Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, delivered a speech on September 8 discussing how to advance the culture of life in the U.S. and how to rectify the “scandal” of publicly known Catholics who confuse and distort Church teaching.
At the 14th Annual Partnership Dinner of InsideCatholic.com, Archbishop Burke said that those who have publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts lead people into confusion and error about “fundamental questions.” Just as their dissent was public, their repentance must also be public.
“The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders,” the archbishop added.
Repairing the damage done by such scandal “begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation,” Archbishop Burke said.
Particular harm is done by those who profess Christianity but promote policies and laws which “permit the destruction of innocent and defenseless human life” and “violate the integrity of marriage in the family,” he said.
The result of these actions is that citizens are confused and “led into error” about basic moral tenets.
Catholics who contribute to that confusion cause the “gravest harm” to their Christian brethren and also to the whole nation, Burke added.
“In our time, there is a great hesitation to speak about scandal, as if, in some way, it is only a phenomenon among persons of small or unenlightened mind, and, therefore, a tool of such persons to condemn others rashly and wrongly,” he observed.
In the archbishop’s view, it is ironic that those who experience scandal at the “gravely sinful” public actions of a fellow Catholic are accused of “a lack of charity” and of causing division within the Church.
“Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth with love,” he remarked.
The contrary attitude is characteristic of a society governed by the “tyranny of relativism,” one in which “political correctness and human respect” are the ultimate criteria, he said, warning that Catholics’ consciences have become “dulled to the gravity of certain moral issues.”
Archbishop Burke explained that the disciplines of the Church are not a judgment on the eternal salvation of someone’s soul but are “simply the acknowledgment of an objective truth… that the public actions of the soul are in violation of the moral law, to his own grave harm and to the grave harm of all who are confused or led into error by his actions.
For the archbishop, it seemed clear that the inspiration for the founding of the United States came from “a declared faith in God and in the inalienable rights with which He has endowed man.”
“To deny the Christian foundation of the life of our nation is to deny our very history,” he added, later saying that it is a “false notion” that a Christian or any person of faith must “bracket his faith life from his political life” in order to be a true American citizen.
This habit is not true to the founding principles of the U.S. government, the archbishop stated.
“What kind of government would require that its citizens and political leaders act without reference to the fundamental requirements of the moral law?” he asked rhetorically.
When Christians fail to articulate and uphold the “natural moral law,” Archbishop Burke added, they fail in their fundamental patriotic duty to love their country by serving the common good.
“Christian love does not have its foundation in blind tolerance of others and of what they think and say and do, but rather in the profound knowledge of others and their beliefs, and the honest acknowledgment of differences of belief, especially in what may compromise the life of the nation.”
Archbishop Burke's full speech can be read on InsideCatholic.com.