On 9 February, the Washington Post ran a disgraceful and bizarre opinion piece designed to join the burgeoning propaganda efforts to link Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke to U.S. presidential adviser Stephen Bannon and President Donald Trump’s White House. From that alliance, the story goes, Bannon, through Burke, is plotting to bring the Trump administration into a conflict with Pope Francis.
The Post opinion piece is linked here. There there have been several other similar “news” stories run over the last several days at major outlets, including on the NPR website.
The point of this obviously coordinated campaign is entirely unclear. The Washington Post piece is especially incoherent and mendacious. Thus, we should briefly review the charges lodged therein against Cardinal Burke.
Count 1: Cardinal Burke is a friend and partisan of Stephen Bannon because Burke serves on the board of advisers of a group, Dignitatis Humanae, run by a man who has written a few opinion pieces on Breitbart.com, a website formerly run by Bannon. Get it?
The writer fails to mention that the board of advisers consists of several cardinals, including liberals Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Peter Turkson, a man who has run around the world promoting the pope’s climate agenda.
Bannon’s formal or informal affiliation with the group is not explained, nor is there any evidence that Burke even knows Bannon.
Count 2: Cardinal Burke supports alleged Benito Mussolini fan Matteo Silvini, an Italian politician with whom the writer claims Burke held “a long meeting.” To support the claim, the writer cites an Italian newspaper report that Silvini was at the Vatican recently and may have met with Burke, but no one confirmed that the meeting actually occurred. So, as you see, Cardinal Burke is a partisan of the Fascist Party.
Count 3: Cardinal Burke is engaged in “bellicose anti-Islam rhetoric” that may lead to the rise of a new Hitler in Europe. Evidence offered: a link to a USA Today story about Bannon’s supposed views of Muslims. Evidence of Burke’s Koran-burning rallies: zero.
Count 4: Cardinal Burke said something nice about Vladimir Putin. Yes, Cardinal Burke said in an interview that he agrees with Putin’s supposed defense of traditional marriage and family life and refused to foreclose the possibility of Putin’s conversion. Let’s hear it for the Year of Mercy!
The readers of the Washington Post should know this: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is a hero to thousands and thousands of Catholics around the world. In the face of constant abuse and calumny, this mild-mannered Midwesterner has stood fast by the constant and unchanging doctrinal teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. His principal crime is that he wishes to clearly express these teachings without the shamefaced obfuscation that has led so many to disregard them.
And Cardinal Burke is, of course, the most prominent and unapologetic proponent of the priceless treasure that is the Church’s traditional Sacred Liturgy. For this alone, he deserves the gratitude of the entire body of the faithful, but he has instead earned the scorn of the misguided and foolish clerics who loathe their own Tradition.
He is a shepherd to the flock, whereas so many of his brother bishops have thrown down their crooks to mill about as sheep, buffeted here and there by the modernist secular world and scattered, as the Apostles before Calvary, by a crackpot papacy.
I, a humble layman, rise to his defense on this day, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Christian Browne is a practicing attorney in New York state. A board member of the Nassau County Catholic Lawyers Guild, he earned his J.D. from Fordham University in 2004. He is the author of The Pearl of Great Price: Pius VI & the Sack of Rome.