Cardinal Raymond BurkePhoto: AP
You have to hand it to Cardinal Raymond Burke – if nothing else, he’s consistent. He used to let HIV wreak havoc on people. Now he wants coronavirus to do the same.
Burke has been one of the fiercest anti-LGBTQ prelates in the Catholic Church. He has called homosexuality an “ailment” and told parents that they should not allow their children to meet same-sex couples. Burke has also been a leader in decrying the use of condoms to prevent HIV. Of course, the Vatican’s refusal to acknowledge condoms can save lives no doubt contributed to the death toll from AIDS.
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That opposition to condoms led to his exile from the Vatican by Pope Francis. Burke had intervened to have the head of a church organization fired for approving the distribution of condoms to prostitutes in Myanmar. Francis used the episode to remove Burke from his powerful post and send him to Guam as punishment.
Given his condom opposition, you might think that Burke simply wanted to consign LGBTQ people to death. But no, he’s an equal opportunity grim reaper. He wants to do the same for pious Catholics.
In a message to his followers this weekend, Burke says people should keep going to church, despite the calls from public health authorities in Italy to avoid groups.
“Just as we are able to purchase food and medicine, while taking care not to spread the coronavirus in the process, so also [sic] we must be able to pray in our churches and chapels, receive the Sacraments, and engage in acts of public prayer and devotion, so that we know God’s closeness to us and remain close to Him, fittingly calling upon His help,” Burke writes.
“Without the help of God, we are indeed lost. Historically, in times of pestilence, the faithful gathered in fervent prayer and took part in processions.”
In fact, Catholic churches across the world are closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Cardinals and bishops have dispensed with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to protect the health of the faithful. The pope himself is televising his weekly messages instead of addressing crowds in Vatican Square.
But for Burke, as with many other conservative Catholic leaders, adherence to principle is more important that saving lives. If some of their followers dies as a result, well, apparently that’s something they can live with.