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Archbishop Burke, Noting Time Savings, Excommunicates 87.3% of Catholics in St. Louis

January 23, 2008 Midtown, Politics/Policy, Religion 25 Comments

burkeFor a number of years now St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has been very inefficient about driving people away from the Catholic Church by making demands and excommunicating members as individual incidents arise. For example, the ongoing issue of the last several years over control of millions in property and cash by the lay board of St. Stanislaus, supporting women as priests, and most recently pro-choice comments made by U.S. Citizen Rick Majerus — Majerus is an employee by Saint Louis University (Men’s basketball coach). SLU is not under the control of Burke, nor is it controlled by Catholics, per the Missouri Supreme Court. Burke, angered by the lack of people following the Pope’s instructions as channeled through him, took things to the next level — here is a statement released today by spokesperson and former TV anchor Jeff Fowler:

“I’ve had it with all of you sinners! I’ve done the math and I am excommunicating 87.3% of the Catholics in the St. Louis Archdiocese due to support for such things as killing babies, supporting homo marriage, researching human tissue, masterbation, women becoming priests, pre-marital sex, and the like. Doing this upfront, all at once, will save me considerable time. The rest of you, the 12.7% that remain, don’t even think about doing stuff as simple as laughing at a re-run of Will & Grace.

I want to become a Cardinal someday and get the hell out of here — this public defiance is not helping me at all. Of course, the priests who screwed up the lives of many of our youngest members will simply be transferred, not excommunicated.”

Of course, I’m just having a little fun with Burke. For those who are parody-challenged — I made up the above.

What must this guy be thinking? That he can just demand that a private employer (St. Louis University) will allow him to determine how and when an employee is disciplined for exercising his right to free speech when off the clock? Uh, hello — reality check please! Yeah, SLU is in the “Jesuit tradition” but to get those millions in public dollars for, ironically the new basketball arena, they had to convince the court that Catholic dogma didn’t rule the day at the university.


Currently there are "25 comments" on this Article:

  1. Remiss63 says:

    Any organization that will not allow for any diversity of opinion whatsoever is severely handicapping itself. Without the diverse ideas of its members, the life and vitality of any organization withers and dies, dry on the vine. It becomes a husk of its former self.

    Honest discussion and disagreement with clearly stated viewpoints are necessary for growth and development into the future. The means and methods employed by Archbishop Burke remind me of fascist ideology which allows only one truth to be expressed . . . its own.

  2. LisaS says:

    According to the PD this morning, Majerus publicly identifies himself as Roman Catholic, which puts him in the Archbishop’s jurisdiction whether SLU is a Catholic institution or not. From what I’ve seen, I can’t imagine that most St. Louis Catholics agree with or practice 87.3% of what the Church preaches, they’re just not as honest about it.

    [SLP — Right.  Would Burke call up A-B and say they need to discipline Joe blow in accounting because he was caught at a strip club on the East side?  No.  Burke has no place suggesting a private employer discipline a Catholic employee for not following the rules of the church.]

  3. Matt says:

    I can partially agree with what LisaS says above me here. The bishop of any diocese is indeed the sheperd of his flock and is therefore responsible for the faithful he serves, especially in attempting to keep them in line with the faith.

    With that said Archbishop Burke has every right to threaten excommunication of anyone who expresses personal beliefs outside the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, the Archbishop seriously overstepped his boundries when requesting (or maybe demanding?) that SLU discipline Majerus. That is completely ridiculous, it would be like the Archibishop demanding my secular employer discipline me if I began spouting off that I support embryonic stem cell research. Ludicrous.

    Another issue I have is that Burke is the SHEPERD of the flock. From the little I know about sheperds aren’t they supposed to encourage their sheep to stay with the flock, not push them away for every infraction they make? Maybe the impact of the Archbishop’s message would have been a bit more agreeable (and maybe even Christian) if he issued a statement along the lines of, “Mr. Majerus has expressed an opinion which is outside of the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. It is important to remind the public that Mr. Majerus (though Catholic and a member of the staff at St. Louis University) does not speak for nor represent the entire Catholic Faith. His beliefs on certain pro-life topics trouble me, and I invite Mr. Majerus to meet with me privately to discuss and reflect on the teaching of the Cathlic Church.”

    Maybe that would have been more sheperd-like and Christian? Of course, who am I but a lowly Roman Catholic?

  4. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    The Catholic Church is a joke, and Burke “The Jerk” is the head clown.

  5. LisaS says:

    The fact is that everyone except those directly affiliated with University or alert enough to know about the Supreme Court case looks at SLU and says …. Jesuit tradition = Catholic school. Their marketing materials (http://www.slu.edu/x5029.xml) still identify SLU as a Jesuit, Catholic university. Based on this, Burke’s problem is one of perception. To him, for any prominent Catholic member to publicly buck doctrine is criminal–especially if their paycheck can be perceived as coming from Church coffers. Does that mean in a technical sense he’s right? No. Is remiss63’s point a good one? Yes. Your larger point is valid … if SLU is truly a public, secular institution. I don’t think they are.

  6. Scott O. says:

    I don’t get it. I know Jewish people who work for SLU. Clearly, an institution that gets some State / National funding / reasearch grants etc., can’t possibly discriminate or punish people based on their personal beliefs. Even if the perception is that SLU is a “Catholic Institution”, they are still well within the bounds all the anti-discrimination laws out there. So how can Burke possibly expect SLU to punish an employee on his recommendation. I guess my question is: If SLU already hires people of faiths and beliefs that are un-catholic, than what is the problem with someone publicly expressing un-catholic views?
    As a non-believer, I guess its none of my business, but from an outside viewpoint, Burke always seems to be giving his faith, or at least the hierarchy of his faith, a really bad name.

  7. maire says:

    Okay, so please don’t flame me for the following but here’s a little of my canon law cum reality coming back.

    Rick Majerus is a well-known figure. Safe to say, right? Okay so we equate Rick Majerus with the SLU men’s basketball team, right? Subsequently, Rick Majerus as basketball coach (person of authority) speaks as a representative of the University. He is in fact a “higher up” as per the academic hierarchy whereas I am just a lowly cog. Ergo, when Rick Majerus speaks he cannot stop being SLU’s basketball coach therefore he speaks as a representative of the University. Additionally, when I yell at the top of my lungs for adequate housing, though people may know I work at SLU, they also know that I don’t have the ear of the administration therefore I, as a University employee, am merely a public health person whereas Rick Majerus is the University.

    Okay, I’m not agreeing with the above principle. Nor am I giving a pass to the Archbishop. I am recounting some of the hoo-hoorah that’s been passed around the University regarding this proclamation. I personally as a practicing Roman Catholic with a masters in theology do not feel as if the Archbishop is being pastoral. I don’t agree that Rick Majerus is representative of the whole University (mostly because I don’t like his style and don’t appreciate the handling of the Soderburg firing and other such baloney that happened under Fr. Biondi) however I *get* what the good Archbishop is saying. You at least have to give the guy props for consistency.

    All that being said, I wish the Archbishop would put the kind of energy he’s demonstrated with the “shoring up of the faithful” to actually leading a life demonstrative of the Gospels.

    I’ll take my comments off the air 😉

  8. maire says:

    Oh and as a sidenote, Saint Louis University is trademarked. It can’t be written St. Louis University. You don’t want Fr. Biondi coming your way with that 😉

    Additionally, Catholics (the Jesuits) do *own* Saint Louis University.

  9. awb says:

    After all the trouble Biondi went through to convince the court that SLU is not a Catholic university, I think it shows some arrogance or ignorance on the part of Burke to expect SLU to do something about a Catholic employee speaking his opinions. After all, it was because of the funding for the new arena where basketball is played that the court ruled that SLU is secular.

    As a spokesperson for a non-Catholic university, Majerus’ statements should simply be taken for what they are: the opinion of a basketball coach (who happens to be Catholic) of a secular, non-Catholic school (as defined by the Missouri Supreme Court) on a controversial topic. I guess I missed the part of why a basketball coach’s opinion on this topic is news.

    If I recall correctly from the court case, the secular board governs SLU. Not Biondi, not Burke. If Burke and Biondi are in charge, then the arena would not have received taxpayer (secular) money. If Burke wants to change SLU to being Catholic again, maybe we taxpayers can get our money back.

  10. Jeff says:

    I think it’s time to print a second run of the “Everybody Loathes Raymond” t-shirts.

  11. Adam says:

    “I guess I missed the part of why a basketball coach’s opinion on this topic is news. ”

  12. Adam says:

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha burke can’t even spell “masturbation”!
    j/k steve 🙂

  13. Bridgett says:

    As a Catholic, I still cling to the belief in the informed conscience. It’s between me and my God, not between me and my archbishop and God.

    On the other hand, Majerus should have recognized his public figure status and said something like, oh, “no comment” or “I’m just here for the snacks” or something to puzzle everyone…like “I’m voting for Ron Paul! Ron Paul!” Just kidding. He should have reigned it in a bit.

    Well done, by the way.

  14. Jeff says:

    ^I disagree. He’s allowed to express his opinion just like anyone else.

  15. maurice says:

    I think that it began with out a thought on Majerus’s side. Some reporter saw him and knew he was famous, so he hiked over and asked a question (this will get my piece on the air). Maj. probably thought nothing of it since I’m sure he gets questioned a lot. Then the Archbishop said something and the other media took it and ran.

    Biondi and Burke aren’t exactly poker buddies. Each headstrong with a vision. You have to give them both credit for that. Biondi uses his vision and strength and rebuilt the University (some would say ruined it). Burke (I think) uses his to further the Church.

    Is he right? I could say no, but I’m not God. As a catholic, I’m sorry to say that there are many things I think the church is restrained in and tied to the past where the sheep were to be led, and they don’t question. Always a few hundred years behind the times. But maybe that is why its been around for a 2 thousand years. Maybe I’m just a bad catholic.

    I think Matt above hits the nail on the head though. A softer, more sheparding manner would have drawn more faithful and not more fire.

  16. Lisa UCity says:

    Adam, your “j/k” comment about not being able to spell masturbation reminded me of a really bad old joke…a priest arrives at the pearly gates and is summoned before God, who is quite peeved. The priest is perplexed, and says “God, I don’t know what I have done to upset you…I’ve been good all these years, and I’ve kept all my vows. It was tough being celibate, but…” God interrupts him and says, “Celibate?! I said ‘celebrate’ you idiot!!”

    I’m a non-believer and apologies in advance to any offense taken by those who are believers. I do think Steven Weinberg did a nice job of summing up religion in general:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    As for Burke – he reminds me of the archbishop in Detroit in the 80’s who colluded with the corrupt city government and automaker (I think GM?) to sell off church properties in Hamtramck (Detroit’s old Poletown). Much like St. Stanislas here, the parishoners and pastor were heavily punished and eventually arrested after a month-long sit-in at one of the churches they were attempting to demolish.

    It is Burke’s law, not Church law, that he seems intent on enforcing. I like Steve’s suggestion on a more conciliatory reaching-out vs. alienating of the faithful.


  17. southsidered says:

    If only Majerus had molested some children! Burke would’ve given him sanctuary, and maybe free access to some more little kids, all in the name of forgiveness. Sweet guy, that Archbishop.

  18. a.torch says:

    I have a real problem with Burke, since he is guilty of what he condemns, picking and choosing what parts of the Church law to enforce. Where was his Spirit when he was Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin and at first IGNORED sexual abuse by priests in the region and then just decided to move around the abuser-priests, not get rid of them?! He is guilty of far greater crimes than Majerus! He has no moral authority in light of how he handled the sex abuse cases up North!

  19. a.torch says:

    Let us not forget his condemning of folks who gave freely to help sick and dying children! (RE:Costas charity event) St. Louis does not want or need Burke!

  20. Dave says:

    I’ve been a practicing chrisitian all of my life. I don’t know what God Raymond Burke worships, but it isn’t the same one I do as a christian. The God I worship has a son that made a point to be inclusive to the point of “hanging out” with tax collectors, money changers and prostitutes. He also made a point of including anyone that had even a little faith. Note the woman that touched his cloak. While Christ himself didn’t condone the behavior of people that were not holy, he didn’t scorn them to the point of not talking to them anymore.

    I am not a practicing Roman Catholic…and after watching Raymond Burke, I don’t believe I could become one. What’s more interesting is learning of the ideology of the late great Pope John Paul II, that was about being ecumenical and about trying to reach out to include the protestant churches and even Moslems.

    Saint Paul, in many of his letters encourages early christians to not judge and to let the holy spirit work within people. Excommunicating people in the Catholic church if I understand it properly is aimed at taking the church out of the equation in a person’s life. It appears as if, in the name of power, Raymond Burke is making a point to stop talking to people about christ and this seems so “anti” what any of what I’d expect him to be about.

    Further, there seems to be a HUGE paradox between the diocese’s message to parishoners about the priests that were abusing children (relocate, don’t prosecute) and those that will not simply submit and give control of their funds and management to the church as found with St. Stanislaus. The priest serving people in this parish is being excommunicated, simply for not supporting the church’s efforts and helping spread the word of christ, while these priests that clearly destroyed lives and caused unknown chaos and pain are only “relocated?”

    Why would a man that clearly aims to be one touched by God, be one that is so clearly un God like? This appears more like it is a power and money play than one that has anything to do with dealing with people in a “Christ like” manner.

    God bless St. Louis Catholics and those under the direction and administrative work of the Archdiocese lead by Raymond Burke. They’re going to need it, not because of Burke, but in spite of him.

  21. a.torch says:


  22. Rita says:

    I agree 99% with what Matt said. Burke would have better served his Church and himself had he spoken more like a “shepard” and less like a “pit bull”.

    However, I don’t think most people (Catholics included) understand the Catholic faith. A Catholic is NOT free to pick and choose which teachings to believe and still remain in good standing with the church (ie be worthy of receiving Holy Communion). Any individual who believes abortion and EMBRYONIC stem cell research to be acceptable (most especially when that person publicly states their views before TV cameras) is in a state of mortal sin and not worthy of the sacrament of Holy Communion.

    It is the responsibility of the individual who disagrees with the Church position to first and foremost cease presenting oneself for Communion. Second to seek out guidance and direction and most importantly to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to understand the reason for the Church position. Hopefully with enough prayer and reading, the person will come to understand and accept the Church teachings. Finally, only after receiving absolution from a Priest through the sacrament of Reconciliation will that person be free once again to receive the Holy Eucharist.

    If, after the search, one still disagrees with the Church teachings, an individual is left with two choices. One would be to continue to attend Mass and pray for a change in heart (still not receiving Communion). Or to seek out a Protestant denomination that is more in line with your beliefs (there are plenty to choose from and it shouldn’t be too tough to find one).

    Burke had not only the right, but a responsibility to inform Majerus of his standing within the Church. He could have done so privately, thus avoiding all of the headlines. As far as SLU and Biondi, they are “lost” as well as Majerus. For a number of years they have used their “Jesuit/Catholic” heritage when it was convenient and have discarded it when it was inconvenient. I am an alumni that ceased donating a long time ago when I saw that the University had no interest in teaching young people the truth about the Catholic faith.

    I just wonder if there would have been the same shouts about Majerus’ First Ammendment rights to free speech had he made a racial slur and insulted or offended an entire race?

  23. Dave says:


    Interesting take on your religion. Do all catholics fly in the face of what the bible says simply because the priest says so? Far be it from me to judge, simply seems that the way you explain it, that a very personal walk, that each of us has with our faith and a living lord found through the holy spirit, is left in such clear black and white terms with men being the final arbiters.

    My best wishes and my personal hopes to you for continual blessings. You’ve cemented my decision not to explore catholicism even further, and your explanation explains why the Catholic church’s efforts to be ecumenical ring hollow.

    While I understand that leaders need to stand for something, I can cite many times where Christ himself provided the “leniency” that isn’t so black and white.

  24. brian says:

    Saint Louis University is a Jesuit Univeristy. They proved to the courts that they were serving the public and the mid-town area. A situation that allowed the university and the area to grow. Make no mistake, SLU is a private Roman Catholic university run by the Jesuits. As always, I take offense to Steve’s comments, his enrollment in a Catholic university, and his presence in my city.

    Slay-mayor for life

  25. awb says:

    Rita’s description is the catholic church I grew up with and left in the 70s. I find it a paradox among catholics I know that they believe they are good catholics when it comes to strictly following some of the church’s teaching (no meat on Fridays during Lent, attend mass regularly, for example), but have to think for themselves when it comes to issues that may affect them too much (like birth control). If all catholics who use birth control, sleep with someone outside catholic marriage, believe in gay rights, or support abortion rights really follow church teaching, they would not take communion until they confessed their “sins” with the solemn intent of not doing that “sin” again.

    I wonder if Burke is under the impression that all those regular church-goers and people who contribute money really follow all the catholic teachings. Judging from the catholics I know, very few are eligible to receive communion this week without confession and change of heart, but they’ll be up there at the communion rail anyway, just after making that donation.

    I’m not a fan of Burke’s. I think his public statement about Majerus was uncalled for, his position on St. Stan’s is insulting, his part in the sexual abuse scandal is sickening, and his in-your-face tone is very un-Christ-like.

    But Rita makes a really good point when she says that Burke has the right and the responsibility of seeing that St. Louis catholics do not overstep church boundaries, and he can only do that when an infraction is done publicly. If Burke wants a really small flock, he will continue to make examples of high profile catholics like John Kerry and Majerus and seek out others who don’t follow all the rules. So far, though, I think the “don’t ask, don’t tell and keep sending your money” method is working out for vast majority.


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