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