Archbishop Raymond Burke, the former steward of the St Louis Archdiocese, flew to Washington to join old friends at the sixth annual Republican Catholic Prayer Breakfast. This event, which was begun by several major fundraisers for the Bush Catholic Outreach effort, was organized again this year by the engineers of the unsuccessful McCain Campaign Catholic effort.
Archbishop Burke did not disappoint his fellow partisans. He spent virtually his whole speech condemning the Democrats, and one in particular. He condemned the University of Notre Dame for continuing its tradition of inviting the President of the United States to speak at their commencement. His remarks were lacking in subtlety, raising up his own brand of Catholicism over that of the majority of Catholics who voted for President Obama. Alluding to Notre Dame, he said the university was "not worthy of the name Catholic."
He condemned same-sex marriage as a threat to family life, but neglected to cite any of the more pressing issues that undermine the viability of the family--such as the closing of Catholic church communities, the barriers to the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children, and the current rapidly expanding unemployment around the world.
His remarks had some embarrassing moments. He stated incorrectly that a set of healthcare rules implemented in the last month of the Bush Administration would compel physicians to perform abortions. He said, "Those in power propose to force physicians and other healthcare professionals--in other words, those with a particular responsibility to protect and foster human life--to participate, contrary to what their conscience requires, in the destruction of unborn human lives, from the first or embryonic stage of development to the moment of birth." Conscience protections have been a matter of US law since the early 1970s, and no one has proposed reversing any of the three major legal structures governing conscience in healthcare.
He also stated that Catholic Hospitals might be compelled to close their doors under new regulations being considered by the current administration. The head of the Catholic Hospital Association has said unequivocally that such exaggeration is wrong and unhelpful.
He stated incorrectly that reversal of the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy would result in US funding of abortions abroad. He spoke twice about a "culture of death," but he made no mention of President Obama's efforts to stop the Iraq War, or the trend away from executions in the US, or the economy that is hurting so many families. He said nothing about the stagnation of abortion rates under President Bush, after a decade of significant progress under President Clinton.
In other words, his speech to a group of Republicans was exactly what the audience was looking for: a condemnation of our President that led the critics to believe that the Church supports the Republican Party. This line of reasoning carried on the previous work of other bishops with Republican sympathies who have spoken critically of the Democrats at this political event in previous years--specifically the bishops of Denver and Kansas City KS.
As intelligent as Archbishop Burke clearly is, he showed no awareness of how severely he has damaged the Church through his longstanding efforts to turn American Catholics against one another. He showed no understanding of the ways he has denigrated the central Sacrament of Catholic life by turning the Eucharist into a political football to be batted around by which ever political party happens to have his favor.
Archbishop Burke is now the prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature at the Vatican. His prominent appearance at a Republican political event like this is akin to someone like Justice Antonin Scalia violating his judical neutrality by attending a major political convention in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly, Justice Scalia was himself also in attendance.