by Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report
Speaking to reporters from Rome about his new book, the American prelate goes on record about Christians and Muslims (they don't worship the same God) and Cardinal Sarah (“I agree with him completely...").
In a wide-ranging international teleconference call on Monday with media members, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke spoke in detail about many timely topics, including the priority of standing up for life in addressing poverty and other social ills, the witness and message of Mother Teresa, essential differences between Christianity and Islam, and the recent controversy over remarks by Cardinal Robert Sarah about liturgical orientation. The occasion of the call was Cardinal Burke's recent book Hope For the World: To Unite All Things in Christ (Ignatius Press), an interview given to French author Guillaume d'Alançon in 2015, and translated by Michael J. Miller for Ignatius Press.
Since being named a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1994, Cardinal Burke has become one of more well-known prelates in the English-speaking world, known for his willingness to address controversial topics forthrightly, despite often being criticized. Noted as a canon lawyer, Cardinal Burke was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and then called to Rome to become Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. During the two recent Synods on the Family, Cardinal Burke spoke out often about his concerns, telling CWR during the October 2014 gathering that he thought the Synod's mid-term report "lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium", a remark made a month after he was removed from his position as Prefect and named chaplain to the Order of Malta by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Burke, conversing from Rome, told reporters that his new book was motivated by a desire to reflect on his upbringing and how he discerned his vocation as priest, and also "to reflect as a pastor, as a bishop, on certain on certain critical issues of the day". As such, he noted, the book is a "kind of testimony of faith on my part", and the hope is that the book, in keeping with its title, will "give hope" to readers.
Asked about an apparent shifting of priorities among American bishops since the beginning of Francis' pontificate, Cardinal Burke pointed out that while the issues of abortion, poverty, immigration, and global warming all have "moral importance", the Church's tradition and philosophical reason both indicate that "the fundamental question has to be the question of human life itself, the respect for the inviolable dignity of human life and of its Creator, of its Source, and the union of a man and a woman in marriage, which according to God's plan is the place where new human life is welcomed and nurtured."
He expressed concern that the matter of human life and the issues of abortion, artificial insemination, contraception, and euthanasia be placed somehow on the same level as "questions regarding immigration and poverty." The first priority, he emphasized, must be given to proper respect for human life and for the family in order to have "the right orientations in addressing all of the other questions" and challenges faced by people in daily life. It makes no sense, he pointed out, to be concerned with immigration or poverty "if human life itself is not protected in society ... The first justice accorded to any human being is to respect life itself, which is received from God..." Cardinal Burke observed there are some who advocate an elimination of certain parts of the population in order to fight poverty, or who adhere to a "contraceptive mentality" in order to pursue a sort of "social engineering" harmful to society and to individuals.
The former Archbishop of St. Louis emphasized that bishops have a responsibility to proclaim the truth of Christ in love within the Church, following the example of Christ himself, knowing that the love that will "best serve society is the truth, a truth that respects God's plan for us from the moment of creation..." When he travels, the cardinal said, he finds that people want to hear "the truth of the faith" from priests, bishops, and cardinals—"they aren't interested in my personal opinions about things, which won't save their souls, and I am as aware of that as they are; they look to me to reflect very deeply on the truths of the Faith and their application on society today, and to speak to that truth with love and care for society." The fundamental mission of Catholics in the world is to be united to Christ and to "give witness to the truth", a witness that is "very much needed in our time".
Asked how it was that he, as a young seminarian in the Sixties, avoided falling into the "craziness" of that era, Cardinal Burke credited his parents and his upbringing. He acknowledged he was not unaffected by the "tumultuous" times, especially after going to Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in 1968 to study philosophy. He credits the "stable and good" discipline, prayer life, and formation he experienced in minor seminary, which he entered at the age of fourteen. He lamented that so many seminarians, seminary professors, and priests at CUA abandoned their vocations and ministry during that time. But he "simply couldn't be convinced that this so-called 'new way', this 'new Church'" was a good and right path, as if what he had been taught growing up was now "wrong and needed to be abandoned". He expressed, however, "great sympathy" for many of those who lost their way, saying that it was a "very tumultuous time and we were young".
Reflecting on the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa by Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4th, Cardinal Burke expressed his happiness that the famous nun will be named a saint, saying "she has been an inspiration to me from my years in the seminary when I first came to know her".