Card. Burke: liturgical abuses “strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption”

Around here we say:

Save The Liturgy – Save The World

A preamble:

The Eucharist, its celebration and itself as the extraordinary Sacrament, is the “source and summit of Christian life”.

If we really believe that, then we must also hold that what we do in church, what we believe happens in a church, makes an enormous difference.

Do we believe the consecration really does something? Or, do we believe what is said and how, what the gestures are and the attitude in which they made are entirely indifferent? For example, will a choice not to kneel before Christ the King and Judge truly present in each sacred Host, produce a wider effect?

If you throw a stone, even a pebble, into a pool it produces ripples which expand to its edge. The way we celebrate Mass must create spiritual ripples in the Church and the world.

So does our good or bad reception of Holy Communion.

So must violations of rubrics and irreverence.

I read that His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke drew a correlation between our liturgical practices and the dissolution of morals which is now nearly unstoppable.  Card. Burke gave this interview at the time of the Sacra Liturgia conference I attended at the end of June.

From ZENIT (some excerpts – the whole thing is long but worth a closer look on your own):

Bringing the Liturgy Back to the Real Vatican II
Cardinal Burke Comments on Sacra Liturgia Conference

The abuses of the sacred liturgy that followed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are “strictly correlated” with a great deal of moral corruption that exists in the world today, says Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.


ZENIT: Some also say that to be concerned with liturgical law is being unduly legalistic, that it’s a stifling of the spirit. How should one respond to that? Why should we be concerned about liturgical law?

Cardinal Burke: Liturgical law disciplines us so that we have the freedom to worship God, otherwise we’re captured – we’re the victims or slaves either of our own individual ideas, relative ideas of this or that, or of the community or whatever else. But the liturgical law safeguards the objectivity of sacred worship and opens up that space within us, that freedom to offer worship to God as He desires, so we can be sure we’re not worshipping ourselves or, at the same time, as Aquinas says, some kind of falsification of divine worship.

ZENIT: It offers a kind of template?

Cardinal Burke: Exactly, it’s what discipline does in every aspect of our lives. Unless we’re disciplined, then we’re not free.


ZENIT: It’s said love for the sacred liturgy and being pro-life go together, that those who worship correctly are more likely to want to bring children into the world. Could you explain why this is so?

Cardinal Burke: It’s in the sacred liturgy above all, and particularly in the Holy Eucharist, that we look upon the love which God has for every human life without exception, without boundary, beginning from the very first moment of conception, because Christ poured out his life as he said for all men. And remember he teaches us that whatever we do for the least of our brethren, we do directly for Him. In other words, he identifies himself in the Eucharistic sacrifice with every human life. So on the one hand, the Eucharist inspires a great reverence for human life, respect and care for human life, and at the same time it inspires a joy among those who are married to procreate, to cooperate with God in bringing new human life into this world.

ZENIT: Sacra Liturgia has been about liturgical celebration but also formation. What basis of liturgical formation do we need in our parishes, dioceses and particularly in our seminaries?

Cardinal Burke: The first important lesson that has to be taught is that the sacred liturgy is an expression of God’s right to receive from us the worship that is due to Him, and that flows from who we are. We are God’s creatures and so divine worship, in a very particular way, expresses at the same time the infinite majesty of God and also our dignity as the only earthly creature that can offer him worship, in other words that we can lift up our hearts and minds to him in praise and worship. So that would be the first lesson. ….


ZENIT: You’re known for celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Why did Pope Benedict make this freely available and what role does it have to play in the Church of the 21st century?

Cardinal Burke: What Pope Benedict XVI saw and experienced, also through those who came to him, who were very attached what we now call the Extraordinary Form – the Traditional Mass – was that in the reforms as they were introduced after the Council, a fundamental misunderstanding took place. Namely, this was that the reforms were undertaken with the idea there had been a rupture, that the way in which the Mass had been celebrated up until the time of the Council was somehow radically defective and there had to be what was really violent change, a reduction of the liturgical rites and even the language used, in every respect. So in order to restore the continuity, the Holy Father gave wide possibility for the celebration of the sacred rites as they were celebrated up until 1962, and then expressed the hope that through these two forms of the same rite – it’s all the same Roman rite, it can’t be different, it’s the same Mass, same Sacrament of Penance and so forth –there would be a mutual enrichment. And that continuity would be more perfectly expressed in what some have called the “reform of the reform”.

[Nota bene:] ZENIT: Pope Francis is a different person to Benedict XVI in many ways, but it’s hard to believe there are substantial differences between them on the importance of the sacred liturgy. Are there any differences?

Cardinal Burke: I don’t see it at all. [!] The Holy Father clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in a kind of authoritative way about the sacred liturgy, but in the things he has said about the sacred liturgy I see a perfect continuity with Pope Benedict XVI. I see in the Holy Father, too, a great concern for respecting the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and his discipline, and that is what Pope Francis is doing. [Reading Francis Through Benedict!]


[Again…] ZENIT: Does this mirror the loss of the sacred in society as a whole?

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Cardinal Burke: It does indeed. There’s no question in my mind that the abuses in the sacred liturgy, reduction of the sacred liturgy to some kind of human activity, is strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption and with a levity in catechesis that has been shocking and has left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with the challenges of our time by addressing the Catholic faith to those challenges. You can see it in the whole gamut of Church life.

ZENIT: Pope Benedict said once that the crises we see in society today can be linked to problems of the liturgy.

Cardinal Burke: Yes he was convinced of that and I would say, so am I. It was, of course, more important that he was convinced of it, but I believe that he was absolutely correct.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. The Holy Father clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in a kind of authoritative way about the sacred liturgy, but in the things he has said about the sacred liturgy I see a perfect continuity with Pope Benedict XVI.

    Cardinal Burke rarely makes a vacuous statement, but has Francis actually said anything substantive about the sacred liturgy (either in or out of continuity with Benedict)? As opposed to what he has done (quite a lot).

  2. Scott W. says:

    Fumo flamma est proxima Where there is smoke there is fire, and in my experience bad liturgy is the fumo to bad theology’s flamma. I’ll never forget the report of a priest who eliminated sanctus bells and when pressed after offer rather weak excuses for it blurted out that he removed them “because nothing special happens at the consecration.”

  3. Gratias says:

    My favorite part of the interview:

    ZENIT: Some argue the liturgy is mostly about aesthetics, and not as important as, say, good works done in faith. What is your view of this argument that one often hears?

    Cardinal Burke: It’s a Communist misconception.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. The Communist reference is huge and could bear more extensive comments by Cardinal Burke.

    Sad, but the horror of liturgical abuse is connected to immorality and the spirit of disobedience in the clergy. And, contrary to all the hype I see on twitter and in the media, I cannot watch a Mass with music being compared to the song by Barry Manilow, and Catholic pundits hoping he has a comeback because of the Pope. I am really out of the WYD loop. I really need help seeing Francis through Benedict.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    And did you see the photos of the TLM at WYD which most of the media skipped?

  6. wolfeken says:

    Okay, to say there aren’t big liturgical differences between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis is really just plain silly. Granted, the Zenit question was loaded. But there needs to be a little more honesty here.

    A space alien could recognize there are “substantial differences” between Benedict and Francis on their approaches to liturgy. We have had plenty of examples already and, if anything, the current pope is drifting even further away from Benedict’s approach lately.

  7. Priam1184 says:

    I was at a papal Mass at the end of April in St. Peter’s Square. It was not bad, and certainly there were no obvious abuses of the kind that I’ve seen at so many of the parishes that I have attended over the years, but I also have to say that there was little grandeur, and it kind of left me flat. Possibly because I was outdoors with about 100,000 other people and I was watching the altar through a Jumbotron. I have to say that I looked at the pictures that Supertradmum linked to and it gives me hope, but everything else I’ve seen from Rio kind of frightens me.

  8. anilwang says:

    Speaking in my own case, I definitely see it as true. I was very poorly catechized but one thing I did understand is reverence (which I didn’t see much of at Mass but I did see in private devotions) and consecration, and those two things kept me chaste for the almost 3 decades I was away from the Church. Our bodies are supposed to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Unless you know what reverence and consecration are, you will be unable to treat your own body or anyone else’s with either. If you can just worship God whatever way you want without reverence and without consecration and “God understands”, then you can live any way you want without reverence and without consecration and “God understands”.

  9. Robbie says:

    I’m a big fan of Cardinal Burke and I wish he had been elected Pope at the last Conclave, but this article left me scratching my head. First, must every prelate mention VCII in every interview he has? For goodness sake, there was a Catholic Church before 1962 and it seemed to work pretty well for about 1930 years.

    Regardless, I was surprised to read Cardinal Burke saw perfect liturgical continuity between Benedict and Francis. I just don’t think that’s the case. I don’t expect to see dancers suddenly become part of Papal Masses (at least I hope I don’t), but it’s clear Francis has made an effort to remove almost all of the pomp and circumstance Benedict tried to bring back to the Liturgy. Archbishop Chaput, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, described Francis’ liturgical style as that of the Second Vatican Council. And almost immediately, the lace cassock Monsignor Marini wore was gone too.

    We’ll just have to see how things progress, but if the rumors are true and Piero Marini is made head of the CDW, then I suspect Cardinal Burke might have to reassess his position.

  10. I don’t know if I agree with His Eminence’s comments on Pope Francis being in continuity with Pope Benedict XVI Liturgically…everything else I agree with….Holy Thursday was enough for me to demonstrate everything…

  11. Traductora says:

    Interesting comment. One of the problems, in my very modest non-clerical, non-“ministry” opinion, is that many of the clergy and others who were big supporters of the 1970 liturgical changes were very dubious from other points of view.

    In my parish in San Francisco, where I was living when the missal was implemented, within a year of the introduction of the NO, the pastor had gone to his room to drink himself to death, one assistant had run off with a complete slut he had met at her husband’s funeral, and the other assistant had gone beyond merely admiring teenage boys, shall we say.

    I realize this is completely anecdotal and therefore worthless, but there was definitely a negative moral effect with the promulgation of the 1970 missal.

  12. asperges says:

    Benedict had a love of the holy liturgy and all that goes with it as well as a particular understanding of the papal office. Francis on the other hand has an obvious ease of communication and immediacy needed in a modern world which few of his immediate predecessors had. He also has remarkable energy and courage.

    Not to notice a huge shift at least in outward signs, particularly liturgical, is plain silly. Of course it signals a change: why else would someone be so obvious in setting aside so much? This Pope is not ‘liturgical’ it is plain. It it not his priority or particular interest.

    God bless him, but please let him learn more from his predecessor and concentrate on those gifts he particularly has and with which he can inject new breath into the Church.

  13. “This Pope is not ‘liturgical’ it is plain. ” can someone explain to me what this means?
    I grew up with the TM and then the NO w/ no abuses so most of the consternation about the liturgy and our Holy Father escapes me.I’m not sure i get the connection between pomp and circumstance and reverence either. Trust me.I loved our Pope Emeritus and was heart broke when he stepped down. It wasn’t that long ago we had lost our other Holy Father,Blessed John Paul II.
    Immoral priests? Some getting drunk?The majority living up to their call. Is this really anything new? We had some fallen priests even when the Mass was strictly TM. Perhaps it was just more hidden? We also had so many good priests.
    The Church is the bride processing towards her bridegroom.The closer she gets the more beautiful she will become and when the day comes she will be perfect. I am convinced that each of these last 3 Popes-Blessed John Paul, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Francis-are just who the Church needed at each particular time. ” Francis on the other hand has an obvious ease of communication and immediacy needed in a modern world “

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