American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a staunch conservative who has spearheaded a drive to cast doubt on Pope Francis’ legitimacy and fanned COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories, has been hospitalized with the virus and placed on a ventilator.
The prelate of the Roman Catholic Church is currently in Wisconsin and was scheduled to participate in several Masses over the past few weeks at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, which was founded by Burke.
In a tweet on August 10 from his official account, Burke announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and said, “Thanks be to God, I am resting comfortably and receiving excellent medical care.”
Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Thanks be to God, I am resting comfortably and receiving excellent medical care. Please pray for me as I begin my recovery. Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.
— Cardinal Burke (@cardinalrlburke) August 10, 2021
The 73-year-old cardinal, commonly referred to as “Burke the Jerk,” has shown himself to be a COVID-19 denier and publicly scoffed at Italy’s strict lockdown measures during the height of the pandemic. He would be seen strolling around Rome mask-free when face coverings were mandated and mock the virus by calling it the “Wuhan Virus.”
Burke was also the subject of a brief Italian news report that showcased Americans defying Italy’s anti-COVID measures, telling the newspaper that closing Catholic churches and social distancing was “un-Godly.”
According to CNN, in May 2020, Burke spoke at a virtual Rome Life Forum symposium for conservative Catholics and said, “Vaccination itself cannot be imposed in a totalitarian manner on citizens. When the state takes on such a practice, it violates the integrity of its citizens. While the state can provide reasonable regulations for the safeguarding of health, it is not the ultimate one, it is not the ultimate provider of health, God is. Whatever the state proposes must respect God and His law.”
Before the pandemic, Burke was known to be one of Pope Francis’ harshest critics, and even teamed up with former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon and conservative Italian politician Matteo Salvini to condemn Francis on issues such as immigration and homosexuality.
He was tapped to be a cardinal in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, a conservative himself, but was almost immediately demoted from his high-ranking Vatican position as head of the justice department in 2014 by Francis. Since then, Burke has rallied conservatives to question the legitimacy of Francis’ papacy and what he preaches.
Burke also famously refused to grant Holy Communion to former Secretary of State John Kerry over his stance on abortion rights and actively campaigned against the election of Catholic Joe Biden, warning voters that he is “not a Catholic in good standing.”
In a statement on his website ahead of the 2020 election, Burke wrote that voters should stick with Donald Trump because “a Catholic may not support abortion in any shape or form because it is one of the most grievous sins against human life and intrinsically evil, and therefore to in any way support the act is a mortal sin.”
It is unclear whether or not Burke was vaccinated before testing positive for the virus, which would have helped him comply with Italy’s harsh regulations that require vaccination proof to anyone who wants to dine in a restaurant or go to a movie.
Pope Francis has also required Vatican employees to be inoculated and called getting the vaccine an “ethical obligation.”
Burke’s press team have stated that doctor’s are encouraged by his progress, and are requesting people to pray the Rosary for him.