Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ members of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, has contracted COVID-19 and is on a ventilator in a Wisconsin hospital.
Burke, who has been a vaccine skeptic and criticized other COVID mitigation measures, is in serious but stable condition, the Associated Press reports. It’s not known if he had received the vaccine.
The ultraconservative Burke is the former archbishop of St. Louis and before that was bishop of LaCrosse, Wis. After leaving St. Louis, he became head of the Vatican’s highest court in 2008 but was removed from that position by Pope Francis in 2014, after he said the church under Francis was “like a ship without a rudder.” Francis put him back on the court in 2017 but only as an adviser. He lives in Rome but was visiting Wisconsin when he was diagnosed, according to The Washington Post.
Burke has made many anti-LGBTQ+ statements throughout his career, in addition to criticizing Catholic politicians who support abortion rights and activists for the ordination of women. In March 2020, early in the COVID pandemic, he said Catholics should attend Mass in person despite the health risks, partly in order to combat “the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality.”
“We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he wrote in a letter posted on his website at that time. “With ever greater concern, we witness the devastating effect on individuals and families of the so-called ‘gender theory.’ … There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins.”
Among his many other homophobic and transphobic comments, he said in 2014 that Pope Francis “is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts.” Despite Francis’s sometimes welcoming attitude toward LGBTQ+ people, however, the pope has in no way changed that teaching.
Burke has criticized vaccine mandates and repeated the conspiracy theory that the COVID vaccines contain a microchip, while also claiming the vaccines were developed “through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses.” That is misleading, the Post notes, as Pfizer and Moderna simply tested the vaccines on cell lines derived from fetal tissue. The Vatican has decreed that use of the vaccines is morally acceptable.
Several other prominent anti-LGBTQ+ figures who have likewise objected to COVID mitigation measures have recently contracted the disease. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that he has COVID even though he is fully vaccinated; at the same time, his administration has barred cities in the state from enacting mask mandates. H. Scott Apley, a member of the Dickinson City Council in Texas, died early in August; he had been diagnosed with the disease after mocking its dangers, and he had also made numerous anti-LGBTQ+ statements.