VATICAN, November 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the highest ranking cardinals in the Vatican has said that the United States is “well on the way” to the persecution of Christians. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis and now the head of the Vatican’s highest court, told Catholic News Agency that he could envision a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S., “even by announcing her own teaching,” is accused of “engaging in illegal activity, for instance, in its teaching on human sexuality.”

Asked if the cardinal could even see American Catholics being arrested for their faith he replied, “I can see it happening, yes.”

In his remarks to several U.S. Bishops meeting with him Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI made similarly emphatic warnings about the U.S. The pope told the bishops that “the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated.” 

He added: “The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers.”

In the interview published today, Cardinal Burke declared that “it is a war” and “critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural moral law.”  Should they not, he warned, “secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us.”

Pope Benedict too urged the bishops of the United States to speak out in defense of morality.  “The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free,” he said.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue told LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Burke’s remarks were accurate and not exaggerations.  “Secularism has become militant,” he said. “Many elites are taking an aggressive secular approach. They have lined up against the Catholic Church and other Christian churches particularly for their stand on moral values.”

Donohue pointed to New York where gay ‘marriage’ was passed without debate or exemptions for clerks who objected to having to grant such licenses. He also noted the closing of Catholic adoption and foster care agencies since they were unable to comply with laws forcing homosexual adoptions.  

“The real big one,” he added, “is the HHS of the Obama Administration.” The forcing of abortifacient and contraceptive coverage in private health care plans under penalty of fines was described by the Catholic League President as the Obama Administration “on a full court press to shove its values down the throats of the Catholic Church.”

See the full interview with Cardinal Burke with Catholic News Agency