On Thursday, the Catholic Herald published an exclusive interview in which Burke, the former head of the Vatican supreme court, again diagnosed the state of the world and the Church as "apocalyptic."
"In the present moment, there is confusion and error about the most fundamental teachings of the Church, for example with regard to marriage and the family," Burke explained.
To illustrate, he pointed to "the idea that people who are living in an irregular union could receive the sacraments," which he reaffirmed "is a violation of the truth with regard both to the indissolubility of marriage and to the sanctity of the Eucharist."
"Now, the confusion in the Church is going even further than that, because there is today confusion as to whether there are acts which are intrinsically evil and this, of course, is the foundation of the moral law," he said.
"When this foundation begins to be questioned within the Church, then the whole order of human life and the order of the Church itself are endangered."
The Church, Burke said, "seems to be confused."
"In that sense, one may have the feeling that the Church gives the appearance of being unwilling to obey the mandates of Our Lord," he said, adding, "Then perhaps we have arrived at the end times."
Burke was expanding on comments he made at a Fatima conference in July.
There, he recounted a young priest asking him, "Cardinal, do you think that we are in the end times?"
"I did not hesitate to respond: 'It may be so.'" he said.
The American cardinal spelled out his reasons for his thinking. Describing the current age as "most troubled," Burke said:
Secularization has ravaged the culture of many nations, especially in the West, alienating culture from its only true source in God and His plan for us and our world. There is the daily and widespread attack on innocent and defenseless human life with the resulting unprecedented violence in family life and in society, in general. There is the ever more virulent gender ideology, which propagates total confusion about our identity as male and female and leads to the profound unhappiness and even self-destruction of many in society. There is also the denial of the freedom of religion which attempts to hinder, if not snuff out completely, any public discourse about God and our necessary relationship with Him. With the denial of the freedom of religion comes the attempt to force God-fearing individuals to act against their well-formed conscience, that is, against God's law written upon the human heart. In supposedly free countries, the government forces upon society practices of abortion, sterilization, contraception, euthanasia and lack of respect for human sexuality, even to the point of indoctrinating small children in the iniquitous 'gender theory.'
At the same time, atheistic materialism and relativism leads to the unscrupulous pursuit of wealth, pleasure and power, while the rule of law, dictated by justice, is trampled underfoot. In such a pervasively disordered cultural condition, there is legitimate fear of a global confrontation which can only mean destruction and death for many. Clearly, the present situation of the world cannot continue without leading to total annihilation.
At the same moment that turmoil is enveloping the world more and more, Burke noted, the Church is beset by profound crisis. "[In] a diabolical way, the confusion and error which has led human culture in the way of death and destruction has also entered into the Church," he lamented, such that "she draws near to the culture without seeming to know her own identity and mission, without seeming to have the clarity and the courage to announce the Gospel of Life and Divine Love to the radically secularized culture."
"For whatever reason," the cardinal observed, "many shepherds are silent about the situation in which the Church finds herself or have abandoned the clarity of the Church's teaching for the confusion and error which is wrongly thought to address more effectively the total collapse of Christian culture."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church paints a dire picture of the Church at the end of the age — a time of unprecedented deception, persecution and suffering: "Before Christ's Second Coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the Faith of many believers." (paragraph 675)
It describes the nature of this trial as a "supreme religious deception": "The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the 'mystery of iniquity' in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the Truth."
By this "pseudo-messianism," man will glorify himself "in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh."
As far back as 1976, Cdl. Karol Wojtyla (prior to his papacy as Pope John Paul II) seemed to be of a similar mindset, declaring at the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American society or the whole wide circle of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.
But in his 1978 inaugural homily as pontiff, Pope St. John Paul II urged the crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square, "Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. ... Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. ... Do not be afraid. Christ knows 'what is in man.' He alone knows it."
Likewise, Cdl. Burke reminds Catholics to push forward in faith.
"What then must be our response to the exceedingly difficult times in which we are living, times which realistically seem to be apocalyptic?" he asked. "It must be the response of faith, of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ."
Christ, Burke reminded his audience, "is alive for us in the Church." Christ "never fails to teach, sanctify and guide us in the Church, even as He professed to remain with us always until His return on the Last Day to inaugurate 'new Heavens and a new earth' to welcome the faithful to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb."
"We know what Christ teaches us in the Church. It is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the official teaching of the Church. His teaching does not change," he emphasized.
"In the midst of the present confusion and division, we must study more attentively the teachings of the Faith contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and be prepared to defend those teachings against any falsehood which would erode the Faith and thus the unity of the Church," added Burke.