‘God bless Harrison Butker for speaking the truth’

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Placekickers in football spend only seconds on the field during a 60-minute game kicking field goals and extra points after a touchdown, yet they usually score more points than any other player on the team. The top 25 players in career scoring in the history of the National Football League are all placekickers, and 49 out of the top 50 are placekickers. Games are often decided by a field goal scored or missed with just seconds left in the game. 

While they play a significant role in their football games, placekickers are rarely noted or remembered for their public speaking. A notable exception is Harrison Butker, a placekicker who helped win the Super Bowl three times with the Kansas City Chiefs, including their championship victory this past winter.

Harrison Butker was back in the news again with his commencement address delivered at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., on Saturday, May 11, 2024. Butker’s commencement speech can be described as pro-God, pro-faith, pro-life, pro-family, and pro-motherhood. The fact that he has come under harsh and vitriolic criticism for his remarks shows how far our country has strayed from its Judeo-Christian roots and values. Given the context of his talk being given by a faithful Catholic at a Catholic college that firmly embraces and strongly promotes Catholic teaching unmasks the virulent anti-Catholic sentiment that has an ugly history in the United States and that unfortunately still lurks not too far under the surface of polite society. 

It should be noted that almost a third of Butker’s speech (1,095 out of 3,677 words) is devoted to criticism of bishops and priests. Yet that is not what people are upset about. In fact, there has been little or no negative reaction about this from bishops or priests because we bishops and priests respect his right to make his views known, including his call for priests to exemplify “those virtues proper to every Christian, and indeed every honorable man:  understanding, justice, a life of work — priestly work, in this instance — and good manners.” He reminds bishops that, “as a father loves his child, so a shepherd should love his spiritual children, too.” Rather than respond to these remarks with resentment, his recalling us to our high ideals while promising to pray and fast for bishops and priests are much appreciated.

Unfortunately, secular critics on the left have excoriated Butker for his briefer remarks about other segments of society. What exactly did he say that has evoked such outrage?

Speaking very respectfully and directly to the women in the graduating class, Butker said, “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.” He praised his wife, Isabelle, saying that she “would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.” He added that all of his success was made possible because a girl he met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become his wife, and “embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.” The audience responded to these remarks with applause for 18 seconds.

 Butker praised Benedictine College as “a thriving beacon of light” where attempts to rebuke and embarrass them for holding fast to Catholic values “wouldn’t be met with anger, but instead met with excitement and pride. Not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify him.” Nowhere in his talk does he use the acronym “LGBTQ” nor the words, “gay,” “lesbian,” or “homosexual,” yet this oblique reference (consisting of 15 words out 3,677, or 0.4 percent of the whole talk) referring to the so-called pride month, was detected by the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) police and their deputies, who went ballistic, apparently ignorant of the fact that the pride and lust to which they dedicate their month have been considered by Christians for centuries to be among the seven capital or deadly sins. An online petition calling for “the Kansas City Chiefs management to dismiss Harrison Butker immediately” has gathered almost 200,000 signatures.

The Chief Diversity Officer of the NFL, Jonathan Beane, made it clear that the NFL does not agree with Butker. In a written statement, Beane said, “Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity. His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.” Unfortunately, inclusion in the NFL apparently does not include Catholics. 

We should not be surprised that the secular world hates us for our Christian beliefs. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (John 15:18). As Butker reminded his listeners, “Our Catholic faith has always been countercultural. Our Lord, along with countless followers, were all put to death for their adherence to her teachings. The world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We fear speaking truth, because now, unfortunately, truth is in the minority.” God bless Harrison Butker for speaking the truth. May we all take encouragement from his courage to stand up for what is right and speak up for what is true. 

May God give us this grace. Amen.