We are often subjected to complaints, from certain quarters, about how dictatorial our beloved Archbishop is. The media and, sadly, some who claim the name Catholic would like us to picture him seated in a gloomy office, Scrooge-like, poring over names of people to excommunicate. This Sunday’s “Pastors’ Peace” [sic] in the St. Cronan’s bulletin deems it in good taste to hint that they fear a perilous “hippo stomp” directed their way.
How refreshing, therefore, to read an article in Celebrate Life, the magazine of the American Life League, about the instrumental part that Archbishop Burke played in the conversion of a young man who suffered from the pain of same-sex attraction. This article was written by the young man, Eric Hess, who relates the profound care of souls he encountered in then- Bishop of La Crosse, Raymond Burke. Thanks to the reader who sent this link to me. The full article is in pdf format, so I will quote several passages here. It should be read in its entirety.
The author relates how he entered into the homosexual “lifestyle” and ended up living with a man 20 years his senior. Then he writes:
“From 1990 to 1994, I went to Mass off and on. In 1995, I told my “partner” that I couldn’t go anymore because I was very angry with the Church. I boxed up all my crucifixes and Bibles and dropped them off at the office of the Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin with a letter renouncing the Catholic faith.
To my surprise, Bishop Raymond Burke responded with a kind letter expressing his sadness. He wrote that he would respect my decision and notify the parish where I had been baptized. Ever so gently, Bishop Burke said that he would pray for me and look forward to the time when I would reconcile with the Church.
As one of Wisconsin’s most outspoken “gay” activists, I thought, “What arrogance!” Then I replied to Bishop Burke with a letter accusing him of harassment. I told him that his letters were unwelcome and I asked how he could dare to write to me.
My efforts failed to put him off. Bishop Burke sent one more letter assuring me that he wouldn’t write again– but if I should want to reconcile with the Church, he would welcome me back with open arms.”
Hess then describes how he had later talked to a priest who reinforced what the Bishop said, and who also prayed for him. Three years later (after a chance encounter with that priest and an interior revelation he describes in the article) he realized he needed to come back home to the Church. Then:
“Next, I called Bishop Burke’s office. His secretary knew me well by then, so I told her that I wanted Bishop Burke to be the first to know that I was returning to the Church– that I was preparing for the Sacrament of Penance. She asked me to hold. When she returned, she announced that Bishop Burke wanted to schedule a meeting…
…A month after my reconciliation to God and the Church, I went to Bishop Burke’s office, where he embraced me. He asked if I remembered the belongings I had turned over to him with my letter of renunciation. Of course I remembered and Bishop Burke had saved them in the diocesan archives because he believed that I would return…
…I rejoice because of Raymond Burke, now the prelate of Saint Louis, Missouri. While some malign Archbishop Burke because of his fidelity to God, Church, and all souls, I say that he is a true shepherd of the faithful and a modern-day Athanasius. I tell you that he remains a mentor and an inspiration to me. Although my own biological father rejected me, Archbishop Burke became my spiritual father by lovingly representing our Father in heaven. Like the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, Archbishop Burke was and is absolutely faithful to me.”
Pretty powerful stuff, that. Like I said, the article is good reading. He also reproaches the priests and other Catholics who lead souls away from eternal happiness by confirming them in sin. He states that this type of approach, seen so often in parishes today, is what led him out of the Church. As he states so well, “As someone who suffered in the state of mortal sin for many years, I assure you there is no happiness outside of the moral order.”
When I am forced to deal with all of the insults and slanders directed against such a good man, I will think of this story.
The parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke 10: 30-37) came to my mind when I was composing this post, and I thought I would give it an update:
A certain man on his life’s journey fell among sinful men, who seduced him and having wounded him left him spiritually dead. And it chanced that certain priests, seeing him, assured him that his condition was normal, and passed him by. In like manner church activists saw him and celebrated his poor condition, affirming his destitution, and helped him not. But a certain Bishop, seeing his wounds, was moved with compassion. Instead of lies and false comfort, he gave the man the truth, and offered God’s Mercy, and so bound his wounds. He extended an invitation to the man to come home to his Father’s house.
Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbor to the man?