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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Sabrina Arena Ferrisi, Matthew A. Rarey | author
Dec 05, 2011
Filed under Featured

Culture warrior

Cardinal Raymond Burke talks marriage, life, culture and Legatus’ 25th  anniversary Summit

With Legatus’ 25th Anniversary Summit less than two months away, members from across the country and around the world are gearing up for what’s anticipated to be one of the highlights of the organization’s quarter century of existence.

The event’s remarkable lineup of faculty and clergy will focus on this year’s theme — “Living the Fullness of Faith.” Attendees will hear from President George W. Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Legatus’ former national chaplain Fr. George Rutler, and others. EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo returns as the master of ceremonies.

As a preview of the Feb. 2-4 event — to be held at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla. — we bring you an exclusive interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church. American Catholics recognize the former archbishop of St. Louis for his orthodoxy and willingness to confront America’s culture wars head-on. He is the recipient of Legatus’ 2006 Defender of the Faith Award.

The prefect of Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Burke is the second-highest ranking American prelate in the Roman Curia after Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His talk title at the Summit is: The Universal Vocation to Holiness and the New Evangelization.

Tell us about your upbringing.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in a very Catholic home as the youngest of six children. We were certainly encouraged both at home and at school to consider the possibility of a vocation. At an early age, I felt a strong attraction to the priesthood. My family even obtained for me — and this was very common at the time — a little Mass kit for children to play “Mass.” I received that for Christmas one year. Over time the attraction grew stronger.

I started serving Mass in the fourth grade. Over the years, I sensed more and more that God was calling me to the priesthood. I finished the eighth grade and entered the minor seminary of my diocese. I received wonderful help at Holy Cross Seminary in the diocese of La Crosse. Over the years, I was more and more confirmed by those who were in charge of my seminary education. Not that I didn’t consider other calls, but I became convinced that I was being called to be a priest.

You founded a Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin when you were bishop of La Crosse. What was your motivation for that effort?

First of all, it was to provide the diocese with a fitting place for pilgrimage. One of the oldest forms of devotion is pilgrimage. This is also true in the Jewish religion, as our Lord went to Jerusalem with his parents. I chose Our Lady of Guadalupe because of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, which encouraged us to look to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a star in the culture of life. I felt that how she appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 and her image miraculously remained on his tilma, that she would be a model and powerful intercessor to transform society.

Tell us about your relationship with Legatus.

I knew about it when I was bishop of La Crosse.When I arrived in St. Louis there was already a chapter and, of course, I was very involved with it. Legatus helps Catholic leaders in various areas see how their Catholic faith is their guide in whatever endeavor they are involved. It brings good Catholics together to encourage one another and assist one another. And it helps members see how to be more faithful witnesses to the Catholic faith in whatever areas they as individuals are involved.

You’ve been outspoken in defense of true marriage while same-sex “marriage” has become more acceptable in America. Can we win this battle?

Certainly we can win this battle. Christ has brought truth into this world. He promised to remain with us always. We must be confident that that truth will prevail. This means that in the meantime we must witness to the truth. To me the source of confusion in regards to human sexuality goes back to the acceptance of contraception. Once you separate the procreative meaning of human sexuality, you open the door to all kinds of sexual expression that are not true to our nature and not true to our sexuality.

What can the laity do in this struggle?

We have to start at home with parents being formed in the truth about marriage, always open to the gift of life, sure that sexual union is procreative in meaning. There has to be a true gift of self, which includes the gift of fertility.We have to provide sound catechesis for children — that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, that it is enduring, lifelong and procreative. That teaching must be restored. Interference with human sexuality by chemicals to eliminate its procreative nature is a great evil. It cannot be justified.

Latest polls have found that more Americans call themselves pro-life than pro-choice. What’s your take on this?

More and more Americans are recognizing the bankruptcy of the attacks on human life — the unborn, the gravely ill, the elderly, the artificial generation of human life. As Americans are becoming more and more informed about what abortion is, what embryonic stem-cell research is, they are appalled because God has placed a natural moral law in our hearts to safeguard human life. It’s in our nature.

Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae that we must call abortion what it is — the taking of human life. In my dioceses, I have visited many crisis pregnancy centers. I’m told that as soon as women see ultrasounds, the great majority of them choose not to have an abortion. In our culture, there are lots of lies — giving women a “choice” sounds good. But we don’t talk about the fact that that “choice” will destroy a life.

You have also been outspoken against Catholic institutions honoring pro-abortion politicians, but few priests and bishops talk about this.

I think that in latter years there has been a false sense of being pastoral, in the sense that priests and bishops can only talk about positive things. The whole notion about confronting the evils of society — especially those things that have become politically acceptable — became difficult, as if these subjects should not be raised. But the fact of the matter is that if we are true to the Holy Scriptures, priests and bishops have always been sentinels who alert people in their care about the evils that destroy individuals and society. The Gospel confronts people to ask serious questions.

How can a Catholic institution, like a university, forge a stronger identity once it has weakened?

It is fundamentally with the personnel. Make sure that you are hiring individuals who understand the Catholic teachings and are firmly committed to following them. The leadership level, certainly, and the whole staff will strengthen the Catholic identity of an institution. Certainly, if there are documents of the institution that are not in line with Catholic teaching, they must be put in order. Governing documents have to be true to the Catholic faith.

These new universities [in the United States] are wonderful developments. There are new universities, also new hospitals and new Catholic charities. It is my hope that they will lead some of the older, weaker institutions to take on a renewal of their Catholic identity.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.


Silver anniversary summit

President Bush to headline all-star event in February

by Matthew A. Rarey

President George W. Bush

The clock is ticking down to Legatus’ 25th anniversary. And excitement is building as the landmark year kicks off with Legatus’ annual Summit from Feb. 2-4 at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla. Because a capacity crowd of over 500 participants is anticipated, event organizers suggest booking a room as early as possible.

The Summit’s theme, “Living the Fullness of Faith,” takes its inspiration from Christ’s declaration, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The roster of speakers and special guests is impressive. Confirmed faculty include:

President George W. Bush, who wowed Legates at the 2010 Summit

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the main celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a convert to Catholicism

Dr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Fr. George Rutler, Legatus’ former national chaplain and host of EWTN’s Christ in the City

• Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs, Houma-Thibodaux (La.) diocese

J. David Karam, president of Wendy’s International

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services

• EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, master of ceremonies

The 2012 Summit is hosted by the Legatus’ Genesis Chapter, based in Toledo, Ohio. The Summit’s Friday program honoring Legatus founder Tom Monaghan will take place on the campus of Ave Maria University. For more details, visit

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.


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