Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, one of the
Catholic Church's top U.S.-born clerics, is marking the first
anniversary of his November 2010 elevation to the Sacred College of
"Well, it’s been a very fast-moving year," Cardinal Burke told CNA in his Roman apartment just yards from the Vatican, where he serves as head of the Church's highest court.
"But, it’s been a very good year, I'd have to say. And I’ve certainly come to understand more fully what it is to give this service to the Holy Father and hope that I am doing it better."
The College of Cardinals consists of the men considered the Pope’s closest aides, giving counsel and assistance to the pontiff when needed. It currently has under 200 members, with only 115, those under age 80, eligible to elect a future Pope.
Cardinal Burke, 63, has had a remarkable journey from America's rural Midwest—where he grew up as the youngest of six children—to his current post as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
"I never dreamed of it, to be honest with you," he said, reflecting on God's guidance of his path to the Vatican.
"I grew up, thanks be to God, in a very good Catholic home," he recalled. "We were small dairy farmers in Wisconsin, which was a very common situation in that part of the world. But I see how God has been at work all along, and I marvel at it."
While much has changed since those days, his life as a cardinal is "not unrelated to what my parents were trying to teach me from the time I was little."
"And, the truth of the matter is that the older I get, the more I appreciate those first lessons that were taught to me, that early formation in the faith."
After 14 years leading dioceses in Wisconsin and Missouri, Cardinal Burke was chosen in 2008 to head the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, often called the "Supreme Court" of the Catholic Church.
"Whenever I've done whatever's been asked of me," he said, "I’ve always found a happiness in my work as a priest, and I continue to find that today."
A patriot with an obvious love for the United States, the Rome-based cardinal remains invested in the struggle for his country's culture.
"It is a war," he stated, describing the battle lines between "a culture of secularization which is quite strong in our nation," and "the Christian culture which has marked the life of the United States strongly during the first 200 years of its history."
He says it is "critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural moral law," especially in defense of life and the family.
"If Christians do not stand strong, give a strong witness and insist on what is right and good for us both as and individuals and society," he warned, "this secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us."
Cardinal Burke favors realism over pessimism, and believes "things are getting better" in America, particularly among the young.
"I think that sometimes the young people understand much better the bankruptcy of a totally secularized culture because they’ve grown up with it," he observed.
Many youth "have seen their families broken" and "have been exposed to all the evils of pornography," leading them to conclude that the secularization project "is going nowhere and that it will destroy them" if left unchecked.
But the cardinal also thinks persecution may be looming for the U.S. Church.
"Yes, I think we’re well on the way to it," he said, pointing to areas of social outreach - such as adoption and foster care - where the Church has had to withdraw rather than compromise its principles.
This trend could reach a point where the Church, "even by announcing her own teaching," is accused of "engaging in illegal activity, for instance, in its teaching on human sexuality."
Asked if he could envision U.S. Catholics ever being arrested for preaching their faith, he replied: "I can see it happening, yes."
The Vatican's top judge takes a dim view of self-professed Catholic politicians who oppose the Church on key moral issues.
Among them is U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, currently seeking to force most of the country's employers, including Catholic institutions, to cover contraception and sterilization in employee health plans.
"To the degree to which (Sebelius) proclaims herself to be a practicing Catholic, she is very wrong," said Cardinal Burke. He sees it as "simply incomprehensible" for a Catholic to "support the kind of measures that she is supporting."
The cardinal says America’s 2012 election will be "very significant."
Catholics, he said, "have a serious duty to vote and to try and find the best candidate to elect." And some "good and solid, right-thinking individuals" may even be called to run for public office themselves.
Above all, the cardinal hopes for a "new evangelization" of the United States - starting with faithful families, strong religious education, and reverent liturgical worship.
The family, he noted, is where a child "first learns the truths of the faith, first prayers, first practices his or her life in Christ." But the Mass itself is the "source of our solid teaching, of our solid witness," and also "the most beautiful and fullest expression we give to that teaching."
Cardinal Burke is also responsible for overseeing the Church's liturgy as a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship.
He is grateful to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for giving the Church "a font of solid direction" regarding worship, based on the Second Vatican Council's vision of a "God-centered liturgy and not a man-centered liturgy."
That intention was not always realized, he said, since the council's call for liturgical reform coincided with a "cultural revolution."
Many congregations lost their "fundamental sense that the liturgy is Jesus Christ himself acting, God himself acting in our midst to sanctify us."
Cardinal Burke said greater access to the traditional Latin Mass, now know as the "extraordinary form" of the Roman rite, has helped correct the problem.
"The celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form is now less and less contested," he noted, "and people are seeing the great beauty of the rite as it was celebrated practically since the time if Pope Gregory the Great" in the sixth century.
Many Catholics now see that the Church's "ordinary form" of Mass, celebrated in modern languages, "could be enriched by elements of that long tradition."
In time, Cardinal Burke expects the Western Church's ancient and modern forms of Mass to be combined in one normative rite, a move he suggests the Pope also favors.
"It seems to me that is what he has in mind is that this mutual enrichment would seem to naturally produce a new form of the Roman rite – the 'reform of the reform,' if we may – all of which I would welcome and look forward to its advent."
Cardinal Burke's main role, however, is to uphold the Church's legal system. He describes canon law as "the fundamental discipline which makes possible our life in the Church," since it is "not a society of angels" but a communion of men and women who require norms for living.
He acknowledges that canon law fell out of fashion beginning in the late 1960s, during a period where many Catholics bristled at the notion of such rules.
"The whole euphoria that set in within society – and in the Church itself – was that this was the age of freedom, the age of love, and so, in those years nobody talked anymore about ‘sin,’ this was considered to be negative talk."
But since "human nature didn’t actually change," the "lack of attention to discipline and to law" produced a great deal of "bad fruit."
One consequence, the cardinal believes, was the mishandling of clerical abuse accusations.
"Absolutely, there’s no question in my mind about that," said Cardinal Burke. He pointed out that both the 1917 and 1983 canon law codes put "a discipline in place" to confront an "evil" the Church had faced before.
"All of that was in place," he reflected, "but, first of all, it wasn’t known in the sense that people were not studying the law, were not paying attention to it, and so, if it wasn’t known or studied then it wasn’t being applied."
Historically, he believes, it was an "unfortunate coincidence" that a cultural upheaval accompanied Blessed Pope John XXIII’s call for a reform of canon law.
"This added to the notion that we didn’t really have a law anymore – then the attitude developed that we don’t need it."
Bl. John Paul II resolved the situation after his election in 1978, implementing a new code of law by 1983. Cardinal Burke remains "deeply grateful" for the late Pope's action.
Since he is a cardinal, he could someday cast his vote for a future Pope. But could divine providence ever call the son of a Midwestern farming family to the papacy himself?
"Oh, I don’t believe so," Cardinal Burke laughed.
"I hope that the present Holy Father lives a long time. He’s a tremendous gift to the Church and that’s my great prayer – that the Lord gives him many more years."
Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2011 (CNA) - Leaders of the Salesian Congregation in Rome condemned the sentencing of a Mexican Salesian priest to 33 years in prison for allegedly raping and killing a 16 year-old girl.
Salesian leaders say Father Jose Carlos Contreras Rodriguez was accused of “crimes he did not commit” after he was sentenced by Judge Juana Maria Castillo in San Luis Potosi on Nov. 22.
Fr. Contreras was charged with killing 16-year-old Itzachel Shantal in October of 2007 after a security guard testified two years later that she saw Shantal at the front door of the Salesian house in San Luis de Potosi on the day of her murder.
Lawyers for the priest argue that there was no evidence for his conviction, which was based solely on the testimony of the security guard. The College of Catholic Lawyers in Mexico has agreed to assist in appealing the verdict.
In a statement issued on Nov. 23, the order said that the Salesian congregation worldwide has “heard the sentence with astonishment and indignation, because they are convinced of his innocence.”
“The defense lawyers, having proved his innocence scientifically and legally, are making an appeal to the Federal Court, where, without political pressure, they are seeking justice on the basis of the law and of the truth,” they added.
“Members of his family, the Province and the Congregation continue to be close to Fr. José Carlos and committed to the pursuit of justice, also on behalf of the victim Itzachel Shantal González López and the Salesian Institute.”
Father Salvador Murguia Villalobos, superior of the Salesian Province of Mexico Guadalajara, said that Fr. Contreras “displayed great fortitude after learning of the sentence” and expressed his desire “to intensify his pastoral work among those around him, to continue celebrating the sacraments and to continue helping so many young people who like him are unjustly imprisoned.”
He said Fr. Contreras remains a priest in good standing and asked for prayers, “that he may endure his imprisonment with strength and serenity.”
He also asked for prayers for all those who are helping the Salesians “during this difficult trial, that we will continue to stand by him and support him, upholding his innocence and fighting for him.”
Havana, Cuba, Nov 28, 2011 (CNA) - The Communist Party of Cuba should abandon “failed dogmas” and focus on economic progress and freedom of expression in the media, urged a leading Catholic magazine.
Editors from the local Espacio Laical said on Nov. 14 that the country's leaders should address the true needs of the Cuban people during their upcoming convention in January of 2012.
Espacio Laical said the most important reform for Cubans is the opportunity to exercise more control in their lives and that the government must include a “re-founding of the citizenry” in its future decisions.
Government leaders should allow for the creation of small businesses as well as increased freedom for career professionals, doctors and lawyers, who are currently only able to work in government-run companies, editors noted.
The magazine said that leaders must also ensure greater liberties for private organizations and for openness in the media to “the diversity of opinions in the country.”
Although the editors acknowledged several economic reforms carried out by Raul Castro's government, they said that citizens largely feel “that nothing significant is happening to renew life.”
With most of the Cuban revolutionary leaders in their 80s, Espacio Laical called the upcoming convention “the last chance for the so-called historic generation” to implement serious reforms. “Don’t miss this opportunity,” editors stressed.
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict has named New York priest Msgr. Charles Brown to serve as his new official representative to Ireland.
The news of the 52-year-old priest's appointment on Nov. 26 was welcomed among Church leaders as relations between the country and the Vatican have reached their lowest point since the two states established diplomatic relations in 1929.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York praised Msgr. Brown in comments to CNA on Nov. 24, calling him a “young, vibrant, very theologically savvy but pastorally sensitive guy.”
Archbishop Dolan noted that Msgr. Brown is “loved in New York” and has “a wonderful pastoral side to him” due to his work in university apostolates.
A native of New York, Msgr. Brown earned his bachelor's degree in history at the University of Notre Dame before obtaining advanced degrees in theology at Oxford and medieval studies at the University of Toronto. He was ordained a priest at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City in 1989 and earned a doctorate in sacramental theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Anselm in Rome.
Since 1994 he has been an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith where he worked closely with Cardinal Ratzinger—now Pope Benedict—up until 2005. The congregation is also the Vatican body that deals most closely with issue of clerical abuse.
Those who have worked with Msgr. Brown say he is well-loved in the Roman Curia and is a “good and holy” man. Over many years, Msgr. Brown has given up much of his spare time—including holidays—to work with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The release of all documents bearing the Pope’s signature must follow certain procedures to defend the integrity of papal teaching, says a new memo from the Vatican Secretariat of State to the cardinals and archbishops who head the Roman curia’s congregations, tribunals, pontifical councils and offices.
Archbishop Angelo Maria Becciu, the present head of the secretariat’s First Section, said in the Nov. 4 memo that the circulation of unrevised or improperly released texts could harm the integrity of papal teaching.
When a document signed by the Pope is published, the document must be sent in printed form and with an electronic backup to the Secretariat of State with a reasonable estimate of the expected publication date. After “careful review” of its contents, the secretariat will distribute it to the Holy See’s various media outlets.
Veteran Vatican reporter Sandro Magister published the memo on the Italian newspaper L’Espresso’s religious affairs website Chiesa.
He noted that the memo applies only to texts that bear the Pope’s signature. It cannot, “strictly speaking,” refer to the Oct. 24 document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on global financial reform, which drew much attention and controversy but was not a papal document.
Citing Catholic News Service, Magister said the memo is a likely response to the treatment of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 98th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which was presented on Oct. 25. Large sections of the document had been released by the Vatican Information Service five days before its publication date.
However, a Nov. 4 summit at the Secretariat of State to address such incidents also discussed the Justice and Peace document. At the summit, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said he did not know about the document until the last minute and only after the media had been informed about its launch.
Vatican insiders told CNA that the Justice and Peace document seemed to lack the expected degree of consultation and approval with the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the two main curial departments.
Orange, Calif., Nov 28, 2011 (CNA) -
The Diocese of Orange beat all odds in their winning bid for the Crystal Cathedral because their final offer was less than their competitor, says the Busch Firm, which represented the diocese in court.
“A true miracle!” said founder Tim Busch in reaction to the news.
The firm was shocked that the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board chose the diocese's $57.5 million offer for the bankrupt cathedral after Chapman University upped its bid to $59 million on Nov. 17.
Although bankruptcy Judge Robert N. Kwan allowed the board to choose from either offer, the majority of its members sided with the diocese since it would “protect the campus as a place of praise and worship and would provide a smoother transition,” the firm said.
The Crystal Cathedral purchase will close on Dec. 30, 2011 and is slated to meet the needs of the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County—the 10th largest diocese in the nation.
Bishop Tod D. Brown vowed on Nov. 17 that the diocese will “protect this wonderful structure as a place of worship and will soon provide our Catholic community with a new cathedral, pastoral center, parish school and more.”
The bishop also offered his sympathy to the cathedral’s founding pastor Robert H. Schuller who filed for bankruptcy last October after creditors sued for payment.
Purchasing the Crystal Cathedral was an attractive option since it provides an instant solution to the diocese’s building needs and will cost roughly half the $100 million needed to build the cathedral planned for Santa Ana.
The liturgist for the Orange diocese, Monsignor Arthur Holquin, said on July 26 that several changes will need to take place in order for the Crystal Cathedral to become a Catholic worship space.
Along with a central altar, a tabernacle and a baptismal font, the building would need a “cathedra” or bishop’s chair. While renovations are needed to the building, “not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained,” he said.