Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, American cardinal prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and a leader of it’s conservative wing says The Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing “possibly the worst crisis that it’s ever experienced,” in regard to the uncovering of rampant sex abuse scandals throughout the church that have spanned decades.
In an interview with Thomas McKenna, reporter with Catholic Action For Faith and Family, Burke was asked what he felt was the root cause of the corruption surrounding the extensive homosexuality among clergy in seminaries and diocese across the country. Burke explained that the studies that followed the 2002 sexual abuse crisis found that most of the abuse was from homosexual acts that were committed with adolescent boys and that there was a solid attempt to overlook or deny the results. “I believe that there needs to be an open recognition that we have a very grave problem of a homosexual culture in the Church, especially among the clergy and the hierarchy, that needs to be addressed honestly and efficaciously.,” Burke stated.
When Burke was asked about steps that needed to be taken to resolve the clear crisis, Burke said that what is needed is simply an honest investigation, followed by “effective action to sanction those responsible” and to practice vigilance if it were to happen again in the future. He added that the responsibility to discipline these situations was that of the Roman Pontiff, the Holy Father, and that he is the one that should be taking actions following those given in the Church’s discipline.
Just last week, Big League Politics reported Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report that named over 300 “predator priests” accused of the sexual abuse of over 1,000 child victims over the course of 70 years. When Cardinal Burke was asked for his thoughts on the report by Raymond Arroyo with EWTN News, he said the grand jury report “needs to be studied carefully, but it would seem to indicate too, that there was a …failure on [the] part of certain bishops.”
“It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to think that other prelates didn’t know about” McCarrick’s pederasty, Burke said.
When American Catholics spoke to Burke about the anger they felt over the scandals with him, he said he understood and considered their feelings to be justified. “It was justified,” he said. “They were expressing my own sentiments. We are in the face of a very grave crisis which is touching at the very heart of the Church because Our Lord acts on behalf of the flock through those shepherds who are ordained to act in His person, teaching, celebrating the sacraments, and governing the Church. There is a serious loss of confidence in our shepherds and that simply has to be restored if we’re true to our Catholic faith. To restore that is to get to the bottom of this whole matter.”
The Pennsylvania report was released on the heels of revelations that former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Theodore McCarrick had abused and sexually harassed seminarians and priests over decades, as well as revelations that he sexually abused children, including the first child he ever baptized.
When Arroyo asked Burke about the Vatican’s silence on McCarrick specifically, and the grand jury report, he responded, “The faithful, and rightly so, are looking to hear from the shepherd of the universal church, the pope, and also from their own bishops.”
Arroyo then asked Burke for his thoughts on the recent comments from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and former bishop of Pittsburgh, who is now facing demands to resign after his name appeared over 200 times in the grand jury report.
“I don’t think this is some massive, massive crisis,” Wuerl said regarding the McCarrick scandal. “It was a terrible disappointment.”
“Let’s be honest: we’re dealing here with the gravest of sins and ecclesiastical crimes,” Burke responded.
“We have to focus our attention on that and on doing what is just with regard to all parties involved and for [a] bishop [like McCarrick] who has failed grievously in this area, the Church’s penal remedies…are for his good also,” he continued. “For the bishop to prey upon the flock in…committing mortal sins – this is simply unacceptable.”
The 884-page Pennsylvania grand jury report only addresses priests abusing minors, but with the McCarrick scandal front and center, new questions regarding a homosexual network in a Honduras seminary have also highlighted the issue of priests who prey on adult men.
“Our Lady warned us at Fatima about an apostasy from the faith,” Burke told Arroyo. “I believe there’s been a practical apostasy from the faith with regard to all the questions involving human sexuality and principally, it starts with the idea that there can be legitimate sexual activity outside of marriage, which of course is false, completely false.”
“This perversion of sexual mores which is so pervasive in society – we have to admit that it’s also in the Church,” he said somberly. “I’ve seen people suggesting…that now Church discipline doesn’t regard consensual activity between adults as crimes – with persons of the same sex – this is completely false. The Church has always taught… that this is among the gravest of sins a cleric could commit and normally led to his reduction from clerical state.”
“I believe that we need to return to the more explicit and detailed language” of the 1917 Code of Canon Law on predator priests, Burke told Arroyo. “I don’t believe that the 1983 Code intended to change the discipline or to be more relaxed about it, but I think that the language is not adequate.”
The 1917 Code of Canon Law guarantees strict punishment for clerics that have “committed acts of impurity with persons under sixteen years of age, adultery, attack on women, bestiality, sodomy, bawdry, incest with blood relations or relations by marriage in the first degree.”
“They are to be suspended, punished with infamy of law, and deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, and in more serious cases they are to be deposed,” it states.
The Code of Canon Law was updated in 1983 and states: “A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”
Cardinal Burke said in cases where priests have sex with other adults they “should certainly be removed from office,” provided such accusations “have been carefully investigated and a proper canonical process has been conducted.”
Toward the end of the interview with Arroyo, Burke said, “The devil is very active” right now and that fasting, prayer and “serious acts of reparation” are necessary.
“The sacred liturgy needs to be offered in these times with the greatest sense of the presence of God in our midst and calling upon his help with the greatest seriousness,” he said.
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