Harrison Butker, kicker for the Super Bowl LVIII champion Kansas City Chiefs, delivers the May 11, 2024, commencement address at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. OSV News photo/Todd Nugent, courtesy Benedictine College

‘Christ is king’

  • May 31, 2024

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl winning field goal kicker has been perma-labelled  “him with his foot in his mouth” for his recent commencement address to a Catholic college.

Predictable epithets such as “controversial,” “divisive,” “misogynistic,” “unhinged,” “dangerous” etc. will follow 28-year-old Harrison Butker for the rest of his public life. The only alternative is for him to recant and agree to some form of diversity, equity and inclusion reprogramming so he can provisionally re-enter polite society. 

To his credit, the man who can boot a pigskin dead centre through the uprights from 57 yards away while billions watch, insists he will do no such thing. Not because he’s a dedicated controversialist. Not because he delights in kicking against the pricks. But because he’s Catholic.

“As members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, it is our duty and ultimately privilege to be authentically and unapologetically Catholic,” Butker told the graduating class  at Benedictine liberal arts college in Atchison Kansas on May 11. “Don’t be mistaken: even within the Church, people in polite Catholic circles will try to persuade you to remain silent.”

Naturally both legacy and social media, each with its insatiable urge to manufacture and monetize controversy, seized on his referencing abortion, LGBT Pride, gender ideology, and the differing vocations of men and women. Yet that portion of his remarks was virtually negligible in his 20-minute speech, despite the echo chamber noise it has generated.

The blunt force of the Catholic kicker’s comments to a Catholic audience was focused on the lack of uprightness within the Catholic Church itself, within the hierarchy and particularly among the lay faithful.

 “(The U.S.) is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith but at the same time is delusional enough to make the Sign of the Cross during a pro-abortion rally. He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears you can be both Catholic and pro-choice,” Butker said.

The genuine danger, he added, is that many of those pushing such confusions socially and politically “have a glaring thing in common: They are Catholic. This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn’t cut it.”

Some of his prescriptions for what ails us do come dangerously close to bishop bashing, which is always an unworthy and pointless form of scapegoating. But he redeems himself for the near miss by making the point that the silence of bishops is worth raising because of the risk it raises for their lambs. 

“When a bishop…or the bishops’ conference…puts out an important document, nobody (now) even takes a moment to read it, let alone follow it. We need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the Church. Our bishops are not politicians but shepherds…they need to lead.”

North of the border, one of the most pressing needs for that leadership is evident in hard data reported by Register columnist Deacon Andrew Bennett on our Comment pages.  In his work with the think tank Cardus, in conjunction with the Angus Reid polling company, Bennett has unveiled truly shocking statistics about the state of the Faith in Canada. For example:

  • Only 51 per cent of Canadian Catholics agree “there is one true God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
  • 54 per cent of us agree “Jesus had many roles such as a teacher and prophet, but he was not God.”
  • Less than half agree the Resurrection of Christ is an historical event that actually occurred in the 1st century.
  • 77 per cent agree you do not have to go to Church to be a faithful Christian.

Such widespread corruptions of the core of the Faith, which tempt the sin of despair, might be a function of what Harrison Butker identifies as the allure of getting along by going along with the secular world’s demands via polite silencing even from within the Church. They are a clarion call for counterforce leadership.

And however that secular world labels Harrison Butker – or anyone who tells Catholics the hard Catholic truths he told the graduating class of a Catholic college – the real wisdom of his words is his call to take up our individual responsibility of living for sainthood. He concluded with three words that will scandalize the world but also fit perfectly on a prayer card.

“Christ is king,” Butker ended. 

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