The Bully in St. Louie
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 03:22:15 PM EST
The Catholic Right, Fifty in a Series
Has anyone not heard of  Raymond Burke, the Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri? If you haven't yet, you probably will before we get very far into the election season. He is probably best known for his desire to deny pro-choice Catholic politicians the Sacrament of Communion. IN this capacity he has come to personify the intersection of the Religious Right and the institutional Catholic Church.

But his obsession with the views of public figures has now moved beyond politician to basketball coaches.

Our story begins at a Hillary Clinton rally in St. Louis where an off-hand comment by Rick Majerus brought the wrath of Archbishop Burke down upon him.  As STLtoday reported it:

While Hillary Clinton was courting votes, Rick Majerus was courting trouble.

First, he said he was "not going to go there."

Then, he did.

The Catholic basketball coach for the Catholic St. Louis University looked into the TV camera at the Clinton rally last weekend and said, "I'm pro-choice, personally."


Then he added:

"I'm very much an advocate for stem cell research," Majerus told KMOV-TV at the Saturday rally at McCluer North High School.

Cut to film of Archbishop Burke's head exploding!

The Catholic Right's autocratic point man in the central Mississippi River valley thundered his displeasure from halfway across the country in Washington, DC where he was at the annual anti-abortion protest marking the anniversary of the Roe decision. Again, as STLtoday reported:

On Tuesday, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said St. Louis University should discipline Majerus for comments he made at the rally. Burke also told the Post-Dispatch that he would deny Majerus holy Communion if the coach did not change his positions on abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

Denying the talented basketball coach Communion is one thing. But having St. Louis University "discipline him?" This gives "Burkean conservatism"a whole new meaning.

St. Louis University is a Catholic university -- but much like St. Peter's College in New Jersey --as I discussed in Part Forty-nine of this series, another Catholic institution similarly criticized by members of a fuming Catholic Right,-- which recently hosted a rally for pro-choice, pro-stem cell research Barack Obama, it is a Jesuit school; and Jesuits are known in Catholic circles for their adherence to reason, greater tolerance for differing opinions as well as emphasizing social justice issues.  More importantly, as the Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled when it recently received $80 million in state funding to construct a new arena, the school "is not controlled by a religious creed."

Fortunately, faculty at the school have spoken up for Majerus, defending his First Amendment right to speak his mind. The university president didn't even bother commenting. Again, as STLtoday reported:

"If SLU wants to have a policy of, 'you have to be Catholic and believe the Catholic way,' SLU wouldn't exist," said Laura Willingham, research assistant in SLU's School of Medicine. "Should (Majerus) have said it publicly? There's freedom of speech."

Harold Bush, an English professor who is president of the SLU Faculty Council, said it's unrealistic to think that people affiliated with the university don't have different viewpoints.

"It's in the nature of the university to allow for and encourage open debate on a wide variety of issues," he said.

What is at play here is another bully of the Catholic Right using whatever means possible to silence dissent-- and interfering with the rights of citizens and candidates for public office who disagree with Vatican teachings on certain matters.  And as I've stated in my earlier pieces in this series, such bullies must be challenged. Those who will not tolerate differing opinions will endanger the right of other to believe as they see fit.

But there is also something refreshing and encouraging going on here:  Whether it be St. Patrick's College in New Jersey; Coach Majerus; or the faculty at St. Louis University -- there are Catholics willing to stand up to autocrats like Archbishop Burke. And that is a good thing. A very good thing.

The Catholic Right: A Series, by Frank L. Cocozzelli :

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six   Intermezzo   Part Eight   Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen   Part Fourteen   Second Intermezzo   Part Sixteen   Part Seventeen   Part Eighteen   Part Eighteen   Part Nineteen   Part Twenty   Part Twenty-one   Part Twenty-two   Part Twenty-three   Part Twenty-four   Part Twenty-five   Part Twenty-six   Part Twenty-seven   Part Twenty-eight   Part Twenty-nine   Part Thirty   Part Thirty-one   Part Thirty-two   Part Thirty-three   Part Thirty-four   Part Thirty-five   Part Thirty-six   Part Thirty-seven   Part Thirty-eight   Part Thirty-nine   Part Forty   Part Forty-one   Part Forty-two   Part Forty-three   Part Forty-four   Part Forty-five   Part Forty-six   Part Forty-seven   Part Forty-eight   Part Forty-nine

Archbishop Burke is steadily going from the macro to the micro in trying to stifle dissent on biological issues. In 2004 he started with Senator Kerry and after bullying a rock star performing for a Catholic children's charity he has taken the next step by going after a basketball coach merely speaking his mind.

I honestly believe that his next step will be to punish individual, everyday citizens, perhaps denying them too the Sacraments. If this comes to pass it will nothing to reduce the number of abortions performed each year but will reduce the number of Catholics.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 03:24:43 PM EST

What academic freedom?
Where will Burke stick his nose next-- will the medical school library staff have to scissor out journal articles about that bad old stem cell research?
Thank you for publicizing this, Frank.

by nogodsnomasters on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 04:38:53 PM EST


You are right on this, but if you read diocesan publications and some secular papers, you will see some Catholics who agree with this mindset. Fabian Bruskewitz in Lincoln, NE has this same mindset.


by khughes1963 on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 06:43:40 PM EST

...we need our voices to be heard otherwise this nonsense will get out of hand. Bullies need to be challenged.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 08:49:27 PM EST

I remember my experiences during 2004. Some people I know, whom I like, made a big mistake in my view in supporting Bush because he was "pro-life." They used this as their only criterion for voting, which the hierarchy and the Catholic Right encouraged. In fact, one of the priests then at my church gave a homily about using this as one's criterion for voting. It was a good thing I wasn't there as I might have scandalized the choir by walking out.  By contrast, my father disapproved then, as he does now, of single-issue voting, and he never voted for Bush at all.

by khughes1963 on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 09:57:04 PM EST
the Roman Catholic Church in the US has done so-o-o much for peace and social justice by insisting that Catholics vote according to candidates' views on abortion. It has worked out so well for us, and the world.

by nogodsnomasters on Mon Feb 04, 2008 at 12:57:44 PM EST

Burke is praised by a few, and ignored by the many. There are sufficient numbers of Catholics in St. Louis who have a broader view of Catholicism such that Burke is being seen as a one-trick pony and not as a responsible pastor.

by NancyP on Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 11:04:43 AM EST
The problem is also one of perception. If he is not refuted, especially by other Catholics, it gives the appearance that he does speak for the when in fact, he clearly does not.

And, as the erudite Ms Kughes points out with the Polish parish of St. Stan's, his bullying is not limited solely biological issues..

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 04:17:50 PM EST

from both sides, and the coach's side had plenty of letters from lay Catholics. Burke's side also had letters from lay Catholics, often associated with Catholic organizations or RTL.

by NancyP on Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 06:24:03 PM EST

His heavy-handedness over St. Stan's was a case in point.

by khughes1963 on Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 03:41:49 PM EST

Few applaud Burke, but many ignore him. Burke is considered as a one-trick pony by enough Catholics in St. Louis. geometry dash

by bernardtho on Thu Jun 22, 2023 at 11:42:02 PM EST

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