Too Many Interviews

Does anyone remember the phenomenon of “Our Lady of Bayside”? Beginning in 1975, there was a series of supposed apparitions of the Blessed Mother (deemed inauthentic by church authorities) in Bayside, Queens. The visionary there, a Queens housewife, claimed she received some 290 messages from Mary, and many other saints as well. The devotees of these apparitions gathered in the former (1964) World’s Fair grounds, at the site that once was the Vatican pavilion. The alleged messages from Mary were many. Many! And they just kept coming. They included tirades against removing altar rails and warnings against playing guitars in church, and numerous other things.

I’ll never forget the story of a theology professor who, when asked about the plausibility of these so-called revelations, dryly observed: “Our Lady seems a bit… talkative.”

Alas, being “a bit… talkative” is not limited to apparitions. Remember how Pope Benedict was going to be “hidden from the world” after his retirement? This fall the emeritus pope sent a talk to the Urbaniana (Oct 21), a message to Summorum Pontificum pilgrims (Oct 25), a message to the Anglican Ordinariate (Oct 30), and met with leaders of Caritas Veritate International (Nov 6), all of which were reported in the press. On Nov. 17 he again made headlines by changing his 1972 views on admitting the divorced and remarried to communion, with his new views now being published in his collected works. He then talked with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Dec 7) saying it’s ridiculous to think he was trying to influence the Synod on the family. “I try to be as quiet as I can,” he said.

And then there’s his secretary and master of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. When his picture appeared on the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, in January 2013, he was quoted virtuously suggesting that his role should be like glass: “the less you see of the glass, the better it is.” But that didn’t stop him from giving interviews. He was interviewed on Rome Reports, Reuters, Vatican Radio, the Washington Post, and Gloria.tv. Next thing you know, he gave an interview on German television in March 2014 saying Pope Francis is “not everyone’s darling,” and darkly predicting that his popularity won’t last.

But the all-time chatterbox award has to go to Cardinal Raymond Burke, now former head of the Apostolic Signatura.

As a Cardinal he gained considerable public attention through pictures. He frequently appeared in extravagant liturgical vesture as he traveled around the world saying Mass in the Tridentine style for the traditionalist groups whose de facto worldwide chaplain he has become. This was bizarre and worrying enough. But recently he has started giving interviews and he just can’t stop. He has been interviewed everywhere from LifeSite News to Buzzfeed. Here is a man who has been so often interviewed that he has to give interviews to clarify what he said in other interviews.

First he claimed notice for voicing opinions at odds with things Pope Francis said. Then he held forth on what a mess the Synod on the Family was. He said the church is without a rudder, and that the Pope needs to clarify his position. He raised an alarm about confusion and asserted that the church needs a strong leader. Then he gave interviews saying he is not opposed to Pope Francis. Really?

2015 wasn’t even a week old when Cardinal Burke got out in front giving yet more interviews. The Wanderer is publishing a two-part interview with him on multiple topics (part 1 appeared on January 5), and The New Emangelization [sic] published an interview with him on the importance of manliness (“the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized”) that same day.

Burke is a fairly young Cardinal (66), so I suppose he’ll be talking our ears off for years to come, even after he takes up his new post as chaplain to the Order of Malta. Still, one wishes he might just “keep all these things and treasure them in [his] heart” a bit more.

Now, one might counter these observations with the fact that Pope Francis himself has given many interviews. This is true. But, of course, that’s his prerogative. He is the reigning pontiff. He is not “hidden from the world.”

One might also point out that Cardinal Kasper has given plenty of interviews. If he can do it, why shouldn’t Cardinal Burke?

Well, truth to tell, it might be a good idea for the most-interviewed protagonists on all sides on the Synod questions to take a breather. Let’s hear instead from, say, the Cardinal Archbishop of Ouagadougou, or the Cardinal Archbishop of Managua. I’d like to know what’s on the mind of the bishop from Tonga who was just named a cardinal, or the one from Addis Ababa. It would make for a refreshing change.

Besides, we all know that the quiet ones are the ones to watch. Mary has only seven quotes attributed to her in the New Testament, total, and look how important she turned out to be.
 

Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

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