American Cardinal Raymond Burke sparks controversy, exerts influence
When some American Catholics worry that the hierarchy is tilting toward the Republican Party, or taking the church back to the 19th century (or earlier), they often point to Cardinal Raymond Burke as Exhibit A..
That’s understandable, because love him or loathe him — and few are on the fence — Burke’s many pronouncements on politics and the culture wars have given both fans and critics plenty of ammunition for their respective views.
Back when he was archbishop of St. Louis in 2004, for instance, Burke touched off a fierce debate by declaring that Catholic politicians such as John Kerry who support abortion rights should be denied Communion. Voters who supported them were in grave peril too, he added.
Burke doubled down on those views after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to a top Vatican job in 2008, saying that under President Obama the Democratic party “risks transforming itself definitively into a ‘party of death’.” In 2009, Burke fueled another controversy when he said that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy should have been denied a church funeral for his support of abortion rights and gay rights.
“They can’t say anything about me that would surprise me,” Burke said with a soft laugh when asked in a recent interview about the passionate reactions sparked by his public stands.
“To be honest with you, I’m the sort of person who would be very happy not to have to speak out. I’m not a person who by nature likes to do that. But I believe it’s my obligation,” said Burke, who is always affable and remains accessible to the media. “It’s a responsibility that’s been given to me. I try to do it, though certainly not perfectly.”
The 63-year-old prelate — in his workaday attire of black cassock with red piping and a scarlet sash with matching skullcap — was speaking in his gilded offices on the upper floors of the 16th century Palazzo della Cancelleria, one of the most famous Renaissance palaces in Rome that now houses the Catholic Church’s highest court. [More]