Archbishop Raymond Burke Speaks

A new essay by Archbishop Raymond Burke over at Inside Catholic is well worth your time, “Reflections on the Struggle to Advance the Culture of Life“.  I particularly enjoyed this part, where Burke quotes JP II:

In some way, our consciences have become dulled to the gravity of certain moral issues. When insistence on the elimination of legalized abortion in our nation is dismissed as a kind of “single-issue” approach, as the obsession of the “religious right,” which fails to take account of a whole gamut of moral issues, then we have lost the sense of the horror of destroying a human life in the womb. In a similar way, when the denial of nutrition and hydration to the gravely ill is seen as a “single issue,” then we have lost a sense of the horror of failing to give basic care to a brother or sister who has grown weak for whatever reason. It is not a question of a single issue but of what is fundamental to life itself and to society. I recall the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II:
The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “On the Good and Inviolability of Human Life,” 25 March 1995, no. 58).

16 Responses to Archbishop Raymond Burke Speaks

  1. Todd says:

    “When insistence on the elimination of legalized abortion in our nation is dismissed as a kind of “single-issue” approach, …”

    The archbishop shows the same level of insight as the HHS secretary. The insistence on the legal approach to ending abortion isn’t the problem; it’s the failure on the part of the archbishop and others to make adult distinctions on other life issues that merit reasonable consideration. Archbishop Burke also fails to distinguish between killing performed by the government itself, or by its agents, and what it permits (unfortunately) at the hands of others.

    The dulling of consciences can’t be pinned on any one political or philosophical worldview. The good archbishop seems to be playing cheerleader. More meat, please!

  2. Joe Hargrave says:

    The Archbishop addresses the seamless garment argument, Todd, and argues that it has in fact been used to rationalize support for politicians who promote a great evil.

    Looking at what has happened with American Catholics and Obama, I can’t say he is wrong. There is a hierarchy of priorities, not a seamless garment. Guess which of these phrases has actually been used by the Papacy, and which hasn’t.

    Poverty and war are serious problems, but abortion is the systematic slaughter of the innocent and the weak by the guilty and the strong. On the list of evils, our society commits no greater, allows no greater.

    I do agree with you that there is an important difference between giving permission and performing the killing yourself – but I don’t see how it is relevant here. Burke’s point, which I find absolutely incontestable, is what you quoted PLUS this:

    “which fails to take account of a whole gamut of moral issues”

    Meaning, it isn’t just about the abortion. It is about the breakdown of the family, the erosion of public conscience, the increasing callousness and hatred for human life. Read again the quote by JP, which I think reinforces the point. It is about our losing our ability to distinguish good from evil.

    What the pro-choice movement and the radical feminists and sexual revolutionaries have done is not just to ideologically justify child murder, but to contribute to the serious confusion, even the total annihilation in some people, of a moral sense that goes even slightly beyond seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. They have promoted a semi-pagan, barbaric, almost animialistic view in spite of all of the pretensions to “enlightenment”.

    Pope Benedict made the point in Caritas in Veritate: a society committed to death as a solution to its social problems will grow increasingly deaf to the anguished cries of the poor.

  3. The criticism of Burke’s approach by left-leaning Catholics seems to render his meaning far too shallowly. Burke is not saying that abortion is the only issue that we should care about, that is why he is distinguishing the Church’s position from that of “single issue” advocacy.

    But rather, the individualistic utilitarianism which is at the heart of pro-choice thinking (and let us be frank, at the heart of modern progressivism which seeks complete “freedom” of the individual by seeking to have all individual needs met by the state so that no intermediary relationships are necessary) is a corruption which touches and underlies all other of our other social evils and dysfunctions.

    One cannot treat abortion as “just one issue” and support ideologies which “get so many other things right” any more than in the pre 1860 US one could support a pro-slavery position on the basis of other issues of justice. Our entire moral economy is based on abortion, in the same way that the southern economy pre-civil war was based on slavery.

    Opposing abortion is certainly not the end, but it is necessary beginning. That hardly means that all opponents of abortion are to be admired or considered perfect politicians, but a politician who accepts abortion is from the start totally unacceptable because he seeks to build a “just” society on slaughter.

  4. Todd says:

    It might be, Joe, that your quote did the archbishop little justice. Right off the bat he criticizes others rather than making his own case. He misreads many of his critics on one-issue voting. If you can’t diagnose a problem accurately, you can’t trust your solution.

    Let’s also keep in mind that DC, the archbishop, Joe, and I are in agreement on the heinous problem of abortion in the modern world. So let’s not muddy up part of the discussion by hauling in pro-choice folks, pagans, leftists, and whatnot. When Archbishop Burke gave his address, he was talking to other Catholics. And except for an occasional lurker, you’re pretty much addressing pro-life Catholics here, too. Unless you get flooded with dissenters on the issue, this discussion is better served by not straying too far afield.

    The point of my post was to polish the archbishop’s argument, not sink it.

    As for your points, Joe, don’t overstate the case. You might say that China has a systematic approach to abortion. But there is no forced abortion in the US except by parents, boyfriends, or a low hum of the culture accepting this option. That’s quite a bit different from systematic approaches of governments, be they genocide or capital punishment or unjust warfare. While I share your extreme distaste for abortion, I think you underestimate your opponents by indulging in name-calling and gross generalizations. That kind of writing will net you a following in St Blog’s, but not much else unless you’re satisfied preaching to the choir.

    DC, while I’m in agreement that the thread of abortion is like a fungus in modern society, I’m less convinced of its centrality. My sense is that it’s a symptom of a deeper pathology. Once that pathology is uncovered, I suspect that the Right as well as the Left will have plenty to squirm about. In other words, while abortion is a clear moral marker for individuals and society, there are others just as telling, and that contribute significantly to the moral challenges of society. (I hesitate to term it “decay,” because that presumes a moral superiority in the near or distant past. Unless you want to go back to the Garden, I don’t think moral historical exceptionalism has a leg to stand on.

  5. Joe Hargrave says:

    I do not equate “systematic” with “forced”, or with “government”. Each of these words signifies something different. To conflate them is the true error here.

    I agree that the greater part of the responsibility for abortion in America lies squarely with the people who obtain them or force others to do so. I do not agree with equating abortion and the Holocaust.

    But abortion is STILL an industry; it would not be possible if not for the organized efforts of the abortionists themselves, their political lobbyists, and media outlets. There IS a systematic approach to the Culture of Death, to establish new abortion mills in low-income and minority communities, to expand abortion services to areas of the country that do not yet have easy access to them, to increase political and moral acceptance of abortion among the population at large.

    So to recap: systematic is not = to force, and the system is not that of the government but of the abortion industry and political movement.

    Moreover, my attitude towards abortion is not one of “distaste”, but rather disgust and horror. I regard it as the predominant evil of our time, and as that which more than any other issue makes the most contemptible hypocrites out of a secular left that can marshal endless amounts of outrage and sympathy for every other group, for animals, for insects, and even for trees, but for the weakest and most vulnerable human beings show nothing but indifference and violent hatred.

    “I think you underestimate your opponents by indulging in name-calling and gross generalizations”

    I removed an uncharitable remark for which I am sorry if it has already been read.

    This is not a polite dispute over some prudential policy matter. This is a question of our core values as a civilization. The causes of abortion are important and no one who reads what I write on a consistent basis here can possibly say that I have paid no attention to them.

    As important as it is to understand the cause, however, it is perhaps even MORE important to correctly and truthfully denounce abortion as among, if not the, most terrible evils of our time. The murder of innocent children for convenience and the total abdication of parental obligation and responsibility must be condemned whether they are understood or not.

    These are two separate matters. Understanding is neither necessary nor sufficient for making the case for the immorality, for the sheer evil, of abortion.

  6. Todd says:

    Thanks for the reply, Joe.

    I would agree that abortion in the West, and especially in the US, has become “corporate.” An “industry” if you will. Certainly with a life of its own.

    Now if you’re going to bring the so-called Culture of Death into the discussion, you’re talking more seamless garment: war, racism, sexism, and the little things that dig at the less powerful, taking away a little bit of their lives, a little at a time.

    The pope today spoke along the theme of being persuasive. Getting back to the original post, I find Archbishop Burke’s argument less than persuasive–and I’m a pro-life Catholic, an ally and fellow battler against the CofD, as it were. Speaking as a friend, a brother believer, and a pro-life ally, I don’t think you’re on the right track with your statements in your first post. You spoke of “radical feminists” and “sexual revolutionaries” and “child murder” and “semi-pagan, barbaric, almost animialistic” and I have to ask: you hope to be persuasive in the mold of Pope Benedict?

    I’m not sure your argument about a lack of charity is clear. I’m also not sure why you’ve veered off topic to address the basics of abortion on which we all agree. If you’d prefer to take the discussion out of the combox and address any perceived lack of charity, feel free to contact me by e-mail.

  7. Joe Hargrave says:

    “Now if you’re going to bring the so-called Culture of Death into the discussion, you’re talking more seamless garment”

    So-called? Why did you use that phrase? I am curious.

    And, I disagree. There is a hierarchy of values, not a seamless garment. War is bad. Abortion is worse. I used to believe in the seamless garment but I now see where it all to often leads – to complacency with abortion and to exaggerated concern for other issues.

    Now whats this about being persuasive? Whom must we persuade? I will not deny the existence of radical feminists, sexual revolutionaries, and pagan barbarians in our society. They cannot be persuaded, they will not be persuaded.

    Basic human nature and political reality should be enough for you to accept that on both sides of most issues and especially this one, there are core cadres and supporters that will not be swayed, and their existence must be taken as a given. They cannot be persuaded, only defeated. I know this all the more having once been a part of that side of the political spectrum as a Marxist and an atheist. No one persuaded me – I had to see it for myself.

    Our most pressing task is to mobilize the inactive and silent majority that favors heavier restrictions, if not outright bans, on abortion – not to make nice with people who have long-standing, deep ideological hatreds of the Church, the family, and society as we know it.

    As for my supposed veer “off topic”, I think it is clear: you used the word ‘distaste’ to describe your attitude towards abortion. You may find that diplomatic; I find it completely inadequate. The “basics” of abortion should evoke more than “distaste”, which is a word I would use to describe my attitude towards say, postmodern orchestral music or postmodern art, but not the murder of millions of human beings.

  8. afl says:

    Killing the unborn is a grievous sin and rejection of our Lord. I agree with the Archbishop, it is the most rotten core of the apple. No matter what other works are preformed or touted, they become tainted from the killing being allowed. They an are affront to the Lord who became incarnated both human and divine to overcome death and allow us the greatest mystery of all, our resurrection, even when we are not deserving of this love, when we follow his teachings. No matter how we parse the other sins or other good works, the taking of the defenseless is the root that leads to a culture that other sinful acts are legitimized.

  9. Todd says:

    “Why did you use that phrase?”

    Some people conflate the abortion industry with the Culture of Death. If abortion is the world’s only or greatest evil, then just label it so. Why hide behind a seamless garment terminology if you don’t believe in it?

    “There is a hierarchy of values, not a seamless garment. War is bad. Abortion is worse.”

    You’ve read into the hierarchy something I haven’t posited is there. You may be addressing someone else’s misconception on the topic, but not anyone on this thread. Why did you bring it up?

    “Whom must we persuade?”

    If you’re not up for the challenge of the hardcore, persuade the fence-sitters, the doubters, and the dubious. The people who held their nose and voted blue in the last election or two. If you want a subjective experience, I’ve persuaded at least one person from having an abortion. I didn’t accomplish it because I was calling them uglier names than you.

    “No one persuaded me – I had to see it for myself.”

    Good and bad. Good, that you were afforded an experience of the grace of God. Bad, in that you assume your subjective experience is the model for everyone else’s.

    “I find it completely inadequate.”

    I used a lot of words, Joe. I also used “heinous,” which you didn’t. Has this become a p***ing match on who can uncork the better vocabulary?

    You think my calling a spade a spade in uncharitable if it hurts your feelings, yet you feel free to call your fellow citizens (whom you cannot convince) “pagan barbarians?” We agree on the abortion issue (with the exception of particular vocabulary, as you have established). Where we seem to disagree is on the hope that we can accomplish something other than gratifying our personal feelings.

    I leave you with the last word, Joe. You seem to have parted company with the Holy Father on both the importance of persuasion and the relativity of personal experience. I don’t think you’re the best pro-life spokesman we have. We can do better.

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “I don’t think you’re the best pro-life spokesman we have. We can do better.”

    Written by a man who voted last year for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history. If all pro-lifers had a tenth of Joe’s eloquence and passion this abortion battle would be much nearer to being won.

  11. Mike Petrik says:

    I echo Don’s post.

  12. Joe Hargrave says:


    You’re either very confused or very dishonest. Yes, take the high ground and offer me the “last word” – I think we’ll see you here again.

    “If abortion is the world’s only or greatest evil, then just label it so. Why hide behind a seamless garment terminology if you don’t believe in it?”

    When did JP II or Benedict every use the phrase “seamless garment”? When did they ever, in spite of using the phrase “Culture of Death”, place any other issue on the same level as abortion and assisted suicide? Even the death penalty is theoretically permissible depending on the condition of society.

    “Why did you bring it up?”

    It’s just an example. Whatever issue(s) you think is part of the “seamless garment”, on the same level of importance as abortion/euthanasia, simply isn’t. That doesn’t mean that other issues are UNimportant, but there is still a hierarchy of priorities.

    “If you’re not up for the challenge of the hardcore”

    Not for wasting time, no, moving on –

    “persuade the fence-sitters, the doubters, and the dubious”

    Among which there are people who will react differently to different approaches. Some might enjoy an approach that is barely an approach at all. Others will only be moved by passionate and meaningful words that arouse them from their complacency.

    “I’ve persuaded at least one person from having an abortion. I didn’t accomplish it because I was calling them uglier names than you.”

    This really is an unfair and underhanded conflation, but one that I suppose is typical. There is a huge difference between talking someone out of an abortion, and addressing abortion as a political and social issue.

    I would never use the same rhetoric for both purposes. I believe 99% of the women going to get abortions have nothing at all to do with the political cause of the pro-abortion movement.

    It would be senseless and stupid to be anything other than patient, kind, and extremely mild with every last one of them.

    It is against the PROVIDERS of abortion and their political and media support base that our righteous, justifiable anger must be measured and targeted.

    These are two very different things, and I will grant, some people do not know how to differentiate on the pro-life side, it would appear among both those inclined to anger and those inclined to weak-kneed diplomacy with the forces of death.

    “Bad, in that you assume your subjective experience is the model for everyone else’s.”

    Why do you assume I do that? Why couldn’t it just be an example, why must you assume I am drawing a rule that applies to all?

    Everything I said prior to that, about taking for granted the existence of an unalterable core cadre, has nothing to do with subjective experience but with, as I said, human nature and political reality. Those parts, which I clearly intended to be objective and general, were ignored by you.

    Forget my experience. I’m sorry I brought it up – clearly the slightest mention of anything personal is enough to convert an entire argument into a subjective one, even if it is tacked on as an afterthought.

    “You think my calling a spade a spade in uncharitable if it hurts your feelings”

    What now? When did I mention hurt feelings? I don’t know what you are talking about.

  13. Mike Petrik says:

    Your hurt feelings are made plain when one closely examines the penumbera of the seemless garmant. All clear now?

  14. Mike Petrik says:

    I meant seamless of course, then again perhaps I meant unseemly. Hard to say.

  15. Given that Joe has recently written a number of articles on how consumerism is a central element of the Culture of Death, I’m not really sure how someone would accuse him of thinking that abortion is the only Culture of Death issue — unless one simply had it in for anyone who denounced pro-choicers too loudly. I can’t think why someone would have that tendency, though, so I remain mystified…

  16. Matt McDonald says:

    Just to clarify all abortions are forced, as far as I’m aware no unborn child has volunteered to be slaughtered.

    If the US government publicly declared that killing blacks was legal under all but a few circumstances was perfectly legal, and furthermore a protected right. If they provided federal protection by US Marshals to anyone who was in the practice of killing blacks against any retaliation or even harassment… If millions of blacks die each year as a result of this policy…Would anyone really argue that it would not be a government sponsored genocide?

    With due regard to the many complex issues involved in the late unpleasantness, did the Federal government make war on the southern slaveholders or the governments which protected their heinous practice?

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