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Dare we hope for Burke? Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 08 March 2013

NOTE:
 Be sure to read Robert Royal’s
 Daily Conclave Report, from Rome. Bob’s third installment is up today. You may access it from the ad to the right, or from our new Conclave section on the left (just under the list of Recent Columns), or by clicking here.

My wife and I sat at Mass one Christmas season at St. Peter’s Church in St. Charles, Missouri. The celebrant read a letter from the local archbishop. As he did, a lady sitting near us shook her head violently. It was only a Christmas greeting, but it brought this woman to public disapproval.

The letter was from the then Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, now Cardinal Burke and head of the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme court of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Burke had a rocky time in St. Louis. When it was announced he was leaving St. Louis, dissenting Catholics chortled at what they thought was his comeuppance – though the chortling turned to sorrow and even anger when his promotion to the Signatura was subsequently announced.

In his short time in St. Louis, Burke faced what all bishops have faced in recent years. He closed schools and combined parishes. Contracepting Catholics always blame the bishop, of course, when there are not enough Catholics to keep schools and parishes open.

He also had to pay from Church coffers for the sometimes criminal sexual buccaneering of homosexual priests. But the thing that seemed most to rile at least some St. Louisans was his dispute with a Polish Catholic Church. 

A hundred years before, the parish had been granted a kind of independent status from the Church. It had an independent board and owned the parish property. Burke’s predecessor, Archbishop Justin Rigali tried to rein them in and then Burke tried. He removed the diocesan priests assigned to the parish, which promptly got a new priest without permission from another diocese, who ended up being excommunicated by his bishop.

That parish became a lightening rod for dissenting Catholics from St. Louis and around the country, after all here was a parish that was actually sticking it to the man and getting away with it. Burke excommunicated the parish board.

Burke also made the dissenters angry when – following the lead of Ratzinger – he excommunicated some ladies who were “ordained” priests – one even claimed to be a bishop. His letter of excommunication is exquisite, a masterpiece of canon law and reads like a document from another age. You can practically hear the long candles being smashed to the floor as the schismatics are cast from the Church.

Canonist Edward Peters put it best:

I would like to say that Abp. Raymond Burke’s excommunication of three women who recently participated in a pseudo-ordination in Saint Louis is a “text-book illustration” of how (non-judicial) excommunication is supposed to be applied in the Church today, but I can't say that: Why not? Because Abp. Burke's attention to juridic details and his provisions for the pastoral care of the people entrusted to his care so exceed what the textbooks teach, that it is the textbooks that must copy from him, not him from the textbooks.

Not everyone disliked Archbishop Burke, not by a long shot. Most of the faithful in St. Louis revered him and miss him to this day. The ones who loved him most and likely miss him most of all are the seminarians.

The seminary in St. Louis was packed with aspirants from across the country who wanted to be near Burke and he wanted to be near them. It is said he spent an inordinate amount of time with his seminarians and even spent one-on-one time with each of them on a regular basis.

A high-ranking Vatican official told me that, when he was a student at the North American College in Rome, then Bishop Burke went out of his way to take care of the students from small dioceses who may have been at the NAC by themselves. He regularly took them out to dinner and otherwise ministered to them.

My wife and I know him in the same way, as a soft-spoken, generous and gentle pastor.

In our first year of marriage my wife suffered through three miscarriages. Because I am from St. Louis and my wife and I do pro-life work, Archbishop Burke knew of our work and of our plight. He invited us to visit him over Christmas that year. He said he wanted to bless us with a piece of St. Gianna Molla’s wedding dress.

We met him at the bishop’s residence in the Central West End of St. Louis not far from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, easily the most beautiful Church in America. He greeted us warmly and we spoke for a while about our marriage, our desire to have children, and our difficulties. He said he had a deep devotion to St. Gianna who was the last saint raised to the altars by John Paul the Great – and that she could help us.

Molla was a medical doctor who died after childbirth in 1962 after refusing an abortion or medical treatment that would have killed the unborn child. She repeatedly told her doctors to choose child’s life over her own.

Archbishop Burke had us kneel down and he blessed us with a piece of St. Gianna‘s wedding dress. Then he grinned and said, “I have done this eight times and it has worked eight times,” beaming with an intensity that only came from deep within. He wanted us to borrow the relic and venerate it in our home and then return it. Alas, though, it was his last one, all the others were already loaned out.

It turns out that at that moment Cathy was two-weeks pregnant with our first daughter Lucy. No more miscarriages. Lucy was the first of our two Gianna Molla babies. Our second daughter is named Gianna-Marie.

The next Christmas we took six-month-old Lucy to meet Archbishop Burke and we have the most wonderful picture of our tiny baby in the burly and loving arms of a true pastor and a man who has all the gifts – ecclesial, spiritual, and temporal – to be Bishop of Rome. Oremus.

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
 
 
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Comments (22)Add Comment
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written by lelnet, March 09, 2013
He's undoubtedly an excellent man, a fine bishop, and would make a surpassingly awesome pope. He's not quite my favorite candidate, but if he is indeed elected, it will be cause for celebration.
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written by ATT, March 09, 2013
I am touched by this man's compassion and holiness. What a wonderful Holy Father he would make!
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written by pewsitter, March 09, 2013
I did not know that once upon a time in America we had such a wonderful archbishop. You don't hear enough about them. Thanks much.
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written by Brenda, March 09, 2013
Whether or not we shall truly witness a "Peter the Roman" at this time in history or not, if I were to imagine an architype for him, it would be Cardinal Burke. May God continue to bless him immensely as he serves His Church.
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written by Marty, March 09, 2013
Wow! What a great anecdote; thanks for sharing!
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written by Ray, March 09, 2013
Couldn't agree more with your description of Cardinal Burke. I too am a St. Louisan and truly revered then Archbishop Burke while he was here. My family was sad to see him be reassigned, while happy for his deserved promotion. My parish was probably 60/40 in favor of him, but there were some who were openly opposed to anything he said. I pray daily for a holy and Spirit filled Pope, and should it be Cardinal Burke I would be ecstatic. God Bless you and you wife and childre, a great story on how you all came to be. Thanks for sharing!!
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written by Bill Foley, March 09, 2013
Yes, Cardinal Burke, is one of those who I would like to see as pope. Another man of considerable spiritual depth is Cardinal Piacenza. Look up his Letter to Mothers of Priests and his 2012 talks at Ars, France--found at the document library of EWTN.com--enter Piacenza as author.
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written by Diane Korzeniewski, March 09, 2013
People who have never met Cardinal Burke have an image of him much like that of then Cardinal Ratzinger. If the latter was "God's Rottweiler" (secular slam, IMHO) then Cardinal Burke is an "American Bulldog" to them. In reality, like Pope Benedict, Cardinal Burke is meek and gentle; firm in faith and morals, but loving and affirming. I've seen him in person several times in his trips to Detroit and to my parish. He is a man of great patience with ordinary people, and under pressure. My one hope is that with Pope Benedict making him the prefect of the Signatura, and a member of 4 other Congregations (Bishops, Clergy, Worship, and Saints) he wasn't just using his skills, but giving him visibility among the hierarchy. I dare to hope, even if he is not on most radars.
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written by Jim Anderson, March 09, 2013
Great article, Austin. My step-daughter and son-in-law knew him when he was in St.Louis. My son-in-law used to live at Alton, and he has a sister who is in the
convent in LaCrosse. I always thought that there was a possiblity of Cardinal Burke becoming our next pope. We shall see......
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written by Robert , March 09, 2013
I am grateful to Cardinal Burke for saying Mass at the Courage conference held at Saint Louis University a few years ago. The conference was another thing that upset some of the local Catholics, but it was a great encouragement to so many of us. Thank God for men who stand up for Truth and Love.
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written by Bob D, March 09, 2013
A wonderful story and God bless your children. Cardinal Burke would be a good choice as Pope. Holy Spirit make your choice as Pope clear to our Cardinals. Amen.
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written by Shane Kapler, March 09, 2013
What a wonderful article. A joy to hear of not only our beloved Cardinal Burke, but a parish I have attended many a Mass in - St. Peters in St. Charles, MO. Thank you much.
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written by Amy Mitchell, March 10, 2013
Thank you for sharing this story with us. It helps us to know these men who so generously tend us. I am a women who happily trusts these elderly white(mostly) men to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
My husband and I had only three miscarriages after many years of marriage when God healed me. We have seven lovely young adults now. God has truly blessed us and we look forward to meeting our seven other children in the fullness og God"s mercy
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written by Eric, March 10, 2013
I had the privilege of meeting twice with the Cardinal when he was bishop in LaCrosse, WI (where he opened a wonderful shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, incidentally). Being a small diocese, the bishops were much easier to gain access to, and he made time for me both times I attempted. The first I was not yet even Catholic, though I was on my way to the Church. I had been asked to give a presentation defending Ex Corde Ecclesia at a Catholic college in the area (yes, as a then-Protestant), and I called to ask if it could pass my thoughts by him first. He was very happy to be asked and gave very supportive feedback. Another time, after I was Catholic, I met with him for some direction in pursuing a career in Catholic education at a new geographical location. His warm side is not always evident at first, and this could work against him in the limelight of the modern media, but it is definitely there. I must also say that while he is in many ways an "old school Catholic" in what are perceived to be both the good and bad senses of the word, he also has more of a sense than his detractors would expect of knowing that God can work in unexpected ways through unexpected people, including some who are not Catholic. For example, while he was chagrined at the deterioration of Catholic identity at most American Catholic colleges, he also understood that there were faithful Protestant faculty at many such places that were actually among the greatest allies of the Church in defending Catholic identity, and he expressed gratitude toward their contributions. I respected him very deeply for this.
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written by Fr. Mark Moretti, March 10, 2013
You are so right Austin...Archbishop Burke combines the great qualities of pastoral care for all of his flock, with a strong conscience and a desire for every soul to have new life in Christ Jesus. I was at the March for Life several years ago, and as we paraded up Constitution Avenue, we were all bundled tight with caps and scarves due to the piercing wind and cold. A certain lady marched along side of me and commented about how great the turnout was that day. She asked me where I was from and I told her the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. She responded that she was from St. Louis and I immediately started gushing with praise for Archbishop Burke. I told her I could not say enough nice things about him and what a pro-life hero he was to me. She said: "Don't tell me...tell him!" It turns out that he was marching alongside her, muffled up to his nose with a scarf! I turned blush and apologized to him for not recognizing him, and he just smiled and said he was so glad to hear laudatory comments for a change. That prompted me to exchange business cards with this great prelate of the Church. Let us pray for all of the College of Cardinals as they enter conclave this week!
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written by Poor Yorek, March 10, 2013
A Scripture for the intention of the election of Cardinal Burke as Supreme Pontiff (Baruch 2:13-15)

Let thy wrath be turned away from us: for we are left a few among the nations where thou hast scattered us. [14] Hear, O Lord, our prayers, and our petitions, and deliver us for thy own sake: and grant that we may find favour in the sight of them that have led us away: [15] That all the earth may know that thou art the Lord our God, and that thy name is called upon Israel, and upon his posterity.
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written by Gregory Latham, March 10, 2013
I, too, would be ecstatic on hearing the news of Cardinal Burke's election. I was in his presence on a number of occasions during his archiepiscopate here in Saint Louis, and I do not believe that I will ever know a holier, or more humble, man in my lifetime. His ascendancy to the papacy would be the only true consolation to the profound sense of loss I have felt since he left us for Rome.
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written by Glenn Woolger, March 10, 2013
I have never met the man but I was always very impressed by him whenever he was interviewed on EWTN. When Benedict XVI resigned I immediately thought of Cardinal Burke and could not understand why other American cardinals were mentioned before him. This man has what few others have and that is prolife pedigree. He never fails to defend the unborn. In this he reminds me of Mother Teresa and JPII.
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written by Robert Sledz, March 11, 2013
A Pope must be the Pope of all The Church. Bsp. Burke is no doubt a holy and devout man. I don't think he is "papabile", though. A Pope must reach out to the excommunicated as Pope Emeritus Benedict did. I don't think enough was done in this regard in St. Louis. My opinion.

+ Archdiocese Of Chicago
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written by Dave P., March 11, 2013
Another aspect of His Eminence, overshadowed by his recent posts:

Raymond Burke grew up on a farm, and was President of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference from 1996-2001. He is a vigorous defender of the family farm, and adamantly opposed to corporate farming as currently practiced. If he is elected pope, this part of him will re-emerge in some way...
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written by ThomasL, March 11, 2013
@Marry Griffin

I'm not sure you can say the Holy Spirit picks the pope as such.

Speaking of this, then Cardinal Ratzinger said, "I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope... the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined... There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked."
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written by Dana T., March 12, 2013
I was confirmed by Cardinal Burke back when he was the Bishop of the Diocese of LaCrosse in Wisconsin. He is an amazing man and I pray that he will be the next Pope. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. It is absolutely beautiful.

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