Is the Vatican declaring war on U.S. secularism?
In a CNS interview in which he reflected upon his first year on the job as the Prefect oft he Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Burke said he could envision a time when the Catholic Church in the United States “even by announcing her own teaching” will be accused of “engaging in illegal activity, for instance, in its teaching on human sexuality.”
Cardinal Burke declared “it is a war” and “critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural moral law.” If they do not, Burke warned, “secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us.”
Perhaps a bit of scarlet hyperbole…after all, Christ did promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). But, the point the Cardinal is making is absolutely correct. Secularization is well on its way to cementing its place as one of, if not the most dominant belief systems in the United States.
Could Cardinal Burke envision Catholics being arrested for their faith?
Cardinal Burke was emphatic: “I can see it happening, yes.”
This observation may not be the stuff of scarlet hyperbole. After all, when Catholic moral teaching is brought into the public square, the critique of the prevailing Zeitgeist oftentimes is belittled as antiquated, if not ignorant. Not quite the stuff of arrest, imprisonment, and torture. But, certainly the stuff of marginalization that in retrospect was a precursor to persecution.
Cardinal Burke also minced no words when it came to self-professed Catholic politicians who oppose the Church on key moral issues, among them U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is seeking to regulate most of the country’s employers, including Catholic institutions, to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion in employee health plans. The Cardinal said:
To the degree to which (Sebelius) proclaims herself to be a practicing Catholic, she is very wrong….[It is] simply incomprehensible [for Catholics to] support the kind of measures that she is supporting.
While Cardinal Burke appears to be speaking for himself, that actually may not be the case.
Later in the week, Pope Benedict XVI issued similar warnings to the bishops from the U.S. northeast during their 10-day, ad limina visit. According to a CNS article, Benedict XVI said:
…the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers.
Sounding much like Cardinal Burke, Pope Benedict urged the bishops to speak out in defense of Catholic moral teaching:
Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the
troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its
roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts.
The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.
It may very well be the case that the Vatican is coordinating its offices to send a very clear message to the U.S. Catholic Church: “The cafeteria is closed. It’s time to articulate the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church in the public square.”
This is the New Evangelization and there may be a big price that Catholics may have to pay for it, if Cardinal Burke is correct.
Let the discussion begin…
To read the CNS interview of Cardinal Burke, click on the following link:
To read the CNS article about Pope Benedict’s remarks during the ad limina visit, click on the following link: