The decline of the Christian West

The decline of the Christian West

Cardinal Raymond Burke

The following are extracts from Cardinal Raymond Burke's address on 11 March 2011 as the keynote speaker at the Australian Catholic Students Conference in Sydney (see report on page 12). Formerly Archbishop of St Louis, in 2008 he was appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2010 Christmas Address to the College of Cardinals, the Roman Curia and the Governorate of Vatican City State, spoke clearly and strongly about the profoundly disordered moral state in which our world finds itself, today. He spoke about the grave evils of our time, for example, the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, the marketing of child pornography, sexual tourism, and the deadly abuse of drugs.

One also thinks of other most grievous moral failures of our time: the plague of procured abortion, the wholesale murder of the unborn in the womb, justified as the exercise of the so-called right of the mother to choose whether to bring to term the baby she has conceived.

More and more, too, we face the abhorrent practices of the artificial generation of human life and its destruction, at the embryonic stage of development, which are justified as the means to find supposed cures for crippling or deadly diseases. I cannot fail to mention also the so-called "mercy killing" of those who have the first title to our care, our brothers and sisters who have grown weak through advanced years, grave illness or special needs, which is justified as respect for the quality of their lives.


One necessarily thinks, too, of the ever advancing agenda of those who want to redefine marriage and family life to include the unnatural sexual union of two persons of the same sex, which is justified as tolerance of the so-called alternative forms of human sexuality, as if there were a true form of human sexuality other than that intended by God, our Creator and Redeemer, as He has written it in our body and soul.

Regarding the grave evils which beset the world, in our day, Pope Benedict XVI declared that they are all signs of "the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind" and that they result from "a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man's freedom and ultimately destroys it".

Pope Benedict XVI noted that the role of religion in public discourse "is not always welcomed", for various reasons which can also include "distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism".

He observed, however, that such distortions do not justify the exclusion of religion from public discourse, for "reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take account of the dignity of the human person". What remains necessary and true is the right relationship of faith and reason. The Holy Father concludes:

"This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith - the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief - need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation."

Religion, he continued, "is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation". In the light of the irreplaceable role of religion in public life, the Holy Father expressed his "concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance".

He then gives a telling description of some of the more troubling manifestations of the effort to alienate religion from the public forum. His words which I now quote shed light on the absurdity and indeed moral perversity of a public order which fails to respect the proper role of religion:

"There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue - paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination - that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square."

Gift of God

The manipulation of the conjugal act, as the Servant of God Pope Paul VI courageously observed, has led to many forms of violence to marriage and family life. Through the spread of the contraceptive mentality, especially among the young, human sexuality is no longer seen as the gift of God, which draws a man and a woman together, in a bond of lifelong faithful love, crowned by the gift of new human life, but, rather as a tool for personal gratification.

Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and indeed destructive of individuals and of society itself. One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our world by the multi-billion dollar industry of pornography. Fundamental to the transformation of Western culture is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.

The restoration of the respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the future of Western culture and the advancement of a culture of life.

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