Rorate Caeli

Attacks on Cardinal Burke by old-time feminists

Cristina Siccardi
Corrispondenza Romana
February 4, 2015

In the distressing state of affairs with respect to faith in which we are compelled to live, where drinking bile seems to be a daily event, there are those who manage to pour out this bile in a public way and lash out with rancor against persons of adamantine churchmanship.  Is it possible to throw stones, without any respect, against a cardinal with the Catholic and theological caliber of Cardinal Burke?  Today it is possible.

Gianni Gennari did precisely this last January 30 in a vitriolic article published by Vatican Insider with the title “If Burke does not want altar girls”.  Gennari was ordained a priest in 1965, held positions close to the positions held by Tonino Tatò (the founder of the “Movement of Catholic Communists” in 1943) , and of Enrico Berlinguer, whose secretary he became.  Gennari married in 1984 after having been laicized.  The strategy that Gennari contrived in his article is that of opposing the Cardinal, who holds high the banner of the perennial teachings of the Church, by a theological side-step to a secular mode and to feminist thought,  and in this way making use of an obsolete progressive line of thought that promoted the idea that the Church was the enemy of women,  understood as a category. It is well to remember that the classic examples of the hatreds disseminated by Communism involved man-woman, rich-poor.

The left has always played upon a forced contradistinction between men and women, obviously taking swipes against a Christian culture that is Christocentric and Marian, and such an ideological basis, which has even entered the Church, abolishes, with the false understanding of equality derived from Enlightenment thought, the harmony and the beauty of the complementarity of the opposite sexes that is desired and created by God.

The fact that Cardinal Burke, who was the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Supreme Tribunal of the Holy See, aligns himself with the doctrine of the Church as it has always been taught should not scandalize thinking persons.  Altar girls (chierichette) are objectively a disturbing presence in the Church.  Let us begin with etymology, which always helps to clarify concepts.  The term “altar boy” (chierichetto) means little cleric, little priest and comes from the Latin word clericus, the adjectival form of the word clerus, which pertains to the order of priests.

In this way, “altar girl” (chierichetta) is the little cleric, the little priestess.  It should be enough to stop right here to understand the incompatibility between a girl and service at the altar.  It is basically simple:  different vocations exists because there are different sexes.  The "neutral" swapping of roles in this case is very dangerous, and creates disordered competition, psychological and organizational unbalance, chaos, and, above all, profanes the order established by God and in consequence destroys the equilibrium in human relations.  The Church has been the teacher of order and harmony, of respect for and honor to God, and, consequently, for persons and between persons, which, by reverencing the divine law, are not changed by earthly passions, those things that are ultimately tied to original sin:  antagonism, prevarications,  revolutions that have no raison d’être for those who understand the value of each role.

Saint John Chrysostom, a Father of the Church, wrote, in commenting on the Second Epistle to Timothy:

See how women were also on fire, burning with faith…so Priscilla, so Claudia…they were detached in spirit from worldly things, and the they shone all the more…In fact, the woman plays no small part in civil society…and even more in the realm of the spiritual:  she is able to die a thousand times, if she wants, and many have indeed been martyred; she is able to guard her chastity, and better than men, because she is not plagued by their drives; she is able to show modesty, dignity and purity, without which no one will be able to see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), and a disregard for riches, if she so chooses:  in short, all the virtues.  (Homily on the Second Epistle to Timothy 1:3)

To see girls with earrings dangling from their earlobes, who are fixing their hair, or who look at their polished nails in the presbytery (from the Greek presbyteros, the elder; from the Latin presbite, priest, and in this way the presbytery is the place for those who have received a specific and sacred ordination) is something that jars not only with respect to semantics but more with respect to theology, which is concerned with the things of God and not with feminism.

The nasty article by Gennari is based on what one is used to hearing from the suffragettes of the Catholic Communists and accuses the Church of having been in the past against the figure of women on principle, citing St. Pius X in an anecdotal way, with no reference, as among the mocking persecutors of women.  It would be a good thing, with respect to this claim, to invite any one who doubts Pope Pius’s high opinion of women, to read the parish records written in his own hand when he was Don Sarto (what words he used in praise of women!), and the many passages that this holy Pope wrote in his copious correspondence that gave honor to women.  And among these there stands out his mother, Margherita Sarto, whom he loved, exalted and venerated with a power similar to that which St. Augustine loved, exalted and venerated St. Monica.  The lyrical words, articulated from a manly heart and not from ideology, that we find in the writings of these saints, including Don Bosco in his conversations with his mother (the founder of the Salesians prophesized on the 6th of January in 1870 an “effeminized Rome” in the future), are not read on any page written by the progressives, lay or clerical.

When Gennari declares that “the anti-feminine predisposition is something very old, in all cultures, and we find it even in cultures that are seen to be modern, not only in Christian and Catholic culture”, he places even more in relief the doctrinal clarity of Cardinal Burke, an authentic servant of the Church, who does not say “The times have changed” and that altar girls must compete with altar boys as if to claim a right, but in terms that are at once realistic and dealing with the sacred he sings the splendor of the Sacred Liturgy: in this “’holy house’ (St. Peter’s), following the example of the Mother of God and imploring her intercession, let us rediscover that the one “sharing” that is ours in the one “inheritance” that is ours is the Lord living for us in the Church, and our everlasting dwelling place is found in a holy people in the “communion of Saints”. (Homily given by Cardinal Burke is St. Peter’s during the Populus Summorum Pontificum 2014 pilgrimage).

Many vocations are actually born from the experience that little boys have while serving at the altar, looking at the Tabernacle and the priest.  It is very difficult that such a calling arrive in company with little priestesses.