Monday, February 18, 2008

Walter Burghardt SJ

Rocco Palmo reports on the passing yesterday, of the Jesuit priest Walter Burghardt, a former professor at Woodstock and Georgetown University. He was 95.

His funeral will be this Wednesday at Holy Trinity Church, also in Georgetown, which is staffed by the Jesuits. Burkhardt was a regular fixture there. I was a sacristan at Holy Trinity in the early 1990s, and he was one of the many priests whom I served. I cannot defend his lack of fortitude regarding certain "hard teachings" of the Church. He once lamented to me that people would take him to task for not speaking more forcefully against abortion; I used that moment to ask him, well, why don't you? In spite of his human failings, he was a gentleman of scholarly bearing, which is more than I could say for at least a few of his Companions. Inasmuch as the parish was going through a bit of turmoil in those days (which author Jim Naughton later described in a book, Catholics in Crisis: An American Parish Fights for Its Soul), he was one of the better-behaved priests around at the time. It was a pleasure to serve him.

He is deserving of our prayers. He could probably use them. Like most of us.


Anonymous said...

3 points

David L Alexander said...

You gotta do better than that. Is that 3 points out of a possible 10, or 3 points you gotta make, and you're holding out on me?

Chris C said...

"3 points" must refer to Fr. Burghardt's homiletic form. He always made three points in his homilies.

I feel very much as you do about the man. He was the first Jesuit I met at Georgetown. My dad (who was a student of his at Regis High School in Manhattan and who died last year at 87) wrote him a note letting him know that his oldest son was going to be attending Georgetown, and he wrote back inviting me to have lunch with him in the Jesuit dining room. He was very gracious to us, and it was hard to believe that he had not seen anyone in my family in 45 years.

He *was* soft on some key points of Catholic doctrine, and that always pained me. But he was a priest of great personal virtue and he loved the Church. I'm sure that counts for something in the afterlife ...

Anonymous said...

Soft? he mentioned abortion in our wedding homily and upset some folks who thought that shouldn't have been discussed at at such a happy occasion. In crying out for justice, he always referenced these poor unborn.

David L Alexander said...

I won't claim to know of your experience, not having been invited to your wedding. Nor am I the first to comment on Burghardt's positions on anything. The overall tone of my encomium was one of admiration for the man, while being mindful of his faults. I would wish to be thought of in the same way.

With this, I stand behind my remarks.