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Catholic colleges must combat secularism, says Cardinal Burke in Boston


Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican's supreme court, speaks at the Thomas More College President's Council Dinner held at the Harvard Club in Boston on Dec. 4. Pilot photo/ Christine Williams

BOSTON -- "The name 'Catholic' accepts no qualifiers," Cardinal Raymond Burke said in his first public address since elevated to join the College of Cardinals on Nov. 20.

His comment was met with resounding applause from supporters of Thomas More College in Merrimack, N.H. at their annual President's Council Dinner. The event was held at the Harvard Club in Boston on Dec. 4.

Cardinal Burke has served as prefect of the Vatican's supreme court, the Apostolic Signatura, since 2008 and was archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis before that.

Known for speaking with conviction about moral issues, most often the protection of the dignity of human life, Cardinal Burke has announced publicly that he would deny Communion to Catholic politicians who take positions contrary to Church teaching. He has also stated that Catholics can never vote for a candidate who advocates an absolute right to abortion.

To a culture full of ambiguity and moral relativism, Burke speaks decisively about right and wrong.

He told those gathered at the Thomas More College dinner to be wary of Catholic organizations that brand their names with adjectives and modifying phrases. He lamented the practice of many colleges qualifying their identity, calling themselves things like "Catholic university in the Franciscan or Jesuit tradition." This 'tradition' has little to do with the great tradition of the universal Church, he said.

The name Catholic has its full authentication, he added.

Secularism in the United States has created a "culture of violence and death" that denies the dignity of human life, integrity of marriage and right order of relationships between people. Now more than ever, the Church needs Catholic institutions of higher learning to form their students in the faith properly, he said.

"At the Catholic university, the very manner of study and research should manifest the bankruptcy of the abuse of human life and human sexuality which has come to be standard on many university campuses," he said. "How tragic that the very secularism which a Catholic university should be helping its students to battle and overcome has entered into several Catholic universities, leading to the grievous compromise of their high mission."

One of the first things every Catholic college must address is the "prevalent and utterly destructive error of our time that somehow faith is contradicted by reason," he said.

Students must be equipped to address the truth in their personal lives and society so that they will be able to resist the "secularist dictatorship" that seeks to exclude all religious discourse from the professions and from public life, he said.

In a time marked by religious illiteracy, when many young Catholics are poorly catechized, Catholic schools must teach scripture and tradition. Students must study the fathers of the Church and approved theologians -- above all St. Thomas Aquinas.

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