Left to right, Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 14). Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Does Catholicism have a 'man crisis,' or is Cardinal Burke paranoid? (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) In an online interview this week, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the “radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.”

Left to right, Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 14). Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Left to right, Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; and Raymond L. Burke, then-prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Oct. 14, 2014. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But many women will head to Mass this weekend and note that the priest, bishop and pope have something in common: They are all men, and the power they hold in institutional church structures hardly looks like marginalization.

In spite of Burke’s paranoid opinion that “rampant liturgical experimentation” resulted in men who were “really turned off” by the Mass, women will stand and recite a recently revised Nicene Creed that states that Christ died “for us men.” They will pray to a God referred to only by male pronouns even as God’s gender remains stubbornly mysterious. Even the language of the liturgy negates the presence of women.

Yet Burke is bewildered by women’s “self-focused attitudes” and “constant and insistent demanding of rights.” Women, he said, “respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church.” And yet, when the sanctuary becomes “full of women,” and the parish activities and liturgy are influenced by them, these become “so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”

The fact that Burke gave this interview to a website whose very name -- The New Emangelization -- may lead many to question whether it is actually a parody, indicates the level of absurdity in Burke’s claims that women have somehow taken over the Catholic Church.

There is also something disturbing and insulting about his ideas concerning the men already in the church.

Burke argues that “feminized” priests have been so influenced by overbearing women that they have lost their sense of manhood. But it was that same generation of “feminized” priests who encouraged women to study theology, write for Catholic magazines, take up leadership roles in parishes and even educate future priests. Those priests see women as collaborators. They do not see women as something to be feared.

The problem with Burke’s idea of manhood is that it is oversimplified and based on antiquated notions of gender. Men, according to Burke, have “particular gifts,” they “make sacrifices” and defend their families with “chivalry.” They are “heroic” and should demonstrate a “manly identity” and “manly virtues.”

Women are “wonderful,” but that’s just about the only compliment Burke manages to pay them before he trashes the presence of altar girls in favor of Knights of the Altar who will “defend Christ” with their “chivalrous service.”

It would be easy here to point out that Burke also demands that “men need to dress and act like men” while having a reputation as a Vatican fashionista who often sports “elaborate silk and lace vestments.” One blog actually pairs photos of Cardinal Burke with ones of Liberace, and the resemblance is uncanny. Burke’s notions of gender may be woefully outdated, but his sense of style is wrought with irony.

Irony is perhaps the bottom-line takeaway from Burke’s ideas about gender. It is ironic that a man who wears silk and lace chooses to lecture men on what it means to be masculine.

It is ironic that the same man blames women for the drop in vocations to the priesthood when many of those women would make excellent priests.

Kaya Oakes is the author of Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church and a book on the evolution of DIY religion, forthcoming from Orbis Books in 2015. She teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes is the author of Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church and a book on the evolution of DIY religion, forthcoming from Orbis Books in 2015. She teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Kaya Oakes

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

It is ironic that women are considered a threat to a church that refers to itself as the “Bride of Christ.”

It is ironic that women who do the majority of catechesis at parishes, who educate priests, who write landmark works of theology and give birth to cardinals, bishops and popes are still not able to be leaders in the church. Because, according to Cardinal Burke, we’re just girls. And everyone knows girls are icky.

(Kaya Oakes is the author of Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church and a book on the evolution of DIY religion, forthcoming from Orbis Books in 2015. She teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter @kayaoakes.)



  1. Hard to believe how much throwback idiocy this dolt can get into one sentence. Every Roman catholic capable of using her or his brain ought to be insulted by every sentence of his quoted in this article.

  2. according to the way Burke “thinks” it’s a wonder God left the birth of his son up to a woman.

  3. The apostasy gets deeper and deeper. A revised Nicene creed is no longer the Nicene creed (apostasy). Nicea revised the Apostles Symbol (apostasy). After Nicea the Roman and Byzantine churches became the tool of the Emperor (apostasy). As Emperor’s faded it became the tool of kings (divine right apostasy). As monarchs fell it became the tool of political parties. As straight people LEFT the R.C. church it became the tool of GLTB and now it is about to become the tool of feminists. What it seems unable to do is become the tool of Jesus whose great commission is not unclear. There is no money in it.

  4. I get the impression that no one has considered the possibility that men and women are meant to work together. Cardinal Burke ignores the contribution of women to the historical, theological, and daily life of the Church, while Ms. Oakes sets up gender as opposition instead of cooperation.

    Please, everyone, consider that the most contested opinions don’t always represent the reality of any organization, religious or otherwise.

  5. I think there might be a misunderstanding of the revision of the English edition Roman Missal. It was a re-translation from the original Latin, intended to better represent the wording and meaning of the text.

    Any issue with this “revision” is an issue with the original Latin, not the English translation.

  6. Take off on a well known story ….

    Once there was a Church that felt that a lack of vocations would spell it’s demise and prayed incessantly for vocations ….

    Along came gays who said “we’ll serve” – the Church said “No, God will save us!”

    The shortage got worse …

    Along came married men who said “we’ll serve” – the Church said “No, God will save us!”

    The shortage got worse …

    Along came women who said “we will serve” – the Church said “No, God will save us!”

    Finally the Church died – when it appeared before the pearly gates, it chastised God – ” I believed in you, why didn’t you save me!?”

    God said – “For Pete’s sake, i sent you gays, married men and women and you rejected them all ….”

  7. Sophie, you said in 3 succinct sentences what the cardinal and the author failed to understand. While Cardinal Burke and Ms. Oakes engage in a grotesque dick-measuring contest, you remind us that we are, in the end, in this together. Thank you. Again and again: thank you for this sweet reminder.

  8. “Does Catholicism have a ‘man crisis,’ or is Cardinal Burke paranoid?”

    How about neither. The catholic Church in general, and burke in particular, are misogynistic. It’s as simple as that. “It’s all the woman’s fault” said adam.” And these male sheep have been bleating that nonsense ever since.

    Personally, I think the answer to the priest shortage lies in Catholic theology. A vocation to the priesthood is a literally a calling from god. It is a charisma, a gift from god. Apparently, God isn’t calling very many people to the catholic priesthood. Maybe he is tired of centuries of child abuse. Maybe he thinks so much gold is déclassé.

    So blame god.

  9. Oakes seems to willfully commit the straw man fallacy in responding to Cardinal Burke’s interview. Every response of hers is to a disingenuous misrepresentation of what the Cardinal said. The most obvious misrepresentation is that the men that Cardinal Burke is referring to as having felt very marginalized are laypersons, not priests; this “very marginalized” quote follows directly from his having said: “I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so.”

    Oakes could also use a crash course on the origins of liturgical vestments. Liturgical vestments aren’t meant to ape women’s clothing but originate from tunics or cloaks.

    She also seems unaware that she is arguing against her own points when she reaffirms the Church’s title as the “Bride of Christ” immediately following her assertion that some women would “make excellent priests”, as if to suggest that the feminine title should be reflected in the vocations that members of the Church pursue. The Church is indeed the Bride of Christ, a feminine title, whereas the priesthood is meant to represent Christ, who is male, in relation to his Bride.

    Furthermore, by excluding the masculine connotations of Christ, while upholding the feminine connotations of the “Bride of Christ”, Oakes also unwittingly proves Cardinal Burke’s point.

  10. Yes clearly the Cardinal is saying let’s all get along, as long as you have a dick, that is.

  11. YIKES……..the lesbian feminists are on the attack!!!!!!!!!!

  12. She clearly proves all of Cdl Burke’s point(s)….several times over. Unfortunately, she seems oblivious as to what he is saying. Nor is there any apparent effort to appreciate the context and background of the 2000+ years of the Catholic Church founded by one, Jesus Christ. Rather her tone is one of a women who believes she has been deeply hurt by CC and expresses it in the shrill manner of an angry “feminist”. Would that she would one day meet and s/w Cdl Burke? He would sincerely and genuinely listen to her in a kind pastoral manner. He would be the first one to advise her (or anyone) the right course of action to take in addressing any problem with the Church…It would be truthful, sincere and kind. Unfortunately, Cdl Burke creates lightening because he speaks the Truth clearly, charitably and succinctly. It upsets a lot of folks….especially former Catholics, CINO’s and the liberal/progressives in the Church. May Ms Oakes receive the grace to address and heal her hurt and anger and her spirit be at peace.

  13. /thread

    That was brilliant. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a “man problem.” It has an everything problem. This guy’s whining about feminism because feminism is the demon du jour of the religion, but if his church were more relevant to men, then more men would be part of it.

    It’s not hard to think that Burke would just love it if feminism just went away–like that’d make people flock back to Catholicism again or something. Even the defeat of feminism and the repeal of women’s hard-won rights (both aims that the RCC sounds like it supports 100%) would not make this antiquated, misogynistic, criminal-protecting religion look appealing to anybody who cares about fairness, truth, or justice; it certainly would not make women rush back into the arms of those who helped to disenfranchise them, nor make them docilely submit to Catholic control again.

  14. Sophie, I will now point you to the middle of the article you are purportedly commenting about here, in which Kaya writes “But it was that same generation of “feminized” priests who encouraged women to study theology, write for Catholic magazines, take up leadership roles in parishes and even educate future priests.Those priests see women as collaborators. They do not see women as something to be feared.”

    In case my point is unclear, to “Collaborate” in the Miriam-Webster means “to work jointly on an activity, esp. to produce or create something” You know…cooperation.

  15. Pope Benedict’s Gucci shoes aren’t the descendent of medieval monastic clothing, and if those capes are, it’s clearly derived from the richer clerics’ outfits, not from those who followed a rule of poverty.

    Meanwhile, the Protestants and Orthodox seem to get along just fine with married priests, y’all should join us. (We haven’t really caught up with women preachers yet, but we’ll get there.)

  16. The Church is feminine, as we are all feminine in relationship to God; the priesthood is then masculine, for these very same reasons.

    Cardinal Burke is absolutely correct in what he is saying, Masculinity is under attack today, be it young girls serving as altar servers (there will never be a vocational aspect of priesthood for girls), or any shred of masculinity immediately suspected of being a possible rapist.

  17. The was a brief controversy about whether Pope Benedict’s shoes were Prada. The only time Gucci ever came into a picture is when a Vatican aide said, “Benedict doesn’t know Gucci from Smoochi.” It was a short-lived controversy after it was shown that they really weren’t Prada.

    The red shoes that the pope along with the red capes that he and the cardinals wear are meant to symbolize the blood of martyrdom. There is a daily martyrdom that such endure when people care more about the value of certain information as it can be used to slander the pope and cardinals, but when it found out that such information isn’t true anymore, people really don’t care, just like the instance of whether the Pope wore Prada. The opportunity to slander was well used, and that’s all that matters to such people.

    Before believing and publicly spreading anything Catholic, please do a little research to find out if it’s actually true.

  18. This is just about the stupidest thing I’ve seen in months.

    The Church prays for vocations (both men and women) to serve her people, not because she “fears her demise”.

    When the gays came along and the Church stupidly said “Yes!”, the gays couldn’t keep their hands off the penises of the altar boys.

    The Church does not always say no to married men. There are many married priests.

    Over the last 50 years, the far more common cry of women has been an echo of Satan’s “We will not serve!”, as evidenced by the empty convents. This refusal of women to enter religious life has been a stake through the heart of the Church. This absence of women religious, especially in the role of teachers, is the primary reason so many Catholics don’t know the first thing about their faith.

    Finally, the Church can’t die, as the gates of Hell will not prevail against her.

    So much for your ridiculous “take off on a well known story”.

  19. Perhaps because for centuries, christians were killing Christians over the scriptural certainty that God wanted hymn #666 sung in Latin, while the other side war scripturally certain that God wanted it sung in French.

    That kind of thing makes you uncertain about the whole process.

  20. Thanks for putting us all in the gutter with that “measuring contest” comment. Perhaps you live there. I prefer not to.

  21. And the name of the church that is surviving and growing today? The Catholic church. (Yes, it continues to grow)

    And the churches that are dying today? The ones who support women priests and gay marriage etc etc. (Yes, they are hemorraghing members and may not continue to exist)

  22. You are confusing homosexuality and pedophilia. Only the latter is criminal in its practice.

  23. You are confusing pedophilia with pederasty. The latter is the crime most often committed by homosexual priests. Or are you one of those chumps that believe heterosexual men can be turned on my adolescent boys?

  24. To sum it up: men in skirts think there is a man crisis…

  25. I wholly disagree. Burke’s comments are hateful. It is he who speaks disrespectfully about all women and even little girls who are members of the Catholic Church. The author’s comments are directed specifically toward Cardinal Burke and his misogyny.

  26. WHY is the ordained priesthood, now and forever, exclusive to men?

    Not only does this question have an answer, it is an incredibly beautiful answer that needs to be shouted from the mountaintops in this time like never, ever before. The answer involves the concepts of gender, marriage and sexuality; the very areas of culture under profound, direct demonic attack; the very areas of culture upon which civilization lives or dies. And the answer resides, as it has for 1980 years, in the Mass.

    First, let’s talk about gender. God, in Himself, contains both masculine and feminine. GASP! God contains a feminine nature? Of course He does. Goodness. If God possessed no feminine nature, then that would mean that women contained a nature that was completely outside of God. How could God create something which He Himself did not contain? Well, you might say, God doesn’t have an evil nature, but evil exists. No. Evil is merely the absence of good. Evil is not extant, just as cold is the mere absence of heat, and darkness is the mere absence of light. Femininity is an extant nature. Femininity is NOT the absence of masculinity. Femininity is an existential reality unto itself, and therefore God contains it in Himself.

    Let’s define masculinity and femininity with two axioms:
    The essence of masculinity is INITIATION.
    The essence of femininity is RESPONSE.

    In all aspects of life, from sociology to courtship to sexual intercourse itself, men are vocationally the initiators – or at least they SHOULD BE. Men lead. Men make decisions. Men command armies and wage war. Men initiate courtship. Men are the head of the household. Even the male anatomy is initiatory. The man introduces his body into that of his wife.

    Females are the receptors and responders in human existence. Females listen, and respond. Females follow. Females render assistance and are responsive helpmates. Females respond, in the affirmative or the negative, to the courtship advances of men. Females receive the love of their husbands and respond by submitting themselves to their husbands. The female anatomy is a physical receptacle for the body of her husband, which then returns to him from the same physical space the fruit of their mutual love – a child.

    God the Father gives Himself fully to God the Son. God the Son fully receives the love of God the Father and then fully returns it. This intercourse of infinite love being perpetually given, received and returned yields a third – God the Holy Ghost. Thus, God, in His infinite capacity as both INITIATOR and RECEIVER/RESPONDER within Himself, clearly contains BOTH masculine and feminine nature. God isn’t like men and women. Men and women are like God – created in His image, both male and female.

    So why do we call God “He” exclusively? Because in the God-man relationship, God is the INITIATOR and mankind is the RESPONDER. The relative disproportion here is so great that it can be said to be practically infinite. God created and perpetuates in existence the entire universe JUST SO MAN CAN EXIST. God became incarnate JUST SO THE BROKEN RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD AND MAN COULD BE RESTORED. God died on the Cross JUST SO HIS LOVE FOR MAN COULD BE MANIFESTED TO THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE EXTENT. God comes to us in the Eucharist SO THAT WE NEED NEVER BE SEPARATED FROM HIM. Initiation, initiation, initiation.

    Every man’s life is nothing more than responding to desperate, pleading love overtures and nuptial initiation of God. We either say yes, or we say no. And like the Gentleman He is, He never coerces. He is there, infinitely powerful, infinitely virile and infinitely reaching out to us, but at the same time infinitely meek (meekness is power under control, remember), infinitely gentle and patiently persistent in His advances.

    BUT, there is exactly ONE MOMENT wherein God, so utterly consumed and infinitely condescending in His love for mankind, actually goes so far as to permit man to take the role of initiator (masculine), and God Himself voluntarily, for just a moment, RESPONDS TO THE INITIATING ACT OF MAN. Yes, God makes His feminine nature manifest before mankind. That moment of total condescension of God to man is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, specifically at the moment of consecration of the Host and the Chalice.

    In the traditional, pre-Vatican II rites, such as the Tridentine, Ambrosian, and Byzantine rites, at the moment of consecration, when the priest, in an act of masculine initiation, is calling God to the altar, both at the consecration of the Host and at the consecration of the Chalice, the priest MUST bend over the altar, stare intently at the Host or the Chalice, and rest his elbows on the altar. In this posture, and this posture only, does the priest then say the words that actually effect the change of the bread and the wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

  27. I’ll have to disagree for a moment, if you read articles about pedophilia from the first-person perspective, there isn’t a large element of gender as much as age. So this “homosexuality = pedophilia” doesn’t quite work. Please research and read about the different attractions before dismissing entire populations based off of your miss understanding of human sexuality as experienced by someone besides you.
    (If you think of sexual preference as classes, straight, gay, bisexual, and pedophilia would be in different classes, with potential fluidity between those classes (think of double-majoring, or whatever analogy). )

    Also, when it comes to sexual abuse, the abuse is mostly about power over someone else. Sexual abuse is not about *sex* as a means to an end. So, a person can be abusive, sexually, as an expression of power, in the same way someone is physically abuse. Sexual abuse just becomes a different expression of violence.

  28. I have read lots of stupid things in my life, but I think this comment is in the top ten. You really think women’s only role ever is to passively wait for men? Are we allowed to initiate conversations or do we have to wait silently for some male to speak? Can we vote? Run a business? Honestly I hope you’re not married and never have children because you will abuse a daughter and the sins you raise would be unspeakable.

  29. Dick measuring contest is effective imagery. Would you be more comfortable with the word ‘penis?’

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