Inside the Vatican has the goods:


by Andrew Rabel

On the eve of the presidential election November 4, Archbishop Raymond Burke, in the Vatican, has given an exclusive interview to Andrew Rabel, Australian Inside the Vatican Correspondent, on these and several other issues. 

Burke, 60, retired in June as archbishop of St Louis, Missouri to become Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in the Holy See, in what is effectively the Vatican’s Supreme Court, along side other American curial heads Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal James Stafford, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Well known for his orthodoxy, deep piety, and encylopaedic knowledge of canon law (which obviously played a part in his current appointment) he, in 2004, barred US presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, from taking Holy Communion when visiting St Louis, because of his prochoice stance on the issue of abortion rights.

Despite a change in his work location, events at home are still very much in his thoughts and prayers.

1. How has your new position in Rome, been since you took over as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in June?

Pope Benedict XVI transferred me from the office of Archbishop of Saint Louis to the office of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on June 27th last. I made my first visit, as Prefect, to the Apostolic Signatura, in early July, but I then returned to Saint Louis to put all of my papers pertaining to the Archdiocese of Saint Louis in order and to prepare my files, books and other personal effects for shipment to the Vatican. Also, I participated in the weeklong celebrations of the Dedication of the Church of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at La Crosse, of which I am the founder. I returned to Rome on August 23rd last and began my full-time work at the Apostolic Signatura on August 25th last.

2. As archbishop of St Louis and bishop of La Crosse, your style of church leadership was very distinctive. Is something lacking in the way some other dioceses are administered throughout the world?

My leadership in the Diocese of La Crosse and in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis was inspired by the directives of the Holy See on the office and ministry of the Diocesan Bishop. I was also inspired by the Regula Pastoralis of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In a world which is beset with the ideologies of secularism and relativism, it is more important than ever that the Bishop be a strong leader who teaches clearly, celebrates the Sacred Liturgy with the greatest possible reverence, directs and disciplines justly, and gives the best example of the Christian life, of which he is capable. I was trying to do my best, both in La Crosse and in Saint Louis. It is not my place to comment on the leadership of other Bishops.

3. In your country an election is about to take place in a couple of days. Archbishop Chaput says Obama is the biggest supporter ever of abortion rights, in a presidential candidate. Should Americans be concerned if he becomes president?

My fellow citizens of the United States of America should be deeply concerned about any candidate for the presidency who supports legislation which permits the destruction of human life at its very beginning, the killing of babies in the womb, or legislation which violates the integrity of marriage and family life. The safeguarding and promoting of human life, from the moment of its inception, and of the integrity of marriage must be the fundamental planks of any political agenda. A good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, and the integrity of marriage. To do otherwise, is to participate, in some way, in the culture of death which pervades the life of the nation and has led to so much violence, even in the home and in educational institutions.

4. In a recent interview you were quoted saying the Democratic Party is fast becoming “the party of death”. Is this a fair statement, when you consider that the Republican administration has become involved in an unpopular war?

It is not my intention to engage in partisan politics. I wish that both of the major political parties in the United States of America were more coherent regarding the right to life. The Democratic Party, however has, over the years, put forth and defended a political agenda which is grievously anti-life, favoring the right to procured abortion and “marriage” between persons of the same sex. One can legitimately question the wisdom of the decisions taken in the war in Iraq, but war in itself is not always and everywhere evil, as are, for example, procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the so-called “marriage” of persons of the same sex. Engagement of the nation in a war cannot be placed on the same moral level as the nation making laws which permit the wholesale killing of the unborn or the artificial generation of human life or experimentation on embryonic human life or “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

5. By emphasizing the issue of abortion, are some of the US bishops taking single issue politics too far, when the world’s economies are in financial meltdown, obviously a product in part of government policies?

Procured abortion is the fundamental moral issue in the safeguarding and fostering of human life. To make economics or the environment the fundamental political issue, when life itself, in its most innocent and defenseless form, remains unprotected is morally irresponsible. Yes, the government of the United States must address a number of critical issues, including the current and most serious economic crisis. But it must address first its duty to promote the common good by defending the life of every human being, from the moment of its inception, and by safeguarding the integrity of marriage and the family.

6. You mentioned Our Lady of Guadalupe in one of your answers. Was the decline in morals as you perceive it, one of the reasons why you approved devotion to Our Lady of America in the archdiocese of St Louis?

The Mother of God, by her apparitions as Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego, fostered, in a dramatic way, the respect for all human life. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe brought an end to the cruel practice of human sacrifice, and brought together into one race the Native American and the Europeans who were on the verge of a bloody conflict. I have been praying fervently, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that the citizens of the United States of America will vote, on November 4th, for the safeguarding of the right to life and of the integrity of marriage.

The devotion to Our Lady of America is distinct from the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe who also has the title of Mother of America. Devotion to Our Lady of America was approved many years ago by the late Archbishop Paul Leibold of Cincinnati, Ohio. Having studied the devotion and noting, in particular, its emphasis on the gift of the divine life of grace in the individual soul, which is reflected, above all, in the practice of the virtue of purity, I encouraged the devotion in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. The new enthusiasm for the devotion to Our Lady of America seems providential to me, for it helps the faithful to fortify themselves against the evils of pornography and other violations of pure and selfless love.

7. You were also very supportive of groups in St Louis, wishing to make use of Summorum Pontificum. With the looser restrictions in the celebration of the Old Mass, is the movement for tradition likely to grow, and what effect is this likely to have on the liturgical reform?

Pope Benedict XVI has made clear his reasons for the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, among which is the enrichment of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite through the celebration of the Extraordinary Form. Such enrichment will be natural, since the Ordinary Form developed organically from what is now the Extraordinary Form. The more that the faithful come to appreciate the Extraordinary Form, the more they will also come to understand the profound reality of every celebration of the Holy Mass, whether in the Extraordinary or Ordinary Form. If I understand the Holy Father correctly, with time, a further reform of the Sacred Liturgy may take place, which more fully draws upon the richness of the Extraordinary Form. The legislation given in Summorum Pontificum, I am convinced, will foster greatly the liturgical reform which was the goal of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.