Raymond Leo Burke (born June 30, 1948) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He is currently Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and President of the Commission for Advocates since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on June 27, 2008, having previously served as Archbishop of Saint Louis and Bishop of La Crosse. Archbishop Burke is considered one of the more orthodox and outspoken conservative bishops within the Catholic Church.
Raymond Leo Burke was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin
, the youngest of the six children of Thomas (d. July 21, 1956) and Marie (d. February 29, 1996) Burke. Baptized
on the following July 11, he received his first Communion
on May 13, 1956. The family later moved to Stratford
, where Burke was confirmed
by Bishop John P. Treacy
on April 5, 1962. From 1962 to 1968 he attended the Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse, Wisconsin. From 1968 to 1971 Burke studied at The Catholic University of America
in Washington, D.C.
, where he is now a member of the Board of Trustees
. He then completed his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University
from 1971 to 1975. Pope Paul VI ordained
Burke to the priesthood
on June 29, 1975, at Saint Peter's Basilica
After his ordination to the priesthood, he was first assigned as assistant rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman
in La Crosse, Wisconsin
. He also taught religion at Aquinas High School
in La Crosse, where a new addition built in 1996–1997, the Bishop Burke Hall, was named in his honor. From 1980 to 1984, Burke studied canon law
at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his licentiate
. He then returned to La Crosse and was named the Moderator of the Curia as well as the Vice Chancellor of the La Crosse Diocese. In 1989, Pope John Paul II
assigned Burke to be the first American Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
, the highest judicial court in the Catholic Church.
On December 10, 1994, Pope John Paul II named Burke Bishop of La Crosse, consecrating him to the episcopate on January 6, 1995 in St. Peter's Basilica. Bishop Burke took possession of the See of La Crosse on February 22, 1995. During his time in La Crosse, he founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 2000, Bishop Burke convened the fifth diocesan synod for the Diocese of La Crosse. Synod V, Acts: celebrated June 11-14, 2000/ Diocese of La Crosse, published by the Diocese of La Crosse, (circa 2003) were the documents of the fifth diocesan synod that were published. In 2002, Bishop Burke was influential in founding the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, an order of Augustinian canons dedicated to the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy.
He served as the Bishop of La Crosse until December 2, 2003, when he was named as successor to Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, who had been appointed to be the Archbishop of Philadelphia. He was formally installed on January 26, 2004. Not long thereafter, Burke was presented with the pallium on June 29, 2004 by Pope John Paul II. In St. Louis, Burke has given particular emphasis to the promotion of vocations to the ministerial priesthood; he also publishes a column in the archdiocesan weekly newspaper, the Saint Louis Review. In both La Crosse and St. Louis, Burke has established oratories for those who attend the Tridentine Rite. He has invited traditionalist Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest into his dioceses and has ordained priests for the group both in the US and abroad. His ordination of two traditionalist priests on June 15, 2007, was the first time in 40 years that the Tridentine rite of ordination had been used in the cathedral. In July 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke to be a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court in the Catholic Church. He issued a statement, in line with Catholic moral precepts, opposing embryonic stem cell research when an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that allows it was narrowly passed by voters there.
On June 25, 2007, Burke accompanied Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, on a trip to Rome, where the prelates reviewed Pope Benedict's impending motu proprio Summorum Pontificum granting greater freedom for the use of the Tridentine Rite .
During his tenure as Bishop of La Crosse, Burke was inspired to construct a shrine near La Crosse on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. As part of the Shrine, the spacious church, designed in the Renaissance style, was dedicated on July 31, 2008. The archbishop has also installed a prominent shrine to the Sacred Heart in the diocesan cathedral, reflecting his desire to foster the sacred arts and to encourage spiritual devotions which have long been characteristic of Catholicism.
On May 6, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI named Burke to two Vatican offices, increasing Burke's already prominent stature in Rome. Burke was named to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which interprets canon, or church, law and also assigned to the Congregation for the Clergy, which regulates the formation and training of diocesan priests and deacons.
The Congregation for the Clergy is one of nine congregations in the Roman Curia, as the church government is known. The Council for Legislative Texts is one of 11 pontifical councils in the Curia.
Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
On June 27, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishiop Burke to serve as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura succeeding Cardinal Agostino Vallini
, who on the same day became Vicar-General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome
. He is the first non-European named to head the tribunal within the Roman Curia
. The Signatura deals with three main areas; conflicts between two or more Vatican offices; appeals against decisions by diocesan bishops and Vatican offices; and appeals against decisions by the Roman Rota
. St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann
was elected diocesan administrator (interim leader) of the archdiocese by the college of consultors, an advisory body of priests. It is expected that Archbishop Burke will be created Cardinal-Deacon at the next consistory
expected sometime in 2009. With this appointment, Burke becomes the tenth US native to serve in the Roman Curia. After the announcement Archbishop Burke noted that: "I am deeply humbled by the trust which His Holiness
has placed in me, and, in priestly obedience
, I have pledged
to serve our Holy Father
to the best of my abilities." He continued stating that "leaving the service of the Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis is most sad for me. It has been an honor and gift for me to serve the archdiocese
over the past four years and five months. It was revealed that he was informed about his appointment ten days in advance of the announcement. After consulting in Italy about his new post with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
, it was determined Burke would be given the title of Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis, and not a titular see. Upon the announcement that Archbishop Burke would be leaving St. Louis, opinions were mixed with many St. Louis area Catholics expressing an opinion that his departure would lead to a less divisive spirit in the Church.
His final farewell Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Louis was at 2:30 PM CST in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on Sunday, August 17, 2008. It was concelebrated by Bishops George Joseph Lucas, Robert Hermann, John H. Leibrecht, John R. Gaydos, Robert W. Finn, Raymond J. Boland, and Kevin W. Vann. In addition, over seventy-five priests, fifty seminarians, a full honor guard of the Knights of Columbus (over 60 members), and over fifty Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta were in attendance.
Recently, Burke said in a recent interview that, "the Democratic Party risks transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death,' because of its choices on bioethical questions.
On Tuesday, October 7, 2008, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had also appointed Burke as President of the Commission for Advocates.
Burke is seen by some as one of the more controversial bishops in the United States. Among the reasons are his position regarding the political actions of Catholics who hold public office, and his disputes with St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
in Saint Louis.
A few priests in the Diocese of La Crosse have claimed that Burke's leadership there was divisive. Richard Dickman, who had served as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Tomah, Wisconsin stated in a resignation letter that "I can no longer minister as a priest in this diocese and retain a sense of integrity. I find that my conscience is in conflict with the vision of ministry characterized by the bishop I have promised to obey. I am in an impossible position.
Complicity in sex abuse by clergy
In 2004, a bishop watchdog organization reported that, while archbishop of St. Louis, Burke deliberately ignored several substantiated claims of sexual abuse by clergy members. Numerous allegations of sex abuse by clergymen that surfaced during Burke's tenure were ignored, and known suspects of sexual abuse were permitted to escape to other parishes, rather than be punished. These claims have not been reported or substantiated in the mainstream press, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and supporters of Burke note that the organization that made them has failed to present proof to back up its charges.
- If cases of clergy sex abuse were few and far between [in St. Louis,] it was because Burke was a master at keeping a lid on them. Several victims who claim they were abused by priests in La Crosse tell Riverfront Times they were stonewalled by Burke, who declined to report their allegations to local authorities. And while some of his fellow church officials nationwide were reaching hefty settlements with victims, Raymond Burke was unyielding in his refusal to negotiate with victims' rights groups. He declined to make public the names of priests who were known to have been abusive, and he denied requests to set up a victims' fund. Most strikingly, Riverfront Times has learned, while bishop in La Crosse Burke allowed at least three priests to remain clerics in good standing long after allegations of their sexual misconduct had been proven -- to the church, to the courts and, finally, to Burke himself.
Burke himself has refused to establish a fund for victims of clergy sex abuse, as some other American bishops have (for example, see the victims' funds established by the bishops of Pennsylvania and Arizona).
2004 presidential election
During the 2004 presidential election, Burke publicly stated that John Kerry
and other Catholic politicians who publicly support legalized abortion should not receive the Eucharist
. This statement was based mainly on two canons of Catholic Canon Law
, which state that ministers of Holy Communion should not administer the Eucharist to people who obstinately and publicly persist in some serious sin. and that those who are conscious of being in a state of grave sin (as determined by Catholic doctrine) should not receive the Eucharist. Burke had articulated the same position while he was in La Crosse but the statements made as Archbishop of St. Louis gained more notice and added to his controversial reputation. He is one of a number of bishops who have declared that they would refuse Communion to such politicians.
He also stated that Catholic voters who supported pro-choice candidates specifically because they supported abortion rights were committing grave sin and should not receive Communion without first having their sin absolved through the Sacrament of Penance. Later, Burke clarified his position to state that one could vote for a pro-choice politician and not commit a mortal sin, if one believed there was a more significant moral issue than abortion at hand, but had also stated that he could not think what sort of issue would qualify. His position is consistent with the one articulated by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a 2004 letter to Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. As Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia [...] While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
Sheryl Crow concert
On April 25, 2007, after singer Sheryl Crow
, a pro-choice
supporter, was scheduled to perform at a benefit concert
for the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital
, Archbishop Burke resigned as chair of the hospital foundation's board of directors
Deeming this a scandal, Burke claimed that to have the hospital host Crow would give "the impression that the Church is somehow inconsistent in its teaching." The Saint Louis archbishop reportedly asked that her invitation be privately removed, but then felt compelled to submit his resignation when Crow's performance at the concert was confirmed.
Saint Louis University staff
On January 22, 2008, Burke urged Saint Louis University
to take disciplinary action against its head basketball coach
, Rick Majerus
, after Majerus publicly supported the rights of abortion] and stem cell research
at a campaign event
for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
three days earlier.
With Saint Louis University being run by the Society of Jesus, Burke responded by saying, "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic Church." SLU spokesman Jeff Fowler responded to Burke's statement by saying, "Rick's comments were his own personal view. They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representative.
Burke again responded to the controversy aroused by his statements in an interview with the archdiocesan newspaper, The St. Louis Review, on the following February 1. The archbishop said, "It gives scandal to other people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, if they hear a Catholic give an interview to the media, saying that I am proud to be a Catholic but at the same time I hold these views." When asked about his usually outspoken manner in controversial issues, he responded, "Is there something unusual about a bishop saying that it’s wrong to be in favor of procured abortion? I’m a Roman Catholic priest and bishop. What else would you expect me to say?"
- Lack of discretion of judgment because of schizophrenia: doctrine and recent rotal jurisprudence, Doctoral Dissertation, (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1986). See also "Defectus discretionis iudicii propter schizophreniam: Doctrina et recens iurisprudentia," Periodica, 73 (1984) 555-570; and "Lack of Discretion of Judgment: Canonical Doctrine and Legislation," in The Jurist, 45 (1985) 171-209.
- "Canon 1095, 1° and 2°," in Incapacity for marriage: Jurisprudence and Interpretation, Acts of the III Gregorian Collguium, Robert M. Sable, coordinator and editor (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1987).
- In I procedimenti speciali nel diritto canonico, Studi giuridici 27 (Vatican City: Libreria editrice Vaticana, 1992): "La procedura amministrativa per la dichiarazione di nullità del matrimonio," 93-105, and "Il processo di dispensa dal matrimonio rato e non consummato: la grazia pontificia e la sua natura," 135-144.
- "The Application of Canon 1095 and sacramental-pastoral activity concerning marriage," in Ius in vita et in missione Ecclesiæ, Acta Symposii internationalis iuris canonici occurrente X anniversario promulgationis Codicis iuris canonici diebus 19-24 aprilis 1993 in Civitate Vaticana celebrati, Pontificia Concilium de legum textibus interpretandis (Vatican City: Libreria editrice Vaticana, 1994) 1095-1102.
- "The Distinction of Personnel in Hierarchically Related Tribunals," in Studia canonica, 28 (1994) 85-98.
- "Canon 1421: The Nullity of a Decision by a Single Lay Judge,"  in Arthur J. Espelage, OFM (ed.), CLSA Advisory Opinions 1994-2000 (Washington, DC: CLSA, 2002) 451-452.
- "Canons 1421-1422 and 1435-1436: The Exercise of the Office of Judge or Defender of the Bond by a Priest on Leave of Absence from Priestly Ministry," [1995, co-authored with Joseph R. Punderson] in Arthur J. Espelage, OFM (ed.), CLSA Advisory Opinions 1994-2000 (Washington, DC: CLSA, 2002) 453-454.
- "La "confessio iudicialis" e le dichiarizioni giudiziali delle parti," in I mezzi di prova nelle cause matrimoniali secondo la giurisprudenza rotale, Studi Giuridici XXXVIII (Vatican City: Libreria editrice Vaticana, 1995) 15-30.
- Commentary on the July 12, 1993, Decree of the Apostolic Signatura relating to the qualifications of advocates, Canadian Canon Law Society Newsletter, 21 (1996) 9-13.
- "Canon Law at the Service of the New Evangelization," given on the occasion of receiving the Role of Law Award from the Canon Law Society of America, in Canon Law Society of America Proceedings, 62 (2000) 497-500; introductory remarks of gratitude, 495-496.
- "On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good," (Saint Louis: Archdiocese of Saint Louis, 2004).
- "Canon 915: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin," in Periodica, 96 (2007) 3-58.