The Case for Pope Burke
Note: Normally, I wouldn’t write something that could be considered as trying to sway a conclave. Since, however, I can be reasonably certain that the cardinals have better things to do than read my blog posts, I don’t mind sharing my thoughts. Still, there’s a darn good reason, I’m sure, that I’ve not been given the privilege of voting in the conclave.
I’m no Vaticanista, but I watch the news coming from those who are and I can’t help feeling that they’re missing someone. From the moment Pope-Emeritus Benedict announced his abdication, pondering over the papabili commenced. I loved Benedict, but I trusted him to have considered prayerfully such a monumentous decision, and so there was no looking back in my mind. My immediate favorites were those that caught my attention previously. Tagle of the Philippines was youthful and media-savvy. Ouellet of Canada was trusted with great things – the short-list of bishop nominees – and was solidly orthodox. Ranjith of Sri Lanka would continue the great liturgical reforms of his predecessor. All of these names have risen somewhere near the top of the buzz in both the secular and the Catholic media. There was only one left to be mentioned: Cardinal Burke.
I know what you’re thinking: “Cardinal Burke is an American! They’ll never elect an American!” Sure, sure, but right now, there’s a significant increase in buzz – allegedly coming from Italian camps, no less – for Cardinals Dolan and O’Malley, Americans both. Additionally, Cardinal Burke is politically outspoken and not at all the type to serve as apologist America’s domestic and extra-domestic conflicts, nor America’s policy of strong-arming third world countries into accepting post-modern values in exchange for aid.
A quick read of John Allen’s recent article on the criteria in consideration this conclave only confirms my suspicions that he has been unrealistically removed from the list of papabili. Allen includes four categories: governance, pastoral, third world, evangelical.
Granted, Cardinal Burke is not from the third world, regardless of how I may feel about La Crosse, Wisconsin. He has, however, proven himself a capable administrator and he has extensive Vatican-insider experience. His position is essentially Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Church. It would be hard to imagine a man more knowledgeable about the theory and application of canon law or who, with his love of the cappa magna, takes more seriously the glory and dignity of the Church. My dear cardinals, if you’re looking for someone to clean things up at the Vatican, look no further. (I’m also certain he won’t be as disappointing as another certain American Chief Justice I can think of.)
Cardinal Burke is also evangelical. His tenure in St. Louis proved that, just as his consistently strong following of young adults – possibly the most difficult target audience in the Church – also proved. Though I’ve never met the man or heard him speak, I understand from others who have that his preaching of the gospel is excellent, dynamic, and draws the attention of the faithful. He engages the culture firmly but with the love of a shepherd. His following is strong.
Lastly, and my opinion on this is going against the grain, Cardinal Burke is pastoral. Would an unpastoral man have been appointed as the final (non-papal) arbiter of canon law, which has the power to apply excommunications and interdicts? I suppose if you used a very inaccurate use of the word pastoral, then one might argue against him. He does actually enforce the law of the Church. Shepherds – pastores – sometimes have to prod their sheep along with the pointed ends of their staffs. Pastoral means a taking into account of the best way to shepherd an individual and a willingness to leave behind the ninety-nine in order to seek the one lost. It does not mean willful ignorance of an unpleasant situation, that kind of pseudo-pastoralness that got the Church into these recent scandals in the first place.
Those, of course, are my answers to anyone who would oppose Cardinal Burke on the criteria given by Allen. There are other pros for the election of Cardinal Burke. Take, for instance, his effect on vocations or his insistence on integrating faith and life or his experience dealing with the ever-looming bioethics trend in moral theology. Not enough? Consider how the election of Cardinal Burke might put at ease Cardinal Pell, who recently said of Pope Benedict’s Mass at World Youth Day in Sydney, “It was just so silent and there were 400,000 youth up on Sunday morning for Mass. After communion, there was perfect silence and I could hear the birds singing. They were beautiful moments and I hope we don’t lose the momentum that we’ve gained towards the restoration of a proper sense of worship in the liturgy.”
I think Raymond Cardinal Burke fits quite well with the challenges facing the Petrine Ministry. What do you think?