were trying to live good and faithful lives were still like “the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.”
“If you are living publicly in a state of mortal sin there isn’t any good act that you can perform that justifies that situation: The person remains in grave sin,” Burke said in an interview published Tuesday with LifeSiteNews.
“And to give the impression that somehow there’s something good about living in a state of grave sin is simply contrary to what the (Catholic) Church has always and everywhere taught,” said Burke, who spoke to LifeSiteNews while on a recent trip to Paris.
Asked if being kind, generous and dedicated was enough, Burke said: “Of course it’s not. It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.”
In early January of this year he gave a further interview to the “New Emangelization Project”. This is a part of the most frank conversation that transpired in blue text:
I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so. It’s due to a number of factors, but the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.
Unfortunately, the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church, leading the Church to constantly address women’s issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society.
The goodness and importance of men became very obscured, and for all practical purposes, were not emphasized at all. This is despite the fact that it was a long tradition in the Church, especially through the devotion of St. Joseph, to stress the manly character of the man who sacrifices his life for the sake of the home, who prepares with chivalry to defend his wife and his children and who works to provide the livelihood for the family. So much of this tradition of heralding the heroic nature of manhood has been lost in the Church today.
All of those virtuous characteristics of the male sex are very important for a child to observe as they grow up and mature. The healthy relationship with the father helps the child to prepare to move from the intimate love of the mother, building a discipline so that the child can avoid excessive self‑love. This ensures that the child is able to identify himself or herself properly as a person in relationship with others; this is critical for both boys and girls.
A child’s relationship with their father is key to a child’s self‑identification, which takes places when we are growing up. We need that very close and affirming relationship with the mother, but at the same time, it is the relationship with the father, which is of its nature more distant but not less loving, which disciplines our lives. It teaches a child to lead a selfless life, ready to embrace whatever sacrifices are necessary to be true to God and to one another.
I recall in the mid-1970’s, young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time. These young men were concerned that entering a marriage would simply not work because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women. These divisions between women and men have gotten worse since then.
Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.
The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.
Making things worse, there was a very fluffy, superficial kind of catechetical approach to the question of human sexuality and the nature of the marital relationship.
At the same time, in society, there came an explosion of pornography, which is particularly corrosive for men because it terribly distorts the whole reality of human sexuality. It leads men and women to view their human sexuality apart from a relationship between a man and woman in marriage.
In truth, the gift of sexual attraction is directed toward marriage, and any kind of sexual union belongs properly only within marriage. But the whole world of pornography corrupts young people into believing that their sexual capacity is for their own entertainment and pleasure, and becomes a consuming lust, which is one of the seven capital sins.
The gift of human sexuality is turned into a means of self‑gratification often at the expense of another person, whether in heterosexual relations or in homosexual relations. A man who has not been formed with a proper identity as a man and as a father figure will ultimately become very unhappy. These poorly formed men become addicted to pornography, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, drugs, and the whole gamut of addictions.
The Cardinal is giving voice to what many of us have been thinking in the recess of our hearts, but saying it in a scholarly, yet simple fashion, succinct and direct.
What a counterpoint to the errors of our day! Surely the Athanasius of our times!
While St. Athanasius endured isolation, exile and excommunication for upholding the Apostolic Mandate against the fury and widespread infiltration of the great heresy of Arianism in his time, to triumph in the end when he gained the crown of Sainthood and the Pope who treated him so abominably and unjustly has yet to be recognized with the honors of the altar, so, too, Cardinal Burke, who was demoted and given a largely ceremonial post, maintains the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church without blemish or embarrassment. True, he has never been excommunicated, but he is not exactly part of the inner sanctum of the Holy See anymore. Some say it is merely a coincidence that he was demoted after he was outspoken, others are not so sure. But if it is a coincidence, it is very convenient for the modernists in the Vatican. Ultimately it does not really matter for Cardinal Burke can accomplish God’s work wherever he is because of who he is and no power on earth or under it can undo it.
Cardinal Burke has made it clear that if need be, he would have to resist the Pontiff if he went beyond the current tendencies [interview with French television, February, 2015]:
Cardinal Burke: I cannot accept that Communion can be given to a person in an irregular union because it is adultery. On the question of people of the same sex, this has nothing to do with marriage. This is an affliction suffered by some people whereby they are attracted against nature sexually to people of the same sex.
Question: If perchance the pope will persist in this direction, what will you do?
Cardinal Burke: I shall resist, I can do nothing else. There is no doubt that it is a difficult time; this is clear, this is clear.
Cardinal Burke: Yes.
Cardinal Burke: Yes.
Question: In your opinion, can we say today that the Catholic Church as an institution is threatened?
Cardinal Burke: The Lord has assured us, as He has assured St. Peter in the Gospel, that the powers of evil will not prevail, “non praevalebunt” as we say in Latin, that the forces of evil will not have victory over the Church.
Speaking the truth in charity and in justice is never welcomed with those who have other designs and ambitions.
Regarding the Immemorial Mass:
Five years after Pope Benedict XVI lifted most restrictions on celebration of the Tridentine Mass, a senior Vatican official said that much work remains to make the traditional liturgy fully accessible to the faithful, and to bring its influence to bear on the form of the Mass most Catholics attend.
“There’s no question that there remains in certain places a resistance to what the Holy Father has asked, and that’s sad,” says Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and a former archbishop of St. Louis after leaving La Crosse. “It’s sometimes even an expression of disagreement with the Holy Father’s discipline and even an expression that this is harmful for the Church.”
With his apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum,” issued July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict allowed priests to offer the Tridentine Mass without special permission from their bishops. The decree also provided for the establishment of “personal parishes” dedicated to the traditional liturgy, which had passed out of use amid the modernizing changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965.
“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful,” the Pope wrote at the time in a letter presenting his announcement to the world’s bishops.
Cardinal Burke’s only ambition is the salvation of souls.
I am hesitant to compare him favorably with St. Athanasius, because Cardinal Burke might be uncomfortable, a lot uncomfortable, and this would grieve me, and still I feel bound to because of the hope he inspires in me.
His humility is unmistakable – it has been from the very beginning. Not the splashy display of “humility”, the kind that says, look, see what I do to show that I am so humble, but humility evidenced by a lack of inordinate ego, constant reflection to examine oneself so as to not overstep one’s authority, yet always keeping in mind that obedience serves the Faith and not the other way around, an operating principle so lacking today. He is exactly what he ought to be, a man who knows he is not yet perfect, patient with himself and others, ever striving to become better through the grace of God, never doubting Divine Providence – an exemplar for both the priest and the laity …
Thus we pay tribute to this great good shepherd of souls and manly priest in an age crying out for such, a tribute in gratitude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who surely forms Cardinal Burke from His very Side …