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Controversial cardinal speaks in Ottawa

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Cardinal Raymond Burke arrived in Ottawa June 2 to speak at NET Canada’s (National Evangelization Teams) 20th anniversary gala June 4 with little controversy until he arrived.

On June 3, the Cardinal Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and until late last year the highest-ranking American cardinal in the Roman Curia, attended Question Period. When House Speaker Andrew Scheer acknowledged the cardinal’s presence in the gallery, members of Parliament on both sides of the House rose to give him a standing ovation.

Later that day, however, NDP MP Pierre Dionne LaBelle (Rivière-du-Nord, Que.), the Official Opposition National Revenue critic, told the Speaker: “I feel like my privileges as a parliamentarian have been breached.”

“During Question Period, we were introduced to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is known for spreading homophobia and for his anti-gay campaigns,” said LaBelle. “I deeply regret that the House was not informed of the situation and that we applauded such a person.”

The visit was also protested by Rev. Andre Samson, a professor at the University of Ottawa, who described the cardinal as a “clown” on Twitter, and sent an email to Radio Canada that was read on air. In it, Samson said as a gay man and Ottawa priest he was upset by the visit. He wrongly blamed Catholic Christian Outreach for inviting him. He said resistance to the pope had regrouped around this operatic cardinal who likes to “disguise himself as a drag queen.”

Burke has often been criticized for his liturgical dress because from time to time he celebrates the traditional Latin mass, wearing lace and traditional vestments, including the cappa magna. This is the metres-long red cape meant to signify the willingness of a cardinal to shed his blood for Christ and the church.

During last October’s extraordinary synod on the family, Burke emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the synod’s midterm relatio — an interim report on the discussion — that news media painted as a pastoral “earthquake” because of its welcoming language toward homosexuals and homosexual unions. The synod fathers eviscerated the relatio in their working groups, and the final document bore little resemblance to it.

Burke has faced criticism for opposing Pope Francis and for saying after the synod there was “a strong sense the church is like a ship without a rudder.”

Burke has repeatedly denied he is against the pope, pointing out the Holy Father has said nothing against church teachings.

At a mass at Notre Dame Cathedral June 4, to honour NET Canada’s work in evangelizing high school age young people, the cardinal described the culture facing today’s youth as “truly terrifying.”

Today’s culture is “deeply marked by violence and death,” and is “hostile to human life itself and to its cradle in the family, formed by the marriage of a man and a woman,” he said. “Many in fact despair of the situation and no longer confront the great evil with the truth and love of Christ.”

“In such a terrifying situation the members of NET bring Christ to our youth and bring our youth to Christ, who alone is our salvation so that they can be free to love God and their neighbour with all their heart, soul, mind and strength,” he said.

Burke has long courted controversy. As archbishop of St. Louis, the canon law scholar was known for insisting Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion be denied communion, according to section 915 of Canon Law.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI brought him to Rome to head the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s Supreme Court and made him a cardinal in 2010. Pope Francis removed him as prefect late last year, naming him to head the Order of Malta, a move seen as a demotion.

The invitation for Burke to speak at the 20th anniversary celebration of NET Canada went out almost three years ago through Rev. Vincent Pereira, the Ottawa archdiocese’s judicial vicar who had studied for his doctorate under then Msgr. Burke in Rome about two decades ago.

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