Archbishop Raymond Burke: A Humble Man Of God

When I read the news that Archbishop Raymond Burke, who currently heads the Vatican’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, had just been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve the Church as a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, I was elated.

He has been such a heroic figure to all of us. Setting aside his enormous grasp of Catholic teaching, his intellect and his commitment to defending truth, perhaps his most endearing characteristic is his humility. You have to be in his presence to know what I am saying, but anyone who has even been in the same room with him knows it. One experiences a feeling of peace and joy just by looking at his face. These are but a few reasons for my total elation over the Holy Father’s selection of my favorite archbishop for yet another Vatican post where we know he will do great things for God.

American Life League immediately issued a statement of congratulations, which I am sure would embarrass His Excellency. But when good things happen to extraordinary people, it’s nice to say a good word.

In the wake of this news, I felt it would be appropriate to recall some of the profound statements enunciated during his recent speech at Inside Catholic’s 14th Annual Partnership Dinner.  

Reminding the attendees that “God has created us to choose life,” Archbishop Burke exhorted pro-life people and, in fact, all faithful Catholics, to therefore “never give up in the struggle to advance a culture founded on the choice of life, which God has written upon our hearts, and the victory of life, which Christ has won in our human nature.”

I believe it is no accident that he made the point that abortion cannot be fought in isolation, which the Church has made repeatedly. One must first understand the connection between contraception, the abuse of human sexuality and the act of killing an innocent preborn child. He said,

The attack on the innocent and defenseless life of the unborn has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act. The error maintains that the artificially altered conjugal act retains its integrity. The claim is that the act remains unitive, even though the procreative nature of the act has been radically violated. In fact, it is not unitive, for one or both of the partners withholds an essential part of the gift which is the essence of the conjugal union. The so-called “contraceptive mentality” is essentially anti-life. Many forms of so-called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy, at its beginning, a life which has already been conceived.
The manipulation of the conjugal act, as Pope Paul VI prophetically observed, has led to many forms of violence to marriage and family life (Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae,  “On the Proper Regulation of the Propagation of Offspring,” 25 July 1968, no. 17). Through the spread of the contraceptive mentality, especially among the young, human sexuality is no longer seen as the gift of God, which draws a man and a woman together, in a bond of lifelong and faithful love, crowned by the gift of new human life, but as a tool for personal gratification. Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and even destructive of individuals and of society itself. One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our nation by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography. Essential to the advancement of the culture of life is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.

This is the heart of the pro-life message. It addresses  what underlies the highly problematic moral relativism spewed not only by many politicians but by many ordained to the Catholic priesthood. It is impossible to focus on ending the killing of the preborn unless we also focus on the root causes of this tragedy.

At a profound level, Archbishop Burke has always understood this, as well as the reality that the child hidden in the womb of his mother or barely visible in a petri dish is a human person as truly as the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ are present in the Holy Eucharist. Nonetheless, our opponents spend millions dehumanizing the preborn baby and disparaging Catholic teaching, as exemplified by anti-Catholic TV personality Bill Maher, who has likened Holy Communion to cannibalism. 

We have heard, witnessed and been the targets of so many attacks against defenders of human personhood and Christ’s real presence in Holy Eucharist. We know the truth of what His Excellency told his audience as he quoted from the late, great Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae (section 58): 

The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.

He underscored his point by explaining that, in fact, a phrase such as “common good” cannot be equated with “common ground,” as some, including President Obama, have attempted to do:

The common good refers to an objective perfection which is not defined by common agreement among some of us. The common good is defined by creation itself as it has come from the hand of the Creator. Not only does the notion of common ground not correspond to the reality of the common good, it can well be antithetical to it (for instance, if there should be common agreement in society to accept as good for society what is, in reality, always and everywhere evil).
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the common good “is the good of ‘all of us’, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society” (Caritas in veritate, no. 7).

Inside Catholic's founder and director, Deal Hudson, reflecting on Archbishop Burke's address, wrote, 

Archbishop Burke describes the latest tactic of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, who talk about finding common ground, as a form of “proportionalist moral reasoning.” “Common ground is found rather on ‘the ground of moral goodness,’ and not in a compromise of certain moral truths, like the rejection of abortion and euthanasia.”
He warned against allowing this kind of false reasoning to enter the health-care debate. A Catholic cannot accept the attainment of universal health care if it includes abortion and other evils “just because it achieves some desirable outcomes.”
In this form of reasoning, the archbishop hears an echo of the type of “seamless garment” argument that conceals a distinction between intrinsically evil acts and those that may be evil in some situations; these acts “are not all of the same cloth.”
The standing ovation for Archbishop Burke lasted several minutes before Raymond Arroyo, the master of ceremonies and news director of EWTN, returned to the podium….
As editor Brian Saint-Paul handed Archbishop Burke the award for “Service to the Church and our Nation,” I commented that “[t]his lion speaks with the voice and face of a lamb, and, thus, is an example of how to speak the truth in charity.”

We agree! Archbishop Raymond L. Burke is an example to all of us as a teacher of truth and goodness. God bless His Excellency!