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American cardinal-designates men of different styles
Archbishop Donald Wuerl / Archbishop Raymond Burke
Archbishop Donald Wuerl / Archbishop Raymond Burke

.- The two new American cardinal-designates are men of the Church with impressive pastoral pedigrees but decidedly different pastoral styles.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Oct. 20 selection of Archbishops Raymond L. Burke and Donald D. Wuerl had been widely predicted by Vatican analysts. Archbishop Wuerl is the head of the Church in the nation’s capital, a position that traditionally has earned a cardinal’s rank. Archbishop Burke is the head of the most important tribunal in the Vatican, the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s supreme court. 

Cardinal-designate Burke, 62, is widely known for emphasizing the importance of a distinctive Catholic identity and for advocating a bold Catholic witness in American public life. First as bishop of La Crosse, Wisc., where he served from 1995-2003, and later as Archbishop of St. Louis, where he served from 2003-2008, he spoke out frequently about Catholic obligations on crucial moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

In both the 2004 and 2008 U.S. election campaigns, he stated that Catholic politicians who advocate legalized abortion should not present themselves for communion.

He made headlines again recently in Rome for a stirring speech in which he called for the public “repentance” of Catholic politicians who support political positions that are immoral and at odds with the Church.

"It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and conduct oneself publicly in this manner," he said in an Oct. 14 address to Human Life International, he decried “cafeteria Catholicism,” or the bad habit of some to pick and choose which of the Church’s teachings to obey.

Cardinal-designate Wuerl, 69, spent a decade in Rome as secretary secretary to Cardinal John Wright, then-head of the Congregation for Clergy, Rome, 1969-79. He is noted for his emphasis on catechesis and Catholic education and is the author of numerous books. On the day before his appointment as cardinal, Archbishop Wuerl, a former seminary rector, announced plans to open a new seminary in Washington.

Since being installed in Washington in 2006, Cardinal-designate Wuerl has been a strong voice for the Church’s teachings on abortion and gay marriage. Last year, he challenged a new District of Columbia marriage law that mandated local organizations to provide spousal benefits for same-sex couples. He fought unsuccessfully for an exemption for Catholic institutions and was forced to shut down some operations of Catholic Charities and to end health benefits to Charities’ employees rather than comply with the law.

On the question of excommunicating Catholic politicians, he has taken a different approach from Archbishop Burke.

Archbishop Wuerl made headlines in Jan. 2007 when he opted not to intervene regarding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's participation in a Mass at her alma mater of Trinity Washington University despite her open support of abortion, embryonic research, and same-sex marriage.

Asked to do so as he participated in the same Mass, he refused, explaining later that he found it to be "a matter between the university and Nancy" and that the approach differed from his style of pastoral ministry.

“It is extremely difficult to make a public judgment about the state of the soul of someone else,” Archbishop Wuerl said. “Our task," he said, "is to convince people and win people over to what is the correct view.”

One prominent American archbishop who did not receive the Pope's nod for the coming consistory is Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

He  was likely ruled out as a candidate because his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, has not yet reached the age of 80 and is still eligible to vote in the case of a papal election. Traditionally, the Pope does not select two voting-eligible cardinals from the same jurisdiction. Cardinal Egan will turn 80 on April 2, 2012.


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