Wednesday, July 05, 2006

McCarrick vs. Burke

This is classic McCarrick:
"We are in this together. This is a time for respect for our common duties and different pastoral judgments as bishops, but most of all for building our unity as a body of bishops, recognizing how our individual actions affect other bishops and our entire community of faith."
Tim Townsend, religion writer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported this back in June. And he went on to make this keen observation:
The cardinal was not pointing at St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke when he
said this, but he might as well have been.
Yes, indeed. I wonder if the Cardinal has ever taken the time to sit down at a breakfast meeting (something for which he is well-known) with the Archbishop to ask him why he did what he did? Or is he simply content to make public accusations and slap Burke in the face simply because he doesn't like him and what he did?

As to the speculation in the story about why Burke has not said anything more beyond what he said about Kerry during the campaign, I don't believe he's been chastened by the uproar. I called him around that time (campaign 2004) to interview him about the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., his former diocese. When we started talking, I asked him about the controversy. His words to me, in a very bemused and sheepish sort of way, were, "I always seem to be getting myself in trouble."

In other words, he knew what he had stirred up and wasn't afraid of it.

However, what most people don't seem to realize is that he doesn't do it unnecessarily. He's not stirring up trouble for trouble's sake. He had been bishop in La Crosse for just shy of nine years. It wasn't until two days after he was appointed to St. Louis that it came out that he had written letters to politicians telling them to cease and desist their votes against life or be denied Communion. In other words, he had been working behind the scenes for many years trying to get these folks to understand the truth of Catholic teaching and it wasn't until late in his appointment that it became public. And it wasn't his decision to make it public, either. One of the politicians went and whined to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

When it came to John Kerry, though, he knew he had to make a public stand. This was a national figure who could come into his archdiocese at any time for a campaign stop and he knew that it had to be stated publicly that he was not going to allow him to receive Communion in his territory. Kerry's position was clear -- he makes no secret of the fact that he supports abortion, even to the point of speaking to groups like NARAL.

However, the pols in St. Louis are a different sort of beast. They're Catholics and Democrats, and some of them actually do adhere to Church teaching. Burke is not the kind of guy to go in and blow things up only to ask questions later. He's a very careful canon lawyer, astute and accomplished. He spent five years on the Church's highest court (Apostolic Signatura) doing a lot of negotiating between religious and their bishops. He's going to take time to carefully study who is who and what is what before making any pronouncements on anything at all.

If Cardinal McCarrick and his successor, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, want unity on this matter, then they should come around to seeing beyond official pro-life platitudes to the horror of abortion and then apply the applicable canonical norms (canon 915) in a just way, in the way Archbishop Burke has applied them in real life.


Beaver06 said...

Great article! I really appreciate the insight into Burke. I wish we could study him more. He appears to be a modern-day "William Wallace" amongst a group of wimpy nobles who prefer to hide within their flocks rather than get out in front and lead them. Burke is definitely one bad dude with legendary courage.
I just can't figure out why he hasn't publically notified St. Louis that she's out of communion with the faith and is to be denied the Eucharist.
Any thoughts on why he's allowing the scandal to linger?

Beaver06 said...

I'm referring to Claire McCaskill.

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz said...


Three things: 1) It probably has something to do with what I said about being a meticulous man. Abp Burke isn't going to go shooting heads off just for the sake of shooting heads off. The only reason it came out that he had told some pols in Wisconsin not to receive Communion was because one of the pols went the press about it. He had corresponded with them privately and was going to keep it private. This lady thought the announcement of his appointment to St. Louis was a great opportunity to embarrass him. Of course, he wasn't embarrassed because he knew he had done what was right. But I know he was disappointed because he didn't want it made public.

2) Implementing canon 915 or even canon 1369 does not require public disclosure. It can be done, and is best done, privately and behind the scenes. Remember: the archbishop's goal here is not to embarrass the politician, but to bring about a change of heart and mind in a member of his flock.

(Just as an aside, check out an interview Carl Olson has with Ed Peters on excommunication. Ed has some good comments on this whole issue about 2/3 of the way down. The link is:

3) Making a public statement at the time of an election is more of a distraction than good strategy. People already know McCaskill's stand and they know the teaching of the Church -- if they don't, then they're simply out to lunch.
The only reason the whole Kerry thing was made public was because Kerry is a national figure who was coming into his diocese from the outside and when asked about it by the P-D, he answered straight-forwardly what would happen. McCaskill, on the other hand, is a part of his archdiocese, so he has other means at his disposal to try to take care of this member of his flock who has wandered and strayed. Again, that's the goal, not her embarrassment.

Something to keep in mind is that the Abp's motto is "Secundum cor tuum" or "After your heart". I've written about this before, but it comes from a prayer for bishops which itself comes from Jer. 3:15 -- "I will give them shepherds after my own heart, says the Lord." And the Lord's heart isn't out to trounce people, but to bring them back with love to the truth.