Last Friday, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, confirmed that he had been told that he would be transferred from that position, presumably before the beginning of November. That announcement was met with great rejoicing in progressive circles, and weeping and gnashing of teeth in conservative ones, but what it brought to mind for me was an intervention made by a priest, on behalf of the faithful in the pews, during a talk given by His Eminence that evolved into a discussion of the discipline of denying communion to those persisting in sin. This priest challenged the Cardinal's insistence that such denial should take place, pointing out that, in the practical sense, it was rarely the Cardinal, his brother bishops, or even their immediate delegates who were called upon to issue such a refusal, but instead the task as often as not fell to the good men and women who volunteered to serve as Eucharistic ministers, not realizing that such service to Christ would require them to determine the level of obstinacy with which their neighbors were persisting in sin. Whether the Cardinal's insistence on this point was instrumental in his impending removal is unclear (Pope Francis, by way of contrast, has spoken of the Eucharist as 'a remedy not a prize'), but the unseen victims, if you will, of such policies and decisions is what prompted me to devote today's entry to a reflection on Cardinal Burke's legacy in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (yes, he has one).

In my mind, there are three legacies of Cardinal Burke that remain problematic in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

1. The Vocation of Father Peter Laird

I don't think it is any secret that
a close relationship exists between Cardinal Burke and the Laird family. I also don't think it is any secret that this relationship played an important role in developing Father Laird's vocation or in shaping his ecclesiastical career. Whether Father Laird would have been admitted to seminary without Burke's support we will probably never know, but when the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was informed about why Laird was not accepted to the formation program of his choice (for another diocese) reference was certainly made to his influential supporter. The reasons for this refusal appeared to me to be almost prophetic, considering the ways in which (in my opinion) Father Laird's careerism would impact his decisions regarding handling accusations of sexual abuse, although at least some responsibility for this should fall on Archbishop Nienstedt. In his deposition (p. 44), the Archbishop stated under oath that he couldn't recall ever asking staff to provide a priest's file for him to review, and while I give a few examples of times when I know he did do so, I have no reason to believe that he reviewed Father Laird's prior to appointing him Vicar General. I would like to believe that things would have been different with another priest at the helm from 2009-2013.

2. Reverend (Name Redacted)

Even those of you who have read the entirety of my affidavit may not be aware that Cardinal Burke is mentioned in it, since his name, as well as the relevant details, have been redacted.
Suffice it to say that one of the priests about whom I was most concerned during my time as Chancellor, and whose incardination I strongly opposed, was a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse who had been sent to Minneapolis by then-Bishop Burke for spiritual direction. Admittedly, (Bishop) Burke was not immediately in favor of allowing this priest- whom he had found unsuitable for ministry in his own diocese- to serve in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but his objections were overcome within a matter of months, and the priest has been serving in parishes in the Archdiocese ever since. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Archdiocese contacted me late this summer about an investigation they were conducting into the conduct of this priest. I did not respond, as I have little, if any, faith in the Archdiocese's investigations. However, I did attempt to forward that information to those more immediately involved, with the caveat that I could not endorse the investigation or the person apparently investigating. In the meantime, I haven't heard or read of any steps being taken to protect or warn the public from any possible misconduct by this priest.

3. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Admittedly, the Shrine is in the Diocese of La Cross, not the Twin Cities. And, there is no question that it is beautiful, and has been a site of pilgrimage for many faithful. Yet, from my vantage point as Chancellor it was hard to view it (and some others like it) as anything more than a magnet for dysfunction, largely because
of the requests I would receive for 'Testimonials of Suitability' from unsuitable priests who wished to lead such pilgrimages or attend other events at the Shrine. During my time as Chancellor requests came from those who have now been 'identified', as well as some of our more colorful characters, if you will, such as the priest who sued his parishioners after a baby monitor inadvertently picked up sexually explicit telephone conversations the priest was having with a woman from his former parish who was rumored to be his paramour. This impression was only confirmed in 2011 when a fellow attendee of the annual canon law conference I was attending (continuing ed money was rarely available in ArchSPM, but Father Laird was on the Board of the Shrine...) was arrested for alleged sexual assault of a fifteen-year-old girl. Cardinal Burke was a speaker at the conference, and I believe he was present when police were admitted to the conference facilities to conduct a make-shift lineup comparing the conference attendees with an image of the assailant that had been captured on a mobile phone. I am sure you can understand that this event remains my most vivid memory of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I wish the Cardinal well as he transitions to his new appointment, and only hope that with this matter resolved, attention ca 

 


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    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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