Wineke: Are altar girls destroying the future of the Catholic Church?

Madison diocese seeks $30M to fund priest training

The sub-zero temperatures and the second term of Scott Walker make it hard to find a reason to be optimistic about life.

But one can always count on Cardinal Raymond Burke. The fact that the good cardinal, who once was Bishop of La Crosse, is no longer a member of the body that chooses Catholic bishops does suggest that mediocrity doesn’t triumph forever.

What did Burke do to justify the pope’s lack of confidence?

He was in Wisconsin in December and gave an interview to the head the new Emanuelization Project (he’s evangelizing “men,” you see) and explained the reason the Catholic Church has been suffering a priest shortage is because of altar girls.

“Young boys don’t like to do things with girls,” Burke said. “It’s just natural. I think this has contributed to the loss of priestly vocations.”

To which some people may respond, “Huh?”

Burke went on: “It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy at the side of a priest, and most priests have their first deep experience of the liturgy as altar boys.”

In other words, since most dioceses allow girls to serve at mass along with boys, the boys won’t want to participate and, therefore, won’t want to become priests.

He really said that.

If a girl serves at mass, she might get her first deep experience of the liturgy and want to become a priest as well. Could that be a problem?

If Burke had stopped there, I suppose one might give him the benefit of the doubt. He might have been saying it is cruel to raise such hopes in a girl when the church will never let her become a priest anyway.

He might have said that, but he didn’t.

Instead, he said the church has been “feminized” in recent years and that turns men off in general because men “respond to rigor and precision and excellence. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has been full of women.”

So, he doesn’t like altar girls and he also thinks women in the church don’t like rigor, precision or excellence.

Not only that, but a feminized church could have led to priests who, in Burke’s view, “were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity” and, therefore, went on to molest children.

Those are the words of a guy who wears red satin, lace and trails a 20-foot train for ceremonial occasions.

I’m sure Cardinal Burke is a bright guy, but he may be missing a sense of irony.

Until recently, he was one of the people responsible for choosing the world’s bishops. Now he’s not.

That’s one cause of optimism in this dreary season.