Saturday, January 16, 2010

Has Archbishop Burke Actually Read Thomas More's Utopia?

Archbishop Burke was given another pulpit as a forum to preach to tea bagger Catholics. In this case the Diocese of Phoenix by Bishop Thomas Olmstead. I just wrote about Olmstead and his strange silence about Sheriff Joe Arpaio's interesting treatment of Olmstead's Hispanic flock. It's sort of disingenuous of them to think that Thomas More, the champion of London's lower classes, would support either of these two clerics.

A society that masks 'totalitarianism' with 'hope' will destroy itself, warns Archbishop Burke
Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 13, 2010 / 12:11 am (CNA).-

Using the example of St. Thomas More, Archbishop Raymond Burke exhorted legal professionals present at Tuesday's Red Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral to keep God before their eyes as they strive to administer justice amidst a “society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations.”

Archbishop Burke flew in from the Vatican to celebrate the Mass at the invitation of his long-time friend, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. The Red Mass is the only event on the archbishop's short itinerary.

“As a Catholic lawyer, it is an incredible honor to be graced with the presence of Archbishop Burke at the Red Mass,” John Kelly, general counsel for the Diocese of Phoenix, told The Catholic Sun. “This is also a man who has publicly and unabashedly defended the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of life. An opportunity to celebrate Mass with someone like this does not come along very often.”

The archbishop began his homily by explaining the origins of the Red Mass, a tradition dating to the Middle Ages. Noting that there was a stronger understanding of the “essential unity” of faith and reason in that time period, he said that celebrating Mass “at the beginning of the new judicial year pointed to the irreplaceable foundation of the service of pronouncing the just and the right on behalf of one’s brothers and sisters. (Not exactly what More actually wrote.)

He also explained that red vestments are worn during the Mass for two reasons: judges in the Middle Ages wore red robes and because they remind “us of the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ” in obeying the call of the Holy Spirit to lay down our own lives.

Archbishop Burke then presented the story of St. Thomas More, a lawyer who was martyred for choosing to serve God instead of the king. The patron saint of lawyers, the archbishop reminded, is known for exclaiming, “I die the king’s good servant, and God’s first.”

“Saint Thomas More understood that there could be no contradiction between his service of his nation and his service of God, and that, in fact, he could only serve his nation truly and faithfully by his true and faithful service of God,” Archbishop Burke declared.

As he reflected on the calling of those in the legal profession, the archbishop called to mind the traditional formulation of a definitive sentence, “the judge, in giving the final disposition of the sentence, always first declared: 'Having God only before my eyes.'”

“The minister of justice bears a most heavy burden, the burden of emptying himself of himself, in order to have God alone before His eyes, in declaring what is just and right on behalf of his fellow citizens,” noted the archbishop. “At the same time, he enjoys the grace of the Holy Spirit for the carrying out of his service.” (Then the minister of justice is not serving on behalf of his fellow citizens, he is serving on the basis of his notions of God. He should then be a spiritual leader and not a secular judge. Judges must judge on the basis of secular law.)

This is no easy task, the Vatican-based archbishop noted as he assessed the current state of the American society.

In our culture, “the law more and more dares to force those with the sacred trust of caring for the health of their brothers and sisters to violate the most sacred tenets of their consciences, and to force individuals and institutions to cooperate in egregious violations of the natural moral law,” he said. (The US Constitution is not limited to Catholic notions of natural law.)

“In such a society, the administration of justice is no longer a participation in the justice of God, an obedient response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but a façade cloaking our own selfishness and refusal to give our lives for the sake of the good of all our brothers and sisters.”

“It is a society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the 'hope,' the 'future,' of our nation. Reason and faith teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death and in the end destroy itself,” Archbishop Burke warned. (Apparently what the Archbishop desires is totalitarianism by Christianity. That's been tried. Many Indigenous populations found it results only in producing labor exploitation, resource theft, violence and death. Ooops I forget, this sermon is being given in Sheriff Joe country, to Sheriff Joe supporters.)

Addressing the lawyers and politicians present, he stated, “All of us depend upon you to speak what is just and right on our behalf and on behalf of all our brothers and sisters, especially those whose lives are in any way threatened.” (Unless they are illegal immigrants. Then it's OK to defend only some brothers and sisters lives.)

Acknowledging the difficulty of this task, he prayed that all ministers of justice would always enjoy the comfort, strength, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Burke concluded his homily by praying, “Let us lift up to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus those charged with the administration of justice on our behalf, imploring for them the gift of the Holy Spirit to inspire and strengthen them in declaring what is just and right on behalf of all our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in most need."


I can't help but wonder if AB Burke has actually read St. Thomas More's Utopia. I mean the whole book is dedicated to the thought that reason alone can be used to determine decent, humane, and appropriate behavior. Thomas More was after all a HUMANIST. He believed that these values of fairness, justice, mercy, and compassion were intrinsic to humanity, part of our nature, our deepest and most truthful impulses. These values could be discovered and acted upon without knowledge of Christianity or God for that matter. They were not exclusively Christian or theistic concepts, but universal to man's nature.

I could make the case Thomas More's martyrdom was as much a statement about the separation of Church and State as it was an affirmation of Catholicism. He objected to Henry VIII's usurpation of Church authority because Parliament did not have such authority. But, Thomas was equally appalled by the usurpation of secular authority by Church clerics.
Yes Thomas battled with Luther, but more so over Luther's means to Church reform, not the need for reformation. Essentially Thomas objected to Luther's throwing out the baby with the bath water and encouraging others to follow him. He saw Henry doing the same thing for even less reason in that Henry's schism was political not theological. It was one thing to criticize the clerical system, but quite another to criticize and reject the totality of the Catholic faith. Thomas could not tolerate schism yet he was still no supporter of unfettered clericalism.

Here's a couple of quotes from Utopia that Archbishop Burke should meditate on:

I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who, on pretence of managing the public, only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill-acquired, and then, that they may engage the poor to toil and labour for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please

E]very man might be of what religion he pleased, and might endeavour to draw others to it by the force of argument and by amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those of other opinions; but that he ought to use no other force but that of persuasion, and was neither to mix with it reproaches nor violence
And then there are these words on capital punishment:
But if one shall say, that by that law we are only forbid to kill any except when the laws of the land allow of it, upon the same grounds, laws may be made, in some cases, to allow of adultery and perjury: for God having taken from us the right of disposing either of our own or of other people’s lives, if it is pretended that the mutual consent of men in making laws can authorise man-slaughter in cases in which God has given us no example, that it frees people from the obligation of the divine law, and so makes murder a lawful action, what is this, but to give a preference to human laws before the divine? and, if this is once admitted, by the same rule men may, in all other things, put what restrictions they please upon the laws of God.
St Thomas More was a lot of things, but he was no tea bagger.


  1. "totalitarianism masking itself as hope"

    hmmmmm.... is he describing the papacy's dictatorial role as head of a theocratic state?

    Oh dear... did I say that?


    I gotta say, Colleen, these guys stand no chance with your intellect following them into their dark lairs!

  2. For a different take on Thomas More, listen to what Stephen Fry has to say about More. The pertinent part is about 1:38 into the clip.

    This is an Intelligence Squared Debate, an organization that stages debates around the world. This one was held in London last October. That night the debate question or the motion: "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.”

    Stephen Fry was one of two people who had the negative.

  3. Burke should have been looking in the mirror at himself. He is an ecclesiastical bully.

  4. The more I delve into the troubles in Maricopa County the more I wonder if this isn't about things to come.

    It's ugly and it's breaking a long racist and class lines. The guys with the guns are in open conflict with the folks who make the laws and the judges who determine enforcement and now with the Feds.

    If we think the health care debate is divisive, just wait.

  5. Add to that at least one governor who makes noises about secession (yes, I mean you, Rick "Goodhair" Perry,) open eliminationist talk in the press, on television, and in talk radio (see David Neiwert's "The Eliminationists") and the tea partiers, and I think civil war is in the making.

  6. AB Burke says the USA is "a “society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations.”

    Good grief. This man is in fundamentalist la la land.

    Sheer madness that these people would play with the fires of Civil War and against unity. They fail to see themselves and their role on the world's stage as the ghosts of tyrants and despots of former ages. Blind. So blind.

  7. That Burke is a bully..a fundamentalist......& point man for Canonical enforcement of the totalitarianism of the a given:)

    The question I pose is this: for Burke to fly in JUST for that mass costs money. Lots of it. I can assure you that neither he nor his servants scoured the web for the cheapest plane/hotel/rental car tickets. You can safely bet he flew 1st class.....or at best took a high priced business class ticket.

    Now the question: since this trip from Rome surely cost $ will he account to Christ for it? The Jesus who, in the face of the poor, starving, bleeding & dying of Haiti (and elsewhere) could have been far better served with this money?

    Opus Deistas will quickly quote the tale of Judas - claiming that such words are false piety. That the money should be spent in Christ's service (Translation: for them).

    Perhaps Mr. Burke should acquaint himself with the fictional Pope Kyril I of "The Shoes of the Fisherman", by Morris West.

    ....before he has to face Christ.