Cardinal Burke is placed on ventilator days after testing positive for COVID-19

The conservative cardinal, a vaccine skeptic, announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 10.

Cardinal Raymond Burke applauds during a news conference at the Italian Senate on Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — A message from the Twitter account of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a conservative prelate and outspoken skeptic of the COVID-19 vaccine, confirmed Saturday (Aug. 14) via Twitter that he had been placed on a ventilator after testing positive for the virus.

Saturday’s tweet, apparently sent by Burke’s communication team, said the cardinal, 73, is being assisted by a ventilator at the hospital in Wisconsin, where he was a bishop from 1995 to 2004. “Doctors are encouraged by his progress,” the Aug. 14 tweet stated, adding that Burke “faithfully prayed the Rosary for those suffering from the virus. On this Vigil of the Assumption, let us now pray the Rosary for him.”

Aug. 15 marks the Feast of the Assumption, when Catholics celebrate the ascent of the Virgin Mary into heaven.

On Aug. 10, Burke had tweeted the news that he had tested positive but was “resting comfortably and receiving excellent medical care.” 

Burke can often be seen walking in Rome, where he lives, often maskless but always with his rosary in hand.

Born in Wisconsin, Burke served as bishop of the diocese of La Crosse from 1995 to 2004 and later became the archbishop of St. Louis. In 2008 he was summoned to Rome to act as prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signature, the highest judicial authority at the Vatican after the pope, until his resignation in 2014.

Burke has occupied several influential positions at the Vatican but has frequently clashed with Pope Francis. In 2016, he signed a letter with the other three prelates questioning the pope’s cautious opening for divorced and remarried couples to receive Communion following spiritual accompaniment expressed in his Apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

More recently he challenged Francis’ “Traditionis Custodes,” a teaching document published in July that placed significant restrictions on Catholics who follow the traditional Latin form of the Mass. Burke described it as “marked by harshness.”

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It is unclear whether Burke has received the vaccine, but speaking at the May 2020 Rome Life Forum, Burke said that “vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.” He also quoted groups that suggested that COVID-19 vaccines inject “a kind of microchip” that allows citizens to “be controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters which we can only imagine.”

The cardinal also said that “it is never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses,” adding that the state “is not the ultimate provider of health. God is.”

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