Cdl. Burke — The St. John Fisher of Our Time

News: Commentary
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  May 4, 2017   

Both prelates were lonely witnesses to papal teaching on marriage in their day

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Saint John Fisher was the only bishop in 16th-century England to stand up for the Church's teaching on marriage, and it cost him his head. Cardinal Raymond Burke is one of the few outspoken prelates to do so today, and he isn't concerned with losing his red hat.

In an interview last December, Cdl. Burke was asked about the political fear reportedly prevailing in the Vatican, which is apparently intimidating prelates into silence. The former head of the Church's highest court brought up the example of St. John Fisher, who died under King Henry VIII instead of separating himself from papal teaching on marriage.

"One thinks, for instance, of the case of St. John Fisher in England at the time of King Henry VIII, when he was the only bishop who upheld the truth of the Faith, who defended Christ and His Holy Church," noted Cdl. Burke.

Alluding to the condemnation he and three fellow prelates received when they submitted their now famous dubia on marital teaching to the Holy See, Cdl. Burke, continuing to speak of Bp. John Fisher, related, "Some obviously tried to discourage him from doing that, pointing out that he was the only one. And he rightly responded that even if he was the only one, the important thing could only be that he is speaking for Christ and fulfilling his duty as bishop."

In a separate interview in January, Cdl. Burke was asked if he feared losing his rank as cardinal owing to political fallout caused by his seeking to clarify the papal exhortation on marriage, Amoris Laetitia.

"[W]hat I'm afraid of is to have to appear before Our Lord at the Last Judgment and having to say to Him: 'No, I didn't defend You when You were being attacked, the truth that You taught was being betrayed, he answered. "And so, I just don't give it any thought."

In II Timothy 4:2, St. Paul exhorts:

Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.

Following in the footsteps of the great bishop St. John Fisher as well as another English martyr, St. Thomas More, Cdl. Burke is truly a man for all seasons.

Watch the panel discuss the great sacrifices Catholics made for their faith in The Download—The English Martyrs.


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