The following is an open letter to Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was removed in 2013 from his position on a Vatican panel by Pope Francis, and then in 2014 he lost his assignment as head of the church's highest court, following a litany of antigay comments and remarks critical of the pope. The author is a relative of the cardinal on his father's side; both grew up in the same small Wisconsin town of Richland Center.
Dear Most Reverend Cardinal Burke:
I have read over the years the many hateful things you have said about the LGBT community and I can no longer remain silent. When you are speaking those hateful things, you are speaking them about your own flesh and blood.
That's right -- your own flesh and blood is gay. And every time I read comments by you, I wonder: Does he know he is saying those things about his own family ?
I am proud that I was raised Catholic, and I even attended a school that bears your name. In all my years of attending church, I never once heard a single word that led me to believe I was not loved by my Lord and Savior. In fact, I heard the opposite.
I was taught to love others like I would love myself -- a path I still live to this day. But I can't understand how that practice has translated into such a deep disdain for the LGBT community. Are we not loved the same as you? Isn't our Lord Jesus Christ the pinnacle of compassion? Are we not the same in the eyes of God? I think we are all loved by God, no more and no less than any other person on this Earth.
If anything, I have seen great courage and compassion in the hearts of members of my community. I have witnessed love so deep that death itself cannot erase it. I have seen people become living examples of Good Samaritans, opening their homes to children who were abandoned by families that can only be considered such from a biological standpoint -- certainly not by a calling to love one's own.
I have witnessed the incredible talents of LGBT people in all areas of society. I have watched the love and compassion of a community rally to slow down an epidemic that affects not only the LGBT community but our entire world. And I have seen that compassion personified when two people commit to one another and to God, standing together on a beach to express their undying love and faithfulness.
I cannot say whether you truly hate us -- but certainly, your words vilify us. But you will never take from us what God has given us: our dignity. As you must know, we are all made in his image.
So the next time you demonize us, remember that you are preaching hellfire about your own flesh and blood. May God give you the strength to see that we are created in His image, and see that we are all one in God.
Forever in My Prayers,
SEAN BURKE is a freelance marketing professional currently living in Madison, Wis. Raised in the same small Wisconsin town as Cardinal Raymond Burke, Sean has corresponded with the cardinal, who is his grandfather's cousin.