Lots of bloggers are abuzz the past week with Archbishop Burke’s immediate move to Rome as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. A contrast in commentariats tackles the issue. At dotCommonweal the few, the proud, and the brave “orthodox” are basically saying, “You support women’s ordination, so of course you’re cheering.” And at InsideCatholic they’re insisting he’s a really, really, really good bishop, just misunderstood. (Note: these are intentionally caricatured viewpoints with far less nuance than the real thing.) Archbishop Burke gets a red hat and a job he’ll love, but is it really a promotion?
Rock reported that Burke has long been a standout in scholarly circles, and capped that stage of his career with five years in Rome working at the Signatura before his 1994 appointment to the see of LaCrosse.
Which is the real Raymond Burke? The legal scholar or the bishop? Which was the sidebar to his life’s work: being a legal mind or being a pastor?
If the man’s heart is in law rather than leadership, he seems to resemble a bit of this American president, where moving to a high court was his most satisfying personal achievement. He once penned, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.”
If Burke shares that view, then the person will do better in Rome than in Saint Louis. At this stage of my life, I don’t begrudge anyone the most meaningful work in the most fruitful setting. He may or may not have been bumped by his brother bishops stateside. People may be cheering a bit that the long arm of canon law can’t reach across the Atlantic. But if the episcopacy was just a dalliance, then Archbishop Burke is cheering, too.
It does beg the question as to why we ordain an all-male clergy for this. We’re told men only for presbyters and bishops. Did Jesus establish at the Last Supper that the head of the Apostolic Signatura had to be male, too? If so, what is it about this office (or any curial position for that matter) that signifies Christ to the extent that a woman would not be considered. I’m sure there’s a legal opinion on that. Somewhere.
Personally, I’m glad–very glad–I’m staying in pastoral ministry.