In esclusiva per il giornale O Clarim, in inglese, il maestro Aurelio Porfiri ha intervistato il cardinale americano Raymond Leo Burke. Di seguito il testo:
One of the most prominent Cardinals in today’s Church is Cardinal
Raymond Leo Burke. He was bishop of Lacrosse and Saint Louis, in the
United States. It was Pope Benedict who called him to Rome to serve in
the curia. Today he still resides in the Eternal City, serving the
Church in different ways.
He has published a book called Hope for the World. To Unite All Things in Christ,
a long interview (published originally in French) with Guillaume
D’Alançon (2016 Ignatius Press). It is a very interesting read, where
the Cardinal tells the story of his life, but also address some very
important and cogent issues for the life of the Church: “We must return
to our roots, to the foundations of our being, and therefore to
metaphysics. It is good to go back and reﬂect again on the meaning of
existence, of family life, of life in society and in the world. The
human mind needs a realist philosophy to serve as a basis for its
understanding of the mysteries of the faith. God alone is the goal of
our quest, and everything must lead to Him. Contemporary man will
recover from the current situation only with this theocentric
perspective. And to arrive at this perspective, we must get rid of all
the forms of narcissistic individualism that come from the secularized
world. A life that is fruitful, renewed, and converted can be sustained
only by the Sacred Liturgy, celebrated with dignity, for it offers us
the riches of centuries of Church life.”
For many, the crisis in the life of the Church is principally a crisis of the liturgy. What do you think about the situation?
I am convinced of it, because as we know the liturgy is the highest
and most perfect expression of our life in Christ and in the Church.
Because of the liturgical crisis we have suffered after the Council,
there has also been a doctrinal crisis and a disciplinary crisis, but I
believe that the restoration of liturgical life will also involve a
reform, a full adherence to the doctrine of the Church, and at the same
time, a moral life that is more deeply Christian.
What aspect of the liturgy, according to you, is in greatest crisis?
For me the aspect most in crisis is sacrality itself, the
transcendence of the liturgical act, the encounter of heaven and earth
and the action of Christ himself, through the priest who offers the
Eucharistic Sacrifice. That has been cast into doubt after the Council
by anthropocentrism, a concept of the liturgy not as a gift of God to
us, which we must respect and honor, but as a creation (or invention) of
our own. And so all these harmful experiments that we suffer have
entered into the liturgy, along with a very worldly vision of the
liturgical action, a secular vision that is antithetical to the liturgy
and extremely harmful.
I’d like to ask: what is your opinion about liturgical music, which is also going through a terrible crisis?
In a certain sense, perhaps, the crisis has manifested itself more
strongly—at least with regard to the English-speaking world—in the
domain of sacred music, because very quickly after the Council Gregorian
Chant was abandoned, the music proper to the Church, and also the
organ, which as the same Council says is the instrument most adapted to
divine worship. Secular songs were introduced with texts that were not
doctrinally sound, and in some cases containing error: a worldly form of
secular music that—as St Pius X taught (Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini)—excites
the emotions but does not elevate the soul to offer true worship to
God. I see that in the English-speaking world there are strong movements
developing to restore sacred music: this is so necessary, because the
situation in the last decades has become steadily worse.
You are often labeled as a “traditionalist cardinal.” What do you think about this label?
I am very content to be recognized as a traditionalist because our
faith reaches us through Tradition, in the sense that the faith is
transmitted to us by means of the Apostolic Ministry in an uninterrupted
line that reaches back to the Apostles. For that reason I am delighted
to be called a traditionalist, because I hope I am able to serve
Tradition in my thought and in my priestly ministry. Tradition is Christ
Himself. He comes to us through Tradition, as Pope Saint John Paul II
said so beautifully in the letter written after the Great Jubilee of the
Year 2000, Novo Millennio Ineunte.
More and more, I notice in the Church the tendency to identify people
with labels, supposing that She is composed of various factions in
conflict with one another. But this is not the Catholic Church: we have
one faith, one sacramental life, and one governance. I don’t like these
labels and don’t want to be part of such an opposition, which has
nothing at all to do with the Church, in which we are now experiencing a
great confusion. The fruit of this confusion is precisely such
Many writers—even those considered progressive—say they are
inspired by the “true tradition.” If you had to define Tradition, what
would you say?
Tradition is the doctrine defined in the chief magisterial texts of
the Church, the Sacred Liturgy just as it has been transmitted to us
from the time of Our Lord and the Apostles. They constitute the
uninterrupted discipline of the Church. It is possible to serve
Tradition only through obedience, obedience to that which has been
transmitted to us. Many people say that they are serving Tradition in
the “spirit of the tradition”: this is a false reading of the
magisterial texts, a false interpretation of the Sacred Liturgy, meant
to pander to contemporary ideas that are in contrast with the Sacred
Liturgy and the practice of the faith.
In your experience and opinion, who are the Catholic intellectuals that every Catholic ought to read?
There are many authors today who are exemplary. For example, I find
that two newspapers in Italy are very strong: the first is a blog, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, with its director Riccardo Cascioli, a faithful representative of the Church, and Il Timone, which I highly esteem, along with its founder Gianpaolo Barra.
In America, there is a weekly called The Catholic Register,
with an Englishman named Edward Pentin, a very faithful and profound
writer. Then there are the authors of the past: Chesterton, Newman,
Columba Marmion, Guéranger…. in the domain of Gregorian Chant there is
all the work done by the Abbey of Solesmes. Regarding the Sacred
Liturgy, there is The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.
Many have observed that the United States had a significant
role in the past century that we are rediscovering once more today. This
is true in the Catholic Church and in many other areas. What do you
Yes, unfortunately there has been a frightening decline of Christian
culture in my country. I grew up during the ‘50s, when American society
was marked by a Christian character, mostly Protestant but nevertheless
faithful to the Christian identity. In those times, we knew about things
that have become common today: the reality of abortion, of people who
manifest homosexual tendencies, whose personal dignity we always
respected, but we were formed to see these acts as absolutely
unacceptable, against the nature that God had created for us.
However, in recent decades my country has moved in the direction of a
rampant secularism. Now, every year in America, more than a million
children are killed in the womb, the practice of recognizing unions
between two people of the same sex as marital unions has been imposed,
and an attack has been mounted on religious liberty: the
government—which has become a very powerful agent of this
secularism—forbids the Catholic Church and Catholics from following
their conscience regarding the practice of abortion. The Church herself
must accept what are considered homosexual ‘marriages’.
In a flight interview, after the umpteenth question about
homosexuals, the Holy Father said that we obviously must not
discriminate and we have to ask forgiveness from these people for the
way they are treated…
I haven’t read the Pope’s text. What I can say is that this year I
turned 69, and I have spent my whole life in the Catholic Church. I have
never encountered discrimination against people who suffer from the
homosexual condition. We know that we are dealing with an abnormal
condition: God has not created us to have sexual relations with people
of the same sex. This is not a discrimination against persons. It is to
affirm the truth of Christ, the truth of our faith.
I must say sincerely, even though I haven’t read the words of the
Pope, that I don’t see why the Church ought to ask forgiveness for
teaching the truth about sex and sexuality. Rather, during my priesthood
of more than 42 years, I have always found priests very compassionate
in meetings with people who have had this difficulty and have suffered
from this condition.
I would like to speak with you about Benedict XVI. At the time of his resignation, what did you feel?
It was an action that took me by surprise. It is clear that Pope
Benedict has reached a certain age, but certainly he was in full
possession of his faculties. Someone said that “he was not longer able
to travel or bear many audiences.” But I ask myself: who says that the
pope has to travel or that he has to receive so many people? I think it
is necessary to re-examine the substance of the Petrine office. I would
also say that it was not a good thing for the Church to lose its
universal shepherd: there is a certain feeling among many Catholics that
their father abandoned them. I hope it does not become a common
Isn’t the pope’s traveling and seeing so many people
something inherited from the times of John Paul II, and perhaps also
Paul VI? Maybe these popes have introduced a new way of understanding
the office of the Supreme Pontiff, which is not so essential?
Certainly Pope Paul VI began to travel a bit, just as he began to
grant these interviews, for example the ones he gave to Jean Guitton, a
French author. Pope John Paul II wanted to face the crisis of the Church
with a new evangelization; that is why he traveled so often. But this
not part of the Petrine ministry per se, whose mission is to safeguard
the unity and the practice of the faith, and especially the liturgy.
Don’t you think that Benedict XVI, who saw the final years of
John Paul II—we all remember him being very sick in his last
years—feared to repeat these things?
It is naturally a fear. If I’m not mistaken, Pius XII was concerned
about this matter. But it can happen to any pope, because a pope does
not know how long he will have possession of his full faculties. But we
must trust ourselves to our Lord and to the Church, which has the means
to confront the situation of a pope who truly is no longer capable.
I have spoken with many journalists and personalities about
Benedict XVI and I have discovered that even those most favorable to him
have made the following observation, about which I’d like your comment:
a great thinker, a great theologian, but not a great leader when it
came to the government of the Church. What do you think?
He is certainly an extraordinary teacher of the faith. And he had a
way of writing and speaking in a manner accessible to everyone. He also
had a great charisma: he communicated a great paternity in individual
encounters and also in groups. One thing we can say is that he did not
want to be pope, not because he did not want to teach, because he was a
great teacher even before he rose to the papal office, but in my
opinion, from my limited point of view, the government of the Church,
which isn’t easy for anyone, posed a tremendous challenge for him. So,
he left it to others to attend to these things and there are some who
did not serve him well.
You often celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the
Roman Rite. May I ask you how you became close to this form, considering
that there are so many bishops and cardinals who oppose this return to
the pre-conciliar forms?
For me it is a way to remain strongly anchored in Tradition, because
the Mass that we have celebrated since 1962 is more or less the Mass we
have received from the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In my
view—and Benedict XVI has written very well about this—there can be no
opposition between the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form. I
believe that it is important to keep alive the so-called Extraordinary
Form of the Mass to maintain a stronger link with Tradition. I also
celebrate many Holy Masses in the Ordinary Form, and it is not a problem
for me, but I adhere strongly to the vision that Benedict XVI expressed
in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. I think that it is a very good thing for the Church to celebrate the Rite of the Mass in its two forms.
Yet many people say with respect to the Extraordinary Form
that they have a problem regarding the use of Latin. They say that they
don’t understand Latin, that it is a dead language. What do you think of
First of all, Latin is not a dead language. It is the living language
of the Church. We have to restore education in the Latin language, in
the seminaries, in schools. In fact, today there is a great interest in
Latin especially among young people. Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, who
works now in the Latin section of the Secretariat of State, has a summer
course in Latin that is always full. Many would like to participate,
but cannot because often there are not enough places. We have always had
missals, handbooks, and they permit us to follow the Mass in Latin. The
Mass in Latin has never posed a problem for me, even when I was a boy. I
understood that this language is a sacred language, spanning the
centuries through its use in the Sacred Liturgy. Also, I remember very
well the people who used to visit my family’s house when I was a boy,
who told us about going to foreign countries, where they went to Mass,
to the same Mass we did. This is a very important thing.
In the last few months, there has been much talk about the
Vatican’s relations with China. How do you see the situation of
relations between the Catholic Church and this very strategic country?
I’m convinced that China is a very important and strategic country
that has suffered long years of the communist ideology. China needs a
constant evangelization. We know that in China there are many Catholic
faithful and even great figures. I would say that we need to continue to
dialogue with the Chinese government to vindicate as much as possible
the right of the Church to evangelize and to carry out its mission
normally, as in any other nation. So it is good to go to the Chinese
government, but always insisting upon the integrity of Catholic practice
and of the faith. I thought that the letter of Benedict XVI to the
Chinese Catholics was very opportune. It is difficult: we need courage
«Nel mondo di oggi c'è grande sete di Cristo e della libertà che Egli solo ci offre. Nelle case cattoliche e nella parrocchia i nostri fratelli devono trovare le fonti di acqua viva, le fonti di grazia divina, le fonti del Magistero della Chiesa e dei Sacramenti, specialmente, la Penitenza e la Sacra Eucaristia, che possono estinguere la sete spirituale di un mondo tristemente secolarizzato» (Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke, 26 Dicembre 2010)