What Cardinal Burke Really Said
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke recently granted an interview on the state of Catholic men to the New Emangelization Project. Many articles have been written and the interview has gone viral. Sadly, much of the reporting has severely distorted the Cardinal’s actual words and has been tinged with anger, ridicule and personal attacks on the Cardinal.
Two things have been missing. First, there has been a profound lack of charity, a charity that doesn’t seek to distort, denigrate and discredit, but that seeks to serve Jesus Christ and our sisters and brothers. Second, there has been a lack of reason, reason that seeks to honestly understand and assess the validity of what Cardinal Burke said.
So what did Cardinal Burke really say? Here is an accurate summary with an approximate percentage of word count to show His Eminence’s emphasis:
There is a severe Catholic “man-crisis” that is having devastating effects (4%) – The “man-crisis” is having a devastating effect on men, families, wives, children and the Church. A complex mix of large cultural changes and missteps within the Church have driven the “man-crisis” that include:
- Radical Feminism has negatively affected society and the Church (17%) – For perspective, His Eminence’s comments on radical feminism accounted for less than one fifth of the word count. Cardinal Burke expressed a deep admiration and appreciation for women but also believes that radical feminism has had a corrupting influence: the “radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women” and a “constant and insistent demanding of rights” has contributed to the deep divisions between men and women. Importantly, His Eminence did not discount the promotion of legitimate issues of interest to women.
Within the Church, His Eminence observes that women make up the majority of roles in parishes aside from the priest and deacon. In many places the liturgy has become feminized and it has become politically incorrect to promote boy’s altar service. Instead, many places emphasize altar girl service, which leads many young boys to choose not to participate. This in turn has contributed to a decline in priestly vocations.
- The sexualization of culture has greatly contributed to the loss of men (9%) – Cardinal Burke points to the “explosion of pornography” that disproportionately corrupts men, especially young men” who have not been properly formed in Christ. Pornography warps many men’s minds, turning them away from the genuine and loving relationship with women that God intends through the Sacrament of Marriage. “A man who has not been formed with a proper identity as a man and as a father figure will ultimately become very unhappy” as they fall into a variety of sins.
- The Loss of home life (4%) – Men have become confused in the culture and become “very materialistic”, leading many to work longer hours outside the home at the cost of family time.
- The Church has failed to evangelize and properly catechize men (11%) – Cardinal Burke chides the Church because it “has largely ignored the serious needs of men.…the goodness and importance of men became very obscured and…not emphasized at all.” These include the emphasis on emulating St. Joseph, teaching men about the role and importance of the father in married life and the lives of children, teaching about proper sexual behavior and properly instructing men on the” virtues necessary to be a man.”
- The Mass has become de-sacralized (9%) – There have been and continue to be “serious liturgical abuses” that include “priest-centered” liturgies and rampant liturgical experimentation that has “stripped the Rite of the Mass of much of its careful articulation of the Sacred Mysteries that had been developed over centuries…” Because of this, many men have been “really turned off by the loss of the sacred…and are not being drawn into a deeper liturgical spirituality.”
- Men have not been taught about sin and reconciliation (4%) – The vast majority of men are not going to Confession because “there has been a denial of Sin.” Many priests and theologians have promoted the false “idea that there weren’t any serious sins”, leading men to be ignorant of ”what is demanded of men as men of Christ.”
The Church needs take significant and sustained action to address the Catholic “man-crisis” – In this interview, Cardinal Burke focused his guidance on what the Church needs to do:
- The Church must teach men about Catholic manhood (24%) – The “Church must make a concentrated effort to evangelize men by delivering a strong and consistent message about what it means to be a faithful Catholic man.” Men are facing grave temptations and “desperately need to be taught how to battle these temptations in Christ.” Men need to be addressed very directly about the demanding and “noble challenge of serving Jesus Christ the Eternal King and His Catholic Church. “ Men need to be taught “about purity, chastity [and] modesty”, the commitment to family life and virtue and the importance of Catholic precepts and devotions to have a “practical direction in the Christian life.”
The reinvigoration of Catholic manhood is critical for men will be better husbands and better fathers who can love and teach children how to “lead a selfless life, ready to embrace whatever sacrifices are necessary to be true to God and to one another.” Cardinal Burke strongly believes that if men are aggressively evangelized, they will respond.
- The Church needs to return to more reverent masses and catechize men on the Mass (9%) – His Eminence believes that “men will respond when they see a priest reverently acting in the name of Christ.” Men also need to be catechized “about the profound realities of the Mass.” His Eminence believes while it is clear that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite has a special attraction for men, particularly young men, His Eminence also believes that if the Ordinary Form is “celebrated very reverently with good music, [it] can have the same strong positive effect on men.”
- The Church needs to teach men about Sin and draw men back into Confession (6%) – Cardinal Burke teaches that “until men understand that there is Sin, and what Sin is, and that Sin offends God gravely, they will not go to Confession. Men need to have an encounter with God, with our Lord in the Sacrament of Penance to confess their Sins, express their sorrow, and receive His forgiveness.”
- Priests need to be confident in their manhood and personally evangelize men (7%) – Cardinal Burke believes that priests need to have a healthy understanding of their sexuality, for “men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity… entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.” Cardinal Burke exhorts priests to cultivate the manly qualities of “selflessness, chivalry and discipline” so that priests can have “the manly confidence and credibility to be a spiritual father to his flock, giving clear firm guidance with kindness and charity.”
His Eminence also advises “priests to give special attention to men and to look for ways to draw men into the life of the Church” for it is essential to the New Evangelization.
Many have falsely accused Cardinal Burke of being a misogynist who blames women for the totality of the Catholic “man-crisis.” What Cardinal Burke really said is that the Catholic “man-crisis” is the result of a complex set of cultural factors (including radical feminism) and a lack of leadership by the Church. Going forward, Cardinal Burke does not admonish women, but challenges the Church to make the evangelization and catechesis of men a priority and for men to step up to be strong Catholic men.
My prayer is that all who read this might begin to assess and reflect on Cardinal Burke’s guidance with a spirit of charity and reason. Christ expects no less from us.