We are departing from our established practice and present this Cardinal von Galen Award to both Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke of St. Louis and Bishop Robert William Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph. These two prelates distinguished themselves in the campaign against the passage of Constitutional Amendment #2 in Missouri during the November 2006 election. Bishops Burke and Finn are recognized pro-life leaders who boldly spoke out to educate Catholics and all citizens concerning the deceptive language of Amendment 2 which claimed to ban human cloning but in fact only banned the implantation of cloned human beings in a woman’s uterus. Cloning and killing human embryos for their stem cells using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) technology is now permitted in Missouri through this terrible Amendment 2.
Archbishop Burke was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Rose Dinner following the annual Washington March for Life and inspired his listeners with his forceful pro-life message. He qualified the human embryonic stem cell research that is going on today as “Frankensteinian.” We are discriminating against an entire class of human beings simply because of their age and size, he said. Archbishop Burke reminded the faithful that the natural moral law is written by God on every human heart, and those lawmakers who do not apply it in practice contribute to the erosion of public life.
HLI proudly stands with these two outstanding shepherds of the Lord’s flock who are fulfilling their mission to teach and guide the Catholic faithful in their dioceses. The polls at the beginning of the Amendment 2 campaign showed that 75% of voters viewed unrestricted embryonic stem cell research favorably. In the final vote the amendment received the slimmest of majorities and almost failed thanks to the public education campaign of the pro-life coalition which had the full support of the bishops of Missouri. Bishop Finn wrote with a prophetic voice to his priests, “The fundamental God-given dignity of each human person, and the need for human society to respect that dignity, transcends all partisan or political categories. This dignity is the core value at the heart of our Catholic social teaching, and an integral aspect of the Gospel message we are called to teach.”
We also remember that when he was still bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Bishop Burke made a public proclamation on November 23, 2003 addressed to all the politicians of his diocese who claimed to be Catholic and tolerated legal abortion that they would not be admitted to receive Holy Communion. He said, “With respect to the fundamental responsibility of safe-guarding and promoting respect for human life, it is my duty to explain, persuade, correct, and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of Life through their actions and policies.”
Archbishop Burke and Bishop Finn have displayed admirable episcopal leadership of the faithful, and HLI gratefully acknowledges their service with our Cardinal von Galen Award.