In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, recalled that “discipline in the seminary practically evaporated” following 1968. The “rebelliousness” he observed was particularly manifest in “disregard” for canon law, but “by the grace of God, I persevered.”
Raymond Burke was a college seminarian at Theological College (the national seminary of the Catholic University of America) from 1968 to 1971 and a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College from 1971 until his 1975 ordination to the priesthood.
“1968 was the symbolic year of the Paris student riots,” Archbishop Burke recalled, “but that whole rebellion against authority entered into the seminary too and in an unfortunate coincidence, coincided with the implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”
“What happened in my judgement was more of this rebellion against authority,” he added, “than the actual reading and studying of the documents of the Council and following them.”
In contrast, Archbishop Burke had fonder memories of his years as a high school seminarian in the Diocese of La Crosse (Wisconsin) and of his graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Born into a Catholic family as the youngest of six children, Archbishop Burke also recounted the influence that the Irish-born parish priest had upon his priestly vocation. As the archbishop’s father was dying of a brain tumor – the future prelate was eight when his father died – the parish priest would visit the home to hear his confession and give him Holy Communion. “I saw this was sustaining my father very much; it also gave me so much comfort,” Archbishop Burke recalled. The priest would then chat with the children in a fatherly way.
Cardinal-designate Burke says he didn’t have a “light bulb” moment or a flash of recognition when he realized he was destined for the priesthood. “From the time I was small,” he recalled, “I was quite attracted to the priesthood. I came from a good Catholic family where the practice of the faith was very important and my parents were very close to the parish priest… a native of Ireland.”
Archbishop Burke also said that he did not choose to study canon law. As a young priest, he served as assistant rector of the cathedral and a theology teacher when the late Bishop Frederick Freking told him he would be sent to Rome to study canon law. When the future cardinal asked whether it might be prudent to delay the new assignment so that he could continue teaching a while longer, the bishop said, “I didn’t think I was asking you” — thus teaching the future prelate a lesson in obedience he never forgot.
Source: Vatican Radio