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Cardinal Raymond Burke

(Catholic Culture) ­– The reprehensible attacks on Cardinal Raymond Burke in the mainstream media — the unseemly delight with which the liberal pundits have pounced on the news of his illness — should make any fair-minded observer wince. You don’t have to be a traditional Catholic to realize that when a man’s life is in danger, ordinary civility requires at least a temporary suspension of polemics. You don’t have to be a moral theologian to appreciate the merit of the adage: You don’t kick a man when he’s down.

But instead of expressing sympathy for the cardinal’s plight — much less joining in his appeal for prayers — media reports are highlighting his opposition to the COVID lockdown, and suggesting (inaccurately) that he denied the severity of the disease. There is more than a hint, in many of these reports, that the cardinal is now experiencing a condign punishment for his rejection of popular opinion.

Why is Cardinal Burke so unpopular with these reporters? Why are his views so repugnant to them, that they can scarcely conceal their delight over his present suffering?

  • Is it because he questioned the draconian lockdown, and suggested that some powerful forces are manipulating the situation to their own advantage? Many others had made the same arguments — not without supporting evidence.
  • Is it because he criticized the rush to develop vaccines using tissue lines derived from abortion? Again many others had made the same criticism, in this case with irrefutable evidence.
  • Is it because he decried the closing of churches, and the presumption that religious worship is not an “essential” activity? Here too he had plenty of company, but I think we are drawing closer to the truth.
  • Or is it simply because Cardinal Burke adamantly defends the moral teachings of the Church — because he has become the leading exemplar of Catholic resistance against the overweening pressures of secular liberalism?

In short, is Cardinal Burke the object of such contempt because he will not tailor his Catholic beliefs to contemporary fashions?

Cardinal Burke certainly understood that he, like millions of others, was at risk of contracting the virus. He knew the dangers. But he weighed those dangers against the demands of his faith, and concluded that he could not compromise his principles. Are there no secular journalists willing to honor a man who stood by his convictions — even if they do not share those convictions themselves?

Many reports suggest that the cardinal contracted the virus because he failed to take ordinary precautions. (Actually it seems more likely that he become infected while visiting family and friends: an innocuous activity that even the strictest guidelines do not forbid.) In the past liberal commentators have carefully avoided scolding victims for exposing themselves to disease by their unhealthy behavior. But clearly this is a special case. Why?

One particularly odious report, from NBC News, charged that the cardinal had “repeated misinformation related to conspiracy theories about the vaccines.” The article pointed to a few controversial statements — which involved differences of opinion rather than “misinformation” — and then offered this revealing tidbit:

He has also said the best weapon for battling “the evil of the coronavirus” is a relationship with Jesus, according to Associated Press.

Where is the “misinformation” there? Where is the conspiracy theory? Why is the phrase “the evil of the coronavirus” in scare quotes? Does the NBC reporter deny that this disease is an evil? Or is the paragraph simply a way to convey, to a smug secularized readership, that Cardinal Burke holds an old-fashioned belief in the power of Jesus Christ — not just as an abstraction but as a practical antidote to worldly ills? Is that what most offends liberal sensibilities?

If so, then I hope I stand under the same condemnation that the media have heaped on Cardinal Burke. Because I believe that it is, mutatis mutandis, the same condemnation that the worldly leaders of another era heaped on Jesus for rejecting the wisdom of that age.

Martyrs die in odium fidei. But it is also possible to live surrounded by hatred for the faith. I pray that the Lord will spare the life of Cardinal Burke, who has already embraced that form of white martyrdom.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture