Earlier this month Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke announced to the world that he had contracted Covid-19 in a strangely triumphant August 10 tweet “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.” By August 14 he’d been sedated and placed on a ventilator at an undisclosed Wisconsin hospital. Though so gravely ill that he was unable to breathe on his own, an updated tweet from his account insisted that “Doctors are encouraged by his progress.” Progressing to a ventilator within four days of Covid-19 diagnosis is not, in fact, encouraging, but like Trump, the prominent traditionalist bishop and vaccine skeptic doesn’t make mistakes, and like Trump his survival (as of this writing Burke remains hospitalized but no longer on a ventilator or in the ICU) thanks to extraordinary medical attention, is being attributed to his special mission as one of God’s chosen messengers.
The news that he was ailing was met with a great deal of schadenfreude on social media with some expressing hope for his death. Sarcastic promises of “thoughts and prayers” abounded, as did more thoughtful tweets like this one by @Sisyphus1989: “I’m saying a prayer for those who lack access to necessary medical care because people like Cardinal Burke are taking up hospital beds due to the fact he refused to take a simple action to prevent getting seriously ill.”
For his part, Pope Francis has urged Catholics, and all people of goodwill, to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. He’s called the vaccine a “moral responsibility” and “an act of love.” But for those who follow Cardinal Burke, only the cell lines of a human embryo aborted over half a century ago matter, not the lives of hundreds of millions of people the world over who can be saved by vaccination today.