Cardinal Burke Is a Man, Not a Caricature. Please Join in Praying for Him | National Review

Cardinal Burke Is a Man, Not a Caricature. Please Join in Praying for Him | National Review

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke attends a consistory as Pope Francis elevates five Roman Catholic prelates to the rank of cardinal, at Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, June 28, 2017.
(Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is sick with COVID-19. Ventilator sick. With pneumonia.

Some seem to be relishing this, since he has not made known his vaccination status, and he has raised questions about people being coerced into getting it.

Now, first of all, I don’t wish suffering on those I disagree with, and as humans I think that’s generally a good way to try to live. For Christians, it would seem to be mandatory.

As for the media, the coverage of his illness is fascinating. Not the “Gotcha!” nature of it, which is to be expected. But I noticed this in an NBC report on Burke’s sickness:

He has also said the best weapon for battling “the evil of the coronavirus” is a relationship with Jesus, according to The Associated Press.

What on earth is shocking about that? Isn’t that what a pastor would say? Maybe not the year after we shut down houses of worship, opting for the virtual over presence. Religion is essential, in no small part because man will die if he thinks this is all there is. What’s the point? And thus you see the increase in depression and suicide and addiction. At exactly the time when we collectively said religion isn’t essential by our actions.

We absolutely want to keep people safe and act prudently. But it’s not in vaccines we trust ultimately, but God. I went to a funeral Mass yesterday of a priest friend who dropped dead of a heart attack. Each and every one of us is still going to have an end even if we get COVID-19 boosters for the rest of our days.

In one of the Burke talks that is considered controversial, he said quite reasonably:

It is tragic to hear reports of faithful who ask a priest to hear their confession and receive the response that the priests are forbidden to hear confessions, or who ask for Holy Communion and are told that the priests are forbidden to distribute Holy Communion outside of the Holy Mass. It is particularly tragic to hear the accounts of the faithful dying without the help of their priest or without any member of their family or friends present to assist them, and the accounts of lifelong faithful Catholics being buried without any Funeral Rites whatsoever. In some cases, these tragic circumstances have been dictated by the State and in some cases they have been dictated by the Church, beyond the demands of the regulations of the State or in conformity with regulations of the State, which are in violation of religious freedom.

And also said something that needs to be said and often:

From the beginning, there has been a failure to make clear that among all of the necessities of life the principal necessity is communion with God. Yes, we need what is required for our nourishment, health and hygiene, but none of these essential needs can substitute for our most fundamental need: to know, love and serve God. As I was taught long ago, among the first lessons in the Catechism, God made man to know, love and serve Him in this life and thereby to obtain life everlasting with Him in Heaven.

In the face of an international health crisis, we must turn first to God, asking Him to keep us safe from the contagion and from every other evil. Turning to God, we find the direction and strength to take whatever human measures are required to protect ourselves, according to the demands of right reason and of the moral law. Otherwise, if we falsely think that the combat against the evil depends totally upon us, we take measures which offend our human dignity and, above all, our right relationship with God. In that regard, the State should be attentive to the religious freedom of the citizens, in order that the help of God may be sought at all times and in all things. To think otherwise is to make the State our god and to think that mere humans, without the help of God, can save us.

I’m praying for Cardinal Burke’s healing. And for an increase in humility all around. And also, a respect for conscience rights at this time of great fear. Fear does not bring out the best in us, it would seem. Even while encouraging vaccination — Pope Francis appears in a new ad calling it an act of love to get vaccinated — the Vatican has also said that vaccination must be voluntary. I know a woman who had an abortion who believes it would be turning her back on God who has shown mercy on her to take a vaccine that an aborted baby involuntarily had to do with the production of. You don’t have to agree with her to respect her conscience rights. This has been excruciating — and continues to be — for many people whom I deeply respect, who are doing the Lord’s work on several fronts. And while I recognize moral concerns and medical concerns over autoimmune problems are far from the only reasons people are not getting vaccinated, at a time when the Biden administration has expanded research with the remains of aborted children, I’d be concerned if no one wanted to stand up in protest. That doesn’t make them insurrectionists.

One last thing about Cardinal Burke: The narrative that he and Pope Francis are mortal enemies has always struck me as an unfortunate caricature. But we take great comfort in categories, and conflict entertains. Here’s something I wrote about that a few years ago, for what it’s worth.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.