American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a known conservative and one of Pope Francis’ biggest critics, says the “radical feminist movement” has left Roman Catholic men feeling “marginalized” since the 1960s. His comments were made in an interview published Jan. 5 with Matthew James Christoff of “The New Emangelization,” a Catholic men’s ministry.

“Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out,” Burke said. He points to the popularity of pornography, saying it promotes extramarital sex, a “materialistic and consumer-focused” society that pushes parents to work longer hours and the introduction of altar girls as reasons for men to feel reluctant to be active Catholics.  

“The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time,” Burke said, adding that this contributed to the declining number of priestly vocations in the church.

Altar girls have existed since 1983, when the church removed its ban on girls helping priests at the altar.

“If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically,” he said, noting that his view on altar girls has “nothing to do” with the inequality of women in the church.

There are more than 1 billion baptized Catholics worldwide, 78 million of whom are American, USA Today noted.

Burke also points to the reforms outlined in Vatican II, blaming them for a host of the church’s apparent problems, including the “horrible abuse of individuals,” a breakdown of family life and a drop in Mass attendance.

In terms of sexual abuse committed by clergy, Burke said they were committed by men who were “confused about their own sexual identity” and had entered the priesthood.

This isn’t the first time Burke has made controversial comments about the church. While archbishop of St. Louis, he said Catholics who voted for politicians that supported abortion rights shouldn't receive communion. Ahead of the synod of bishops in October, Burke along with other conservative senior cardinals, published a book that attacked the idea that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive communion.

Last year, Pope Francis removed Burke from the Cardinal of Bishops -- a powerful Vatican organization responsible for appointing bishops worldwide. In November, Francis transferred Burke to a ceremonial post for a Catholic charity. The 66-year-old is considered a liturgical traditionalist and doctrinal conservative. He was elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.