The St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday featured a Religion News Service article by David Gibson about Cardinal Raymond Burke of St. Louis as "the face of Catholic conservatism" these days. The picture at the top of the posting is from the article. Points the article makes:
1. Burke has a long history of attacking Democratic politicians and threatening Catholic Democratic politicians (e.g., John Kerry) with denial of the Eucharist.
2. For this and other reasons discussed below, he is therefore seen by many folks as the face of the Catholic Republican party.
3. Issuing ecclesiastical threats is something Burke excels at; it's part and parcel of his "pastoral" style: he excommunicated many board members of St. Stanislaus Kotska church when he was archbishop of St. Louis and the church board defied him.
4. In 2009, Burke wanted Sen. Edward Kennedy denied a Catholic funeral.
5. In 2008, Burke said that under President Obama, the Democratic party risks turning itself into "a party of death."
6. After he stirred such controversy in St. Louis that he was promoted to Rome and made a cardinal, he has become a mover and shaker in the Vatican.
7. He is on the Congregation for Bishops and plays a leading role in getting bishops appointed to various sees (and therefore a leading role in shaping the future of the Catholic church). Vatican observers see his hand in the appointment of Chaput to Philadelphia and Cordileone to San Francisco.
8. He's thought to be a key player in the attack on American nuns.
9. He is closely connected to Opus Dei bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who has just been found guilty of criminal charges of having failed to report Father Shawn Ratigan to criminal authorities when Finn knew that Ratigan possessed child pornography.
loves to play dress-up is a leader of the movement to restore arcane liturgical vestments, symbols, and practices in the name of restoring "tradition."
11. Burke is much loved in conservative Catholic circles in the U.S., and seems to have endless funds at his disposal (from what source, one wonders?) to travel back and forth from Rome to the U.S. to stir up the conservative faithful with rallies and speeches.
12. When asked about his zest for engaging in political theatrics, Burke laughs softly and demurs, claiming he's just doing what he needs to do from the position in which he now finds himself.
13. Burke is applauding the similar political theatrics of some of his brother bishops in the U.S. during the 2012 election cycle, as he argues that "the stakes are as high as you can get."
14. He shakes his head and says that he doesn't know "what would happen" if Obama is re-elected.
And so it goes, the saga of American Catholicism, Republican-style if not Jesus-style, A.D. 2012 as the fall elections approach.