The local publication “St. Louis Jewish Light” has published an editorial on Archbishop Burke’s reign in St. Louis. For an editorial, it doesn’t really seem to take a position except to say, Burke did things that some liked and others didn’t.
However, the editorial listed a few events in the last few years that it believes affected Catholic-Jewish relations. I would respectfully disagree with the framing of some of these issues, and my comments are in green below.
From the full editorial:
Burke’s Time in St. Louis: Controversy and Respect
JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL
Archbishop Burke has long been known for his respected expertise in Church law, which has been recognized by his elevation to his new position. Those same qualities which have gained Archbishop Burke international respect for his expertise, have also provoked considerable controversy in his responses to several local issues. Some of these issues created some tensions with major segments of the Jewish community and the Greater St. Louis community, including the following:
* Archbishop Burke, along with other Church leaders in other parts of the nation, said he would deny Holy Communion to Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee and to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, for their stance in favor of women’s reproductive choice. Reproductive choice is of course a euphemism for the legality of killing innocent babies. How this would affect Jewish-Catholic relations is not clear to me. A Catholic bishop upholding Catholic doctrine should not have any effect, positive or negative.
* Archbishop Burke led a multi-denominational battle against the passage of Amendment 2 to the Missouri Constitution, which protected embryonic stem cell research. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish community, including many in all streams of Judaism, supported the potentially life-saving research. Archbishop Burke denounced the measure as a “moral disaster for the state” because of his belief that it would involve cloning and a form of abortion. “His belief that it would involve cloning and a form of abortion” was based upon the reality that it would involve cloning and a form of abortion. Again, with respect, the issue of the right to life could just as easily be phrased as the Jewish support of abortion and cloning adversely affected relations with our Catholic neighbors. It’s all in how you phrase it.
* In 2007, Archbishop Burke announced his support for the controversial restoration of the Latin Mass, which had been set aside after Vatican II, and which contained accompanying language considered highly disrespectful towards Jews. Rev. Heier and other Catholic leaders expressed support for the elimination of such language so as not to endanger Catholic-Jewish relations. This language (which occurs on Good Friday only–one day a year) is not disrespectful, but prays for the salvation of the Jews as the Good Friday prayers ask for the salvation of all people. The only way this could be offensive is if the very act of praying for their conversion is offensive. If so, then we agree to disagree. But this is merely the teaching of the Church.
* In March 2008, a highly controversial ordination ceremony for two Roman Catholic women was hosted (by whom?) at Central Reform Congregation. The decision to provide space in the CRC Sanctuary for the ceremony, considered illegal by the official Catholic Church, was controversial within both the Jewish and Catholic communities, and some of the rhetoric on both sides of the issue strained Catholic-Jewish ties. The reason for the strain is solely the lack of accommodation to the reasonable request by Archbishop Burke that the Rabbi not interfere in an internal Catholic matter.
Needless to say, the above controversies had an impact on local Catholic-Jewish relations, which is completely understandable. Many within the Catholic community, in letters to local media, have strongly supported and praised Archbishop Burke as a champion of strict interpretation of Church doctrine; others both within and outside of the Church, have been critical of him.
Sometimes, in order to maintain relations, religious communities need to “agree to disagree” on certain issues, while at the same time making sure that we maintain and build that mutual respect whenever possible. On a personal level, Archbishop Burke was widely admired for his mentoring skills among local Catholic seminary students and for his strong support of the Catholic school system in his diocese.
Archbishop Burke will have an opportunity to deploy his recognized expertise in Church laws and doctrine as he takes up his new post with Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. We hope he finds satisfaction and fulfillment in his new position, and wish him well. We also reaffirm our commitment to the importance of maintaining strong Jewish-Catholic relations based on appreciation for our shared values and mutual respect for our differences.
All things considered, this is definitely not an “attack” editorial– it is respectful and I believe the writers think they are being even-handed. However, the areas on which I have commented buy into some of the misinformation about the Archbishop that his opponents in the Church and media have been spreading since the early days of his tenure.