His speech is titled "Filial piety and national patriotism as essential virtues of the citizens of heaven at work on earth".
Cardinal Burke begins by reminding his listeners that there is a transcendent truth by which we should attempt to order our lives:
Our happiness during our earthly pilgrimage and at its destination, eternal life, depends on the conformity of our daily living with the truth, that is, with the good order with which God has created and sustains the world and, in a most particular way, man and woman.
But is a patriotic love of country an aspect of this truth, of this good order which God has created? According to the church it is, as a matter of justice, piety and charity.
How are these virtues connected to patriotism? Let's begin with piety. Cardinal Burke says,
It is the virtue of piety...which expresses our recognition of the truth and our humble obedience before the truth...Piety...inspires and strengthens us to live the truth of our being as creatures created in the image and likeness of God to know, love and serve Him...
I'll go off topic for a moment here to point out that liberalism is impious when it claims that there is only meaning when we author or define our own being, in any direction, according to our own designs.
To put it simply, piety is recognising that we are created by God, that this is a truth of our being, and that it is right to love and to serve God.
What does this have to do with patriotism? This can be explained in terms of the virtue of justice. Justice means giving what is due to others. We have a debt to those who have formed us, who are responsible for our being. If God is primary in this respect, as outlined above, our parents and our family are secondary, as is our country. Therefore, piety is rightly directed not only toward God but to giving due honour and reverence, love and service, and fulfilling our obligations and duties toward our family and our nation. In this sense, piety toward God rightly flows as well into piety toward family and nation. It is the same virtue, the same "obedience before the truth" and one that calls forth charity, an expression of love, in this case, of family and nation.
Cardinal Burke quotes the theologian Louis Bouyer who wrote (in 1963):
The virtues of filial piety and piety toward fatherland...are annexes of the virtue of justice
Cardinal Burke goes on to note that filial piety is included as one of the commandments:
While the Fourth Commandment commands us to honour our father and mother, to show to our parents the piety which flows from the recognition that they have cooperated with God in giving us the gift of human life, it also commands the piety owed to the wider community in which marriage and family are possible and indeed flourish.
This quote from St Thomas Aquinas is also significant:
I answer that, Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various excellence and the various benefits received from them. On both counts God holds first place, for He is supremely excellent, and is for us the first principle of being and government. In the second place, the principles of our being and government are our parents and our country, that have given us birth and nourishment. Consequently man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one’s parents and one’s country.
Cardinal Burke comments:
It is clear from the Angelic Doctor’s exposition that, not only is patriotism not a sin, but it is a requirement of nature itself. The term, worship, when applied to one’s parents and one’s country, as St Thomas makes clear, is distinct from divine worship which is given to God alone. The second sense of worship is analogous and refers to the piety or devotion shown to those who cooperate with God for our good.
The New Catholic Encylopedia puts all this very clearly:
But patriotism as a form of charity, or love, has a more specific object in its actuation than mankind or the human family as such. According to St Thomas Aquinas, the particular love of one’s fatherland is an important aspect of that preferential form of charity that is called pietas. Through piety the person has an obligation of love to God, parents, and fatherland. Each is in some sense a principle of man’s being: God through creation; parents through procreation and education; fatherland through a formation of one’s cultural and historical identity.
It is also worth noting Cardinal Burke's comment on this passage:
Patriotism is an aspect of the grace of piety, which in its turn is an essential part of the matter of charity. Christ gives the grace of piety, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in order that we can live the truth of our human nature.
Patriotism as such is a precept of the natural law.
That's a powerful way to understand the issue.
Cardinal Burke understands as well the importance of nations in fostering intergenerational loyalties, so that we do not fall into the "presentism" of liberal modernity:
This piety is at once a deeply personal virtue and a powerful force to bring together the generations, allowing the young to take root in the soil of the old and the old to engraft their experiences onto the young, so that we sense that home is a place where the passing day partakes of long ages past and to come.
From the Catholic catechism:
[t]he love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity
Finally, Cardinal Burke states very clearly the opposition of the Catholic Church to the replacement of nations by a world government:
It is clear that we and our homelands have responsibilities within the international community, but those responsibilities can only be fulfilled through a sound life in the family and in the homeland. Patriotism, in fact, fosters the virtue of charity which clearly embraces citizens of other nations, recognising and respecting their distinct cultural and historical identity.
...The divine authority, in accord with the order written upon the human heart, does not make just and legitimate a single global government...On the contrary, God meets us and orders our lives for the good in the family and in the homeland.
A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.