The XX Factor

American Cardinal Blames Women for “Feminizing” the Catholic Church

Manly man, Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Last year, Pope Francis demoted American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke by removing him as head of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican’s high court) and giving him a perfunctory post at the Knights of Malta. This was a big deal because Burke is a fire-breathing reactionary who rose high under Pope Benedict, and his demotion was evidence that Pope Francis’ progressive leanings are more than just for show.

But, as Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post reports, Burke has no intention of retiring from the public eye and devoting his energies solely to service for the poor. Instead, he has started a campaign to eradicate what he believes is a toxic femininity that is eating away at the manly manness of the Catholic Church. 

Burke’s theory, published in an interview with a website called the New Emangelization (good one), is that if women have any presence at all in Catholic spaces, this forces men out of the church. McCoy quotes from the interview and provides some context:

“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women,” Burke continued. “The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved. Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.”

Most priests started off as altar boys, a position, he said, that “requires a certain manly discipline.” But then in 1983, the Church dropped its ban on girls serving as altar assistants. That move, Burke said, made young men uncomfortable and unwilling to participate in altar services, leading to an eventual shortage of priests. “The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service,” he told Emangelization. “Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.”

Burke doesn’t stop at merely arguing that women and girls are icky. He also lays the pedophile priest scandal at the feet of women, saying, “There was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.”

Crazy as this sounds, there may be a method to Burke’s madness: Telling women they’re to blame when Catholic priests rape children does seem like a way to persuade them to stay far away. No one tell Burke that Pope Francis is encouraging women to breast-feed at the Sistine Chapel