The cardinal said Christians might have to face 'loss of goods, government harassment and imprisonment'

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said that the secularisation of society has entered the Church, and that in the face of persecution Catholics are called to martyrdom.

Speaking at a pro-life event organised by the campaign group Voice of the Family, Cardinal Burke said: “Catholics are called today, more than ever, to stand up for the truth which Christ teaches us, even if it means loss of goods, government harassment and imprisonment.”

The cardinal, who was formerly head of the Vatican’s highest court, warned of “a secular understanding of the divine realities which are part and parcel of our daily life”. He said this “mundane” view was responsible for the belief that the divorced and remarried could be readmitted to the Eucharist.

The cardinal said: “If a person who is living publicly in violation of his or her marriage bond is admitted to the Sacraments, then either marriage is not indissoluble or the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is not the Body of Christ and the encounter with Christ in the Sacrament of Penance does not require the firm purpose of amendment of our lives, that is, obedience to the word of Christ, ‘sin no more’.”

The cardinal discussed at length the life of Fr John Hardon SJ, a Jesuit who devoted himself to evangelisation. Cardinal Burke has championed Fr Hardon’s Cause for canonisation since his death in 2000.

The Cause is ongoing, though doubts have been raised about Fr Hardon’s links to a fellow Jesuit, Fr Donald McGuire, who was later found guilty of child abuse. Fr Hardon had known that Fr McGuire acted “highly imprudently” towards teenagers, taking showers with one and receiving massages, but recommended that Fr McGuire continue his priestly ministry.

Cardinal Burke quoted Fr Hardon as saying that “Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history”. The cardinal said the only response was for Catholics to live out their faith, including witnessing to the truth. “Catholics are called today, more than ever, to stand up for the truth which Christ teaches us, even if it means loss of goods, government harassment and imprisonment.

“I think, for instance, of the threat of the loss of tax exemption, with its disastrous effects on many apostolates of the Church, which may be the necessary result of holding true to our faith and the moral law. We can do nothing less than to hold true to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the truth which He hands on to us in His Holy Church, no matter what suffering or persecution we may face.”

The cardinal quoted Benedict XVI, who speaking as Cardinal Ratzinger before the papal conclave which elected him in 2005, said that “ideological currents” were leading Christians into error. “The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves,” Cardinal Ratzinger said, alluding to St Paul’s warning about “human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error”.

Cardinal Burke told his listeners that the love of God was the motive for martyrdom, saying: “I love Christ, and I love His Mystical Body, the Church, and so do you. We embrace indifference, ridicule, rejection, and other forms of persecution because we love Our Lord and all our brothers and sisters in Him, in His holy Church.”