Raymond Cardinal Burke suffers from what I call the Ratzinger Syndrome. Remember God’s Rottweiler? The scourge of the Catholic Church? The inquisitor? Torquemada! There was no end to the slanders heaped upon Ratzinger’s head. This lasted just as long as he was merely a Cardinal. But when he became Pope Benedict XVI, something happened. Folks realized what a sweet, kind, pastoral man Ratzinger was all along.
Anyone who encounters Cardinal Burke realizes he gets the same treatment. The cold, cruel zealot of Leftist caricature is really a sweet, soft-spoken man, a true father. Even now, some will laugh at this notion. No matter. Those who know him, know him.
In 2004, the first year of our marriage, my wife had three miscarriages. We were from St. Louis; then-Archbishop Burke heard of our plight and invited my wife and me to visit him that Christmas.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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We waited nervously in the parlor of the archbishop’s residence. We did not know why he invited us. He entered the room, told us to kneel. And then he blessed us with a piece of Gianna Beretta Molla’s wedding dress. Gianna Beretta Molla was the Italian medical doctor who forwent medical treatment for a fibroid tumor because she feared treatment would kill her unborn child. She gave birth to a daughter and then died. Quite rightly, Molla has become a patron saint of pregnant mothers and the pro-life movement and there is no end to baby girls now named Gianna. Burke said, “I have done this eight times and it has worked eight times.” He scurried around the house looking for another relic of her wedding dress that we could enthrone in our home while we waited for another baby. He was sad because his last one had already been lent out.
Bear in mind, my wife was 40 years old at the time. Pregnancy was a long shot anyway. What we did not know that day, kneeling before Archbishop Burke, was that Cathy was two weeks along with another pregnancy. Our daughter Lucy, now 16, did not miscarry. She was a Gianna Molla baby. Three years later came our second Gianna Molla baby, whom we named Gianna-Marie. We call her Gigi.
This is Raymond Cardinal Burke. Did you know he quietly travels the world enthroning images of Gianna Beretta Molla in healthcare facilities?
There is the story about the young man who was outraged at the teaching of the Church on the question of homosexuality and who verbally dressed down Archbishop Burke for teaching it. He slammed down various religious articles onto Burke’s desk and stormed out “never to return to the Catholic faith.”
Years later that same young man, no longer homosexual, came back to Burke to apologize. Burke happily welcomed back this prodigal son. He embraced him and then rummaged around in a closet and came up with all the things the young man had left in anger years before. Burke had kept them and had kept praying for the young man’s return to the Church.
This is Cardinal Raymond Burke, a pastor with a heart of gold.
It is true he has tangled with Pope Francis. He has asked hard questions, like: “How it is possible that certain eternal teachings of the Church can change?” He argues that they cannot change.
Some silly leftists have gone so far as to accuse Cardinal Burke of leading a “rad-trad” schism. Again, utter nonsense. He is a loyal son of the Church who has refused even to consider leading such a movement. And, yes, people have asked him to launch an open revolt. They say he does not recognize the Francis papacy, but that is a lie.
It is sad to suspect that Cardinal Burke will likely never get the full Ratzinger treatment as he deserves—that is, the widespread understanding of who he really is. As it is, he lies sedated in a hospital bed fighting COVID. He is on a respirator. Those nearest to him describe his situation as “serious, but stable”.
It is time for all men of good will to set aside all animus and implore the Immaculate Heart of Mary to intercede for this warm-hearted pastor.
You may also ask Gianna Molla for her help. She loves him dearly.
Ask them to save him. He has much more work to do.
[Photo credit: Stephen Driscoll/Catholic News Agency]