A beacon of old-timey religion, Cardinal Raymond Burke still enjoys the admiration of those traditionalist churchgoers who like their liturgy intoned in Latin and their prelates dressed like a satiny Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.
One of those admirers is a group called the New Emangelization Project (yes, that's their real name), which recently let Burke weigh in on Christianity's so-called "man-crisis" by way of a lengthy interview posted to the organization's website. Burke's closed-mindedness particularly shines through when he casually states that "disordered" (read: gay) priests are ultimately to blame for the molestation and child-abuse cases that continue to rock the Catholic church.
Although Burke was recently demoted from leading the Church's highest court, the former St. Louis archbishop has has become a frequent, critical voice speaking against Pope Francis' seemingly inclusive stance on gay and divorced church members.
As for his view of gay clergy's responsibility for child abuse, Burke's statements came in the midst of an already befuddling rant against the "feminization" of church services, in which he criticizes women and altar girls for driving men away from traditional Mass.
"We can also see that our seminaries are beginning to attract many strong young men who desire to serve God as priests. The new crop of young men are manly and confident about their identity," Burke tells New Emangelization Project founder Matthew James Christoff. "This is a welcome development, for there was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors, a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns."
"We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves," Burke continues, "Men's behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children."
There are a couple layers of irony to peel back from Burke's statements. First of all, it's crucial to note that sexually abusive clergy members -- as case after nauseating case has shown -- have long found protection in the forgiving arms of Church higher-ups.
In fact, Burke's own role in hiding predatory priests was exposed in a 2004 Riverfront Times investigation, which revealed that while serving as bishop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the early 2000s, Burke protected the names of known child abusers, used a counseling fund to extort silence from victims and allowed several priests to remain clerics in good standing long after he was presented with proof of their crimes against children.
Burke's recent interview drew condemnation of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, which is calling on Pope Francis to denounce Burke's "outrageous" claims.
"The church becomes a more dangerous and unhealthy place when high-ranking Catholic officials mischaracterize and minimize the abuse and cover up crisis," says SNAP executive director David Clohessy.
Though Burke remains a "discredited, demoted fanatic" in the eyes many Catholics, Clohessy says his words still resonate with millions of Catholics who admire his traditionalism.
"His words hurt victims and confuse parishioners," Clohessy adds. "We beg Pope Francis to set the record straight here."
Burke's vilification of "feminized" church services has also drawn flak -- from Catholic women. In a column for Religious News Service, Catholic author Kyala Oats lays into Burke for promoting an absurdly paranoid view of women's contributions to their churches. She also finds Burke's rigid views of gender ironic, considering his wardrobe excesses have been compared with Liberace's.
"It is ironic that women who do the majority of catechesis at parishes, who educate priests, who write landmark works of theology and give birth to cardinals, bishops and popes are still not able to be leaders in the church," Oats writes. "Because, according to Cardinal Burke, we're just girls. And everyone knows girls are icky."