Archbishop Burke recalls ‘rebelliousness’ he observed in seminary
November 18, 2010
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, recalled that “discipline in the seminary practically evaporated” following 1968. The “rebelliousness” he observed was particularly manifest in “disregard” for canon law, but “by the grace of God, I persevered.”
The cardinal-designate was a college seminarian at Theological College (the national seminary of the Catholic University of America) from 1968 to 1971 and a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College from 1971 until his 1975 ordination to the priesthood.
“1968 was the symbolic year of the Paris student riots,” Archbishop Burke recalled, “but that whole rebellion against authority entered into the seminary too and in an unfortunate coincidence, coincided with the implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”
“What happened in my judgment was more of this rebellion against authority,” he added, “than the actual reading and studying of the documents of the Council and following them.”
In contrast, Archbishop Burke had fonder memories of his years as a high school seminarian in the Diocese of La Crosse (Wisconsin) and of his graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
The youngest of six children in what he warmly recalled as a “good Catholic family,” Archbishop Burke also recounted the influence that the Irish-born parish priest had upon his priestly vocation. As the archbishop’s father was dying of a brain tumor-- the future prelate was eight when his father died-- the parish priest would visit the home to hear his confession and give him Holy Communion before chatting with the children in a fatherly way.
Archbishop Burke also said that he did not choose to study canon law. As a young priest, he served as assistant rector of the cathedral and a theology teacher when the late Bishop Frederick Freking told him he would be sent to Rome to study canon law. When the future cardinal asked whether it might be prudent to delay the new assignment so that he could continue teaching a while longer, the bishop said, “I didn’t think I was asking you”-- thus teaching the future prelate a lesson in obedience he never forgot.