Today’s find: Princes & paupers

A certain Cardinal is making headlines again, and it has nothing to do with the long-awaited coming of spring training.

When I read the story reporting on Cardinal Raymond Burke’s recent comments about the feminization of the Catholic church, I frankly just shook my head.

I couldn’t quite believe he’d actually said the things he’s quoted as saying. It all seemed a bit bizarre – with more than a touch of misogyny lurking just below the surface:

Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural.

Not trusting that readers were getting the full story from the newswire reports, I went to the website to peruse the transcript in full. The Cardinal had, in fact, been quoted accurately… although the context was a bit different than the news stories had led me to believe. The conversation, in toto, focused less on lobbing broadsides at women, and more on the need to stir up religious fervor in men.

Which, oddly, is a topic on which Cardinal Burke and I tend to agree: Men do need to think more deeply about their relationship with the Lord. Men need to take Jesus seriously, and allow Him to form and shape our lives.

Perhaps that’s why I find Cardinal Burke’s actual words so distressing. I don’t think he could be more wrong in the way he interprets the state of the church today, or in the role he sees for women in that church, our church. And yet, he wears the red hat. He has the authority (and the responsibility) to teach. Not me.

Frankly, it grates a bit to realize that one such as he is in this position. After all, faithful Catholics want to look to their leaders for wisdom, not nostalgia. We want pastors, not prigs. So I think it qualifies as a great mystery when the Holy Spirit sends us churchmen like Cardinal Burke to guide (at least portions of) the flock.

I’ve been wrestling with that mystery a bit this week, as the mini-tempest rages around Cardinal Burke’s latest set of ill-considered comments. I don’t hold out much hope of ever meeting the man face-to-face…so that perhaps I’d get the chance to propose to him an alternative point-of-view. Nor do I see much point in railing against the absurdity of his well-publicized positions. More often than not, his words tend to implode of their own weight.

So what’s a faithful Catholic to do?

What would Jesus do?

We have at least one example in scripture.

But [Jesus] did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Even the Lord, it seems, was subject to ill-used or misplaced authority at times during his life on earth.

So perhaps the lesson is this: It is not in the power of princes – but in the humble submission of the pauper – that we ultimately find the path to holiness.


Like a Lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth...

Like a Lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth…



Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.



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8 thoughts on “Today’s find: Princes & paupers

  1. Fran Butler

    Dear John, Pope Francis agrees with your acessment of C. Burke. He demoted him from the head of the churches’ supreme court to now the chaplain of the Knights of Malta. Keep writing John, pope Francis is listening. Brother Fran Butler

    • Ha…I’d love to think that Pope Francis has access to my blog, Fran. That’d be a hoot! In any event, I appreciate YOUR faithful readership…and I’ll keep writing, for better or worse! 🙂

  2. Joe Vilmain

    I read the interview today John and while I do believe the intention is to create a focus on the lack of attention men seem to display or feel as related to their engagement with Christ and the Church, I find the references to, “…radical feminism, an assault on the Church, the in-equality of women, the ‘slipshod’ celebration of Mass,” all to be terms that I hope implode on themselves as you suggest. I tried to read the interview and set aside the references to feminism to see if I could find His Eminence in touch with the rest of the “male” church and beyond his commentary about the in-balance in the our family life today, which he has portrayed pretty well, I just find myself having a difficult time opening up my mind to freely observe his thoughts. Like you it’s doubtful that I’ll ever have an opportunity to dialogue with him directly so I’m no doubt better off just keeping myself in a prayerful way and reminding myself that I have much work to do. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, as you know I look to you for a great deal of spiritual direction.

  3. And this, via email, from a friend…

    Perhaps a gift in the distress is an invitation and an opportunity to open deeper and fuller the God-call and God perspective that all: children, women and men are radiant with God within…the God who makes a home in each…

    How big is my/our tent?


    • To which I say, ‘Amen’…and I believe there are always such gifts in our / my distress. Sometimes it takes some distance to appreciate them, though…

  4. Lisa Simmons

    I can understand we ALL need a call to become more prayerful, more serving in the Church. As a woman I try to fight the feelings of hurt when I hear such comments especially coming from clergy. I have experienced first hand both that insensitivity in my own diocese but also welcoming from priests too as I help in our parish. I have found it’s not so much the “Church’s” stance on women, but our own humanness that get in the way. Because the Church is made up of us humans, it’s an individual man’s attitude that makes me feel welcome and helpful or not. I have felt that welcome or not welcome attitude not only in our Church but in other parts of society too, so we shouldn’t single the Church out.
    I have always taken comfort in knowing that throughout our Church’s history there are stories of the women who helped Jesus- the Blessed Mother, Martha, Mary, Magdalene and they were welcome by some of the apostles and not by others. It wasn’t the “Church” doing that, it was human nature.
    The truly hard part is to remember that when people in authority, whether it’s clergy or government, speak something derogatory about women’s roles to remember it’s just that person and not necessarily what they represent. We all mess up on the human scale and say things we should not. To imitate Jesus when he was being insulted and questioned and opened not His mouth is what we are called to do. We don’t always get it right, but we have to keep trying.
    Thank you for your encouragement John!

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