Tag Archives: clergy crisis

Brian Burch – 2018 Defender of the Faith

Co-founder of catholicvote.org helps Catholics apply faith to public issues

As the President of CatholicVote.org and a married father to nine children, the youngest being a three-month-old, Brian Burch doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

“Life goes by too quickly. Thankfully as Catholics, we believe there is something after this. Otherwise, it would be very odd,” said Burch, 43, who in 2008 cofounded CatholicVote.org, a nonprofit aimed at presenting a Catholic voice and perspective in the public square.

Burch is also a member of Legatus’ DuPage County Chapter in Illinois. In that capacity, Burch received the 2018 Defender of the Faith Award at the Legatus Summit in January. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you feel about being named the 2018 Legatus Defender of the Faith?

I felt both honored and undeserving at the same time, given the caliber and prestige of many of the past recipients. But certainly, I’m grateful for the recognition of the work that, not myself on my own, Catholic Vote has accomplished over the last decade in trying to serve the Church and to help Catholics better understand and apply the teachings of our faith to American public life.

What is CatholicVote.org’s mission?

It’s in the world of public policy and law, which incorporates elections and the virtue of prudence, which is often misunderstood. This is why it’s important that lay people carry out this work. The Church doesn’t have specific blackand-white answers on every political question. It involves certain principles that must be faithfully applied to the greatest extent possible by people of good will seeking the common good.

How would you describe CatholicVote.org’s work in the last ten years?

The longer you are involved in politics, the more you grow to be chastened a bit by the reality of how difficult and how cyclical things sometimes seem to be. At the same time, the fact that the Church, in spite of its extraordinary mistakes and lack of courageous leadership on the part of some, remains a critical and viable voice in the public culture and in the public debate on issues of perennial importance is a testament not necessarily to the work we do, but to the triumph of the truth despite our human condition.

What are some issues you see playing a critical role for Catholic voters in the 2020 elections?

There’s the basket of issues that apply to any election that involves what the Church calls the foundational issues. In any serious moral culture and in an American context, that includes the sanctity of life, the continued efforts to protect the autonomy of religious institutions and persons of conscience, and certainly protections for the traditional understanding of the family.

Of course those issues extend to all sorts of other issues that involve prudence, such as the good of the economy. Increasingly health care will be a prominent issue driving the debate. Immigration will certainly be there. Federal judges have also been cited as an important issue for Catholics.

Mixed up in all those particular policy debates is also the question of what kind of country we hope to become. I think that debate in many ways is playing out in the minds of many Catholics today when they hear some proposals, particularly on the Left, to revolutionize the way we understand our economy, protect the environment, provide medicine, while throwing into doubt the ideas of gender, the family, of traditional institutions such as churches and the role of religion itself.

When did you join Legatus? Has it benefited your spiritual life?

I’ve been a member for about two years. To have an opportunity to pray the rosary, go to Mass, to hear from a fantastic speaker is itself a gift, but the caliber of speakers and the relationships we’ve established with the members of our chapter have really been a wonderful aid in living out our faith in the midst of the chaos of this world.

His Excellency Bishop Edward Scharfenberger – Diocese of Albany

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York is dealing with the fallout of the state legislature’s approval earlier this year of the Reproductive Health Act, a law that increases access to abortion, including those of late-term pregnancy

Bishop Scharfenberger, the chaplain of the soon-tobe-chartered Albany Chapter of Legatus, said he is considering all options available to him in Church law to sanction Catholic politicians who supported the law, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Speaking to Legatus magazine in mid-February, Bishop Scharfengerger also discussed his hopes concerning the Vatican summit on the international clergy sex abuse crisis, which was held Feb. 21- 24 in Rome.

How big a setback to the protection of life is the Reproductive Health Act?

The point I’ve been trying to make publicly is that this is far more than a Catholic issue. People see the protection of life in its most vulnerable form as something so essential to the foundation of any civilized society. We warned of the consequences of this act, and people are already beginning to see them. I think it’s a marvel to see the law being exposed so quickly for what it really is.

Are you considering sanctioning Catholic politicians who supported that law, including Gov. Cuomo?

I don’t discuss publicly the way I am dealing with the politicians on a personal basis. The reason I don’t is because my concern is to actually change their hearts and to move them so they see the gravity of what they are involved in.

As far as any sanctions, I have left all doors open. I have not said I would exclude any sanction whatsoever, but before imposing any sanction I need to identify what the crime is, for which a sanction would be given. I know it’s my responsibility to make that investigation. You can be sure I’m doing what I need to do, and what I feel both the law and my conscience direct me to do. I’ll follow where the facts play out, and then I’ll decide accordingly as time goes on.

What are your hopes for the abuse summit in Rome?

Naturally, I would hope that out of the summit, some of the very positive suggestions that have been advanced from our part of the world and others to establish the proper codes of accountability are considered. There has to be accountability. The hope of the bishops conference certainly would be all of the bishops consenting and the Holy See approving, that those codes would be developed in all dioceses. I’m doing that anyway. I haven’t waited for the conference or the meeting at the Vatican to determine that.

If nothing else, I hope what comes out of the meeting is a clear awareness and statement or some form of public accountability by the Holy See that this is an international problem. To put it another way, the protection of young people and vulnerable adults is something that must be part of our law. There need to be clear procedures as to how we do this and clear expectations as to what codes of behavior need to be followed.

What do the bishops need to do to rebuild the trust of the faithful?

The only trust we have is in preaching and living the Gospel, the truth of the presence of Christ, which includes the sinfulness of humanity, our own weaknesses, our own failures and our need to turn to the only one who can save us from them, which is Jesus Christ.

We recognize that people in power, including bishops, are not always the most morally outstanding people. Bishops must be held to higher standards, certainly in terms of virtue, but their ability and their obligation to fulfill their office does not change by the status of their own holiness. You could go to a priest who is the town drunk and he can still absolve you of your sin.