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Priests defend, commend Archbishop Raymond Burke

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By Matt C. Abbott

I like Fathers Tom Euteneuer, James Farfaglia, and John Trigilio.

They're not afraid to speak out on controversial matters.

So I was happy that they responded to my request for a statement on the current Rick Majerus, Archbishop Raymond Burke controversy.

As you may have heard or read, Mr. Majerus, coach of the St. Louis University basketball team, voiced support for abortion "rights" at a recent rally for pro-abortion presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Archbishop Burke wants the university - a nominally Catholic one, by the way - to discipline the defiant, pro-abortion coach.

Father Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, issued this statement:

"Rick Majerus is more of a basket case than a basketball coach. His sicknesses all fit so neatly together: He has a modern anti-Catholic 'Jesuit' education; he embraces superficial, undigested rhetoric about the issues; he is a jock pretending to be a scientist; and he exhibits a defiant disobedience to religious authority. Dante would have a field day -- no pun intended --putting this guy in the pit of hell. He should be excommunicated along with all the Jesuits who 'educated' him."

Father James Farfaglia, of the Corpus Christi, Tex., Catholic diocese, had this to say in defense of Archbishop Burke:

"I applaud Archbishop Raymond Burke's courage. He is always speaking out with clarity regarding pro-life issues. If every bishop in America were to follow his example, the horror of legalized abortion would be over with. Too many bishops hide behind the walls of their cathedrals and do not speak out. Too many of our bishops will not take a stand against Catholics who openly defy Church teaching. The scandal of our times is the hierarchy who are not speaking out. Let us pray for the few bishops who do have the courage to take a stand."

And, last but certainly not least, Father John Trigilio, president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, provided me with the following statement:

"Coach Rick Majerus may be a nice guy and may be a great coach, but he is not a good Catholic if he refuses to give submission of mind and will to the authentic Magisterium of the Church on matters of faith and morals. While the Archbishop of St. Louis (and the pope, for that matter) have no authority to tell him how to play basketball, ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research are totally and completely under the purview of the Church and her official leaders.

"One hundred and nine years ago, on January 22, 1899, Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Testem benevolentiae nostrae which condemned the heresy of Americanism. This pernicious theological error proposed that there are no absolute moral principles or immutable doctrines. It held that truth was relative and that the personal conscience is the sole and supreme arbiter of ethical behavior. Americanism denied the necessity of cultivating a well formed conscience, tested and guided by the Natural Moral Law and the Divine Positive Law of God Himself.

"Coach Majerus should get his money back from the Jesuits at Marquette who taught him. They did not teach him the truth. Morality is not subjective but objective. Imagine if a basketball player tells the coach he disagrees with him and will follow his conscience instead. How long will he be playing? If any player personally chooses to reject one or more of the rules of the game or if they refuse to yield to the authority of the referee, will he not be asked to leave? What about his freedom? If you want to play basketball, you agree to follow the rules, to obey the coach and to obey the officials. If you want to be a Catholic, you obey the pope and the Magisterium. Period.

"Dissidents like Charles Curran, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx and Leonardo Boff paved the way for others to dissent from official Church teachings. Their rebellion spawned a generation of moral and doctrinal recalcitrant miscreants. Americanism is particularly dangerous since it appeals to the patriotism found in most everyone.

"Archbishop Burke and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) had every right, obligation and duty to correct erroneous proposals, refute heretical teachings and to discipline the disobedient to protect and preserve the common good of the entire Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Coach Majerus is entitled to his opinions and has freedom of speech, but it is not an absolute right. He must judge his ideas against the veracity of divine revelation. All believers must embrace the teaching authority of Church, founded by Christ Himself and entrusted to Saint Peter and the Apostles and their successors, the pope and bishops in communion with him.

"Personal liberty does not give anyone the right to deny others their inalienable human rights. Slave owners used to argue that they were free to do as they will with their own property. Sadly, they saw African-American slaves as property and not as human beings. The law of the land, thanks to the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, had been that blacks were not citizens and could never vote. Likewise, Plessy vs. Ferguson legalized racial segregation. Both were immoral, evil and sinful acts, legal yet wrong.

"Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion, but it remains a totally evil, sinful and abhorrent injustice against the innocent unborn. Nazi Germany enacted the Nuremburg Laws which legalized anti-Semitism and paved the way for the Holocaust. Were those who erroneously considered Jews or African-Americans to be partial or even totally non legal persons entitled to their opinions? Sure, as long as they kept it to themselves. Once spoken in public, it must be addressed and consequences delivered. Abortion is murder, plain and simple. Those who promote and support it are wrong and if they openly support it, they are placing themselves outside the Church.

"Why do so many people consider theology, religion, morality and ethics subjects prone to opinion? Sacred Science is like Physical Science. Both are true. Two plus two equals four is perennially true, whether in Bedrock or in Boise. Abortion is always immoral, just as is slavery, racial segregation, racism, and anti-Semitism. Euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research are equally malevolent and sinful, regardless of how many disagree. Bottom line is that if you profess to be a Catholic and you work at a Catholic institution, your public words and actions must conform to the moral, ethical and doctrinal principles of the Catholic religion. Otherwise, quit or be quiet. Coach Majerus should stick to comments on sports and leave faith and morals to the Church founded by Christ and authorized to teach in His name. No one else has such credentials.

"Bravo to Archbishop Burke for being brave enough to enforce the penal codes of canon law. These are medicinal measures meant to persuade the offender to repent and recant and come home. When more bishops and pastors do likewise to politicians and anyone who publicly rejects Church teaching on faith and morals -- that is, when they publicly refuse them Holy Communion and threaten excommunication -- it is not to be mean; rather, it is tough love. Anyone can lie to you or withhold the truth from you. Only someone who truly loves you, however, will tell you the truth, no matter how difficult or painful, since you deserve nothing less. A good coach not only trains his players to play well but also to play their best and to do it honorably and honestly."

(Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He is the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League and the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee. He was a contributor to The Wanderer Catholic newspaper and had numerous letters to the editor published in major newspapers, including The New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He can be reached at


Matt C. Abbott IL, US
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