Archbishop Raymond Burke
Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
Archbishop Burke addresses US National
Catholic Prayer Breakfast
Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Archbishop emeritus of
Saint Louis, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura,
addressed guests at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington
D.C., U.S.A. on Friday, 8 May . This marked the 58th Annual
National Day of Prayer in the United States with the theme of "Prayer...
America's hope". Following are excerpts from Archbishop Burke's Keynote
Address on the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The theme of this year's Breakfast is most fitting to
the difficult time through which our nation is now passing. Before the
fundamental and great challenges which we as a nation are facing, how
better to express our patriotism than by celebrating the teachings of
our Catholic faith. The most treasured gift which we as citizens of the
United States of America can offer to our country is a faithful Catholic
life. It is the gift which, even though it has often been misunderstood,
has brought great strength to our nation, from the time of its founding.
Today more than ever, our nation is in need of Catholics who know their
faith deeply and express their faith, with integrity, by their daily
Growing Crisis in our Nation
Over the past several months, our nation has chosen a
path which more completely denies any legal guarantee of the most
fundamental human right, the right to life, to the innocent and
defenseless unborn. Our nation, which had its beginning in the
commitment to safeguard and promote the inalienable right to "Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" for all, without boundary, is more
and more setting arbitrary limits to her commitment (cf. "The
Declaration of Independence: Action of Second Continental Congress, 4
July 1776," in The Constitution of the United States with the
Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, New
York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2002, p. 81). Those in power now determine
who will or will not be accorded the legal protection of the most
fundamental right to life. First the legal protection of the right to
life is denied to the unborn and, then, to those whose lives have become
burdened by advanced years, special needs or serious illness, or whose
lives are somehow judged to be unprofitable or unworthy.
What is more, those in power propose to force physicians
and other healthcare professionals, in other words, those with a
particular responsibility to protect and foster human life, to
participate, contrary to what their conscience requires, in the
destruction of unborn human lives, from the first or embryonic stage of
development to the moment of birth. Our laws may soon force those who
have dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the promotion of
good health to give up their noble life work, in order to be true to the
most sacred dictate of their consciences. What is more, if our nation
continues down the path it has taken, healthcare institutions operating
in accord with the natural moral law, which teaches us that innocent
human life is to be protected and fostered at all times and that it is
always and everywhere evil to destroy an innocent human life, will be
forced to close their doors.
Addressing the Crisis
How can we as Catholics address effectively the critical
situation of our nation in what pertains to the fundamental right to
life and the integrity of the family? What does the virtue of
patriotism, together with all of the virtues inspired by the Holy Spirit
dwelling within us, require of us for the common good, for the good of
the whole nation? First and foremost, it demands what we are doing this
morning, that is, prayer, and the serious reflection which arises from
our communion with God in prayer....
In the present crisis, praying daily the Rosary for our
nation and invoking daily the intercession of Mary Help of Christians
will be powerful forces for the victory of life and love....
Connected with our prayer must be the thoughtful and
faithful reflection upon the Church's teaching on the respect for all
human life and the integrity of the family. In our homes, in our
Catholic schools and universities, in parish study groups, and in
everyday conversations and discussions with family members and
neighbors, we are called to give an uncompromising witness to the Gospel
Catholics and Public Life
Our prayer and conversion of life, and the serious
reflection upon and study of the truths of the moral life, both as
individuals and in our Catholic institutions, require that we accept our
responsibility as citizens to work tirelessly to change unjust programs,
policies and laws. In a nation set so firmly on a path of violation of
the most fundamental moral norms, Catholics and others who adhere to the
natural moral law are pressured to think that their religious commitment
to the moral law as the way of seeking the good of all is a merely
confessional matter which cannot have any application in public life.
Apparently, a number of Catholics in public life have been so convinced.
How often do we hear Catholic legislators who vote in favor of anti-life
and anti-family legislation claim that they are personally opposed to
what the legislation protects and fosters, but that they as public
officials may not allow religious beliefs to affect their support of
such legislation? How often do we hear fellow Catholics supporting
candidates for office, who are anti-life and anti-family, because of
political-party loyalties or for reasons of other policies and programs
supported by the candidate, which they deem to be good? How often is
such thinking justified by the claim that religious faith is a purely
private matter and has no place in the public forum? On the contrary,
the common good depends upon the active engagement of religious faith in
the public forum.
Addressing the role of the Church in the political
order, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us:
"It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or
ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing
reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a
form of intolerance or interference, since such interventions are aimed
solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and
responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this
should conflict with situations of power and personal interest" (Pope
Benedict , Ad Congressum a Populari Europae Faction provectum, Acta
Apostolicae Sedis 98 , 344)....
Our uncompromising commitment to protect the inviolable
dignity of innocent human life and to safeguard the integrity of
marriage and the family are not based on peculiar confessional beliefs
or practices but on the natural moral law, written on every heart and,
therefore, a fundamental part of the Church's moral teaching....
As we gather this morning to pray for our nation, let us
draw courage and strength from the glorious pierced Heart of Our Lord
Jesus. Let us not give way to discouragement in our exercise of
patriotism but rather be confident of the essential contribution which
our Catholic faith makes to the life of our nation.
May the courage and strength which comes to us from the
Sacred Heart of Jesus enlighten our minds to see more clearly the
gravity of the situation of our nation and inflame our hearts to do our
part to transform the life of our nation, in accord with the natural
moral law, that is, with what is just and serves the good of all. Let us
draw courage and strength from the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer
and the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy
Eucharist. May the courage and strength of Christ guide our reflection
on the state of our nation and lead us to that just action, taught to us
by our faith, which serves the good of all.
Invoking the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Our Lady
of Guadalupe, Mother of America, let us pray today and everyday that we
as Catholics, true to our faith and, therefore, patriotically devoted to
our nation, may promote respect for all human life, safeguard the
sanctity of marriage and the family, and, thereby, foster the good of
all in the nation and in the world.
Thank you. God bless you.
Weekly Edition in English
20 May 2009, page 25
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