This is an absurdly long post. I know it. But I’ve chosen to go ahead with it for three reasons: 1) Cardinal Burke deserves the best tribute to his righteousness that I can muster, and to do less would be unjust 2) This is more of a documentary post than a blog post and, lest the information and links be lost, it seemed convenient to put it all together in one place. There are many subtleties which, if left out, destroy the tenuous fabric of the picture, and 3) while of a length better to submit for publication elsewhere, the delays, re-writing or red tape to pursue that outlet would needlessly delay what needs to be timely said. However, if it does become possible to publish elsewhere, I will take down this post, if necessary.
OK, so what is the reader’s defense?
Scroll through to the conclusions at the end and decide if you want to read any of the analysis. That makes sense to me, and I hope makes sense to those who just want to know the conclusions. This subject isn’t going away. It is going to gain even more import as the agenda for Synod 2015 shapes up for next October.
This post attempts to go deeper on two prior Cleansing Fire posts: Cardinal Burke quoted: “I will resist….” and its follow-up post: “Resisting”, Canon 212, and Galatians . Clearly, Cardinal Burke’s reply, that he would “resist” a “change” to Church doctrine that would allow the validly married / divorced / ‘remarried’ to receive Holy Communion, has stirred much reflection and opinion. Since it was a theoretical question, why would he answer it, something rarely done in high pressured interviews? There may be three possibilities, any or all of which might be true, or not. First, perhaps Cardinal Burke knows that it is not really a ‘theoretical’ question, but rather a likely happening, which is unfolding before his eyes. Second, if the Pope is implicated in the orchestrating of the Synod toward the reported change, as some fear (and which Cardinal Kasper claims), Cardinal Burke will have pre-empted any subsequent order of obedience to the contrary. Third, perhaps the Cardinal is preparing us for what we must do if even an angel were to try to preach another gospel to us. In that case, he himself is modeling what we have a right to do if even a Pope attempts to change Doctrine.
Another reason for this post is that Annonymouse commented, asking “whether Cardinal Burke should be so outspoken, or whether he would be more effective to advance his arguments privately to the Holy Father”? It is a good question, and deserves an answer, beyond yes or no. The question prompted my looking carefully into some of the developments over the last year and a half, involving a number of different pieces of input, and peering into Vatican politics, making this a long, detailed post, but hopefully not without value. Further, the more I looked into this matter, the more Cardinal Burke seems deserving of our gratitude, for his serving well the people of God.
The following observations and opinions are offered to advance our dialogue; good people can certainly disagree on the conclusions. But the facts of what was reported in the media are unchanged and, to the best of my knowledge, accurate. But I don’t have any special insight into the situation, although I do have one private communication from Cardinal Burke, sent during the Synod (!), in reply to my mailing last September to Cardinals and Bishops. From small clues in public statements, from relatively unchallenged media rumor, from news reports, and from a certain momentum which has built up among the laity– all shed further light, as from a Lampstand, on the role Cardinal Burke has manifested, and the sacrifice he has made to do so.
Also considered in this analysis are the character and words of those who stand with Cardinal Burke, and the questionable reputations of some who sided against him; e.g. an article was recently published in which Cardinal Wuerl (who gives communion to flagrantly pro-abortion politicians!) criticized Cardinal Burke as a ‘dissenter’, reported by LifeSiteNews in an article “…pot calls the kettle black.”
Background on Cardinal Burke in the Vatican
Let us begin, for perspective, by considering the role of Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke in the Vatican . On June 27, 2008, Cardinal Burke was named by Pope Benedict XVI to be Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the first non-European to hold a position which is one of the most powerful in the Catholic Church, and includes oversight of the Roman Rota, which receives appeals regarding decrees of nullity from litigants in various Marriage Tribunals. Abp. Burke was elevated to Cardinal in November, 2010, and was one of the Cardinal-electors who participated in the 2013 Conclave which elected Pope Francis. Cardinal Burke clearly was deeply trusted by Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is one of the people who has stood by Cardinal Burke, most recently publicly praising his service after Pope Francis terminated him as a member of the Curia.
Staffing changes in such powerful positions are not unexpected when a new Pope arrives, but “how” changes are made, even the slightest nuances, can project admiration or contempt for the person replaced. The manner in which Pope Francis (and his “PR office” aka Vatican Press Office of Frs. Lombardi and Rosica) left rumors “hanging” for weeks, and that he moved the 66 year old (relatively young) Cardinal from being head of the Vatican’s highest court into a largely ceremonial, relatively powerless position, has deeply concerned many faithful Catholics. They see in the “way” it was handled, a “slap in the face” or “punishment” for Cardinal Burke’s outspokenly traditional views expressed at the 2014 session of the Extraordinary Synod. That may well be true, and it may even be that he himself was on trial (under pressure or threat) during the Synod before a final decision to remove him was announced three weeks later. But it was a longer and deeper journey, in my opinion, than just the Synod, and one which needs to be told in order to answer Annonymouse’s question on behalf of many who might wonder why the matter couldn’t have been handled in an alternative, more interpersonal way. By the end of this detailed post, one might even be wondering if Cardinal Burke himself welcomed reassignment and even provoked it.
Consistory Warning Bells
Pope Francis announced on October 8, 2013, 209 days after his election as Pope, the calling of an Extraordinary Synod to be scheduled one year later. In retrospect, one might be surprised at the rush to convene a Synod, although the immediacy was largely unremarked in the media. In preparation for that Synod, there was a consistory held in February 21-24, 2014. By then, the somewhat ambiguous agenda for the Synod had morphed into the German Walter Cardinal Kasper’s own agenda (which that Cardinal would later claim had been overtly the Pope’s agenda, an allegation which Pope Francis has apparently neither acknowledged nor denied.) However, at least part of Pope Francis’s Synod agenda was prescribed in his own words in Zenit on September 17, 2013 (before the Synod was announced) regarding the divorced, and remarried, and their receiving the Eucharist. In a meeting with the priests of Rome, he said: “It is a serious problem regarding the Church’s responsibility towards families living in this situation. The Church must now do something to solve the problem of marriage annulment”.
These last 7 words very clearly separate Pope Francis’s view from that of Cardinal Burke. The Cardinal sees that a couple is either married or not. The annulment follows reality. It is not a “problem” but an opportunity to establish the Truth, and there is a “right” to have the Truth established. The Pope’s words, on the other hand, seem more oriented to the annulment being a facilitator of dissolution, rather than a finding of Truth. What IS the “problem” of marriage annulment to which the Pope refers? Is there really a “problem”? Is an inconvenience to the obstinate sinner a problem? Or is being out of step with secular government a “problem”? Or is holding the line on Christ’s teaching when other churches don’t do so a “problem?” Rather, these might be seen as “glories” of the Church and of those who serve the Church. (From St. Irenaeus in Against the Heresies: ”This is man’s glory–to remain steadfast in the service of God.”)
Pope Francis gave Cardinal Kasper extraordinary latitude to dust off his writings from 20-30 years earlier (which apparently were never supported by Cardinal Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), or by Pope Saint John Paul II.) Cardinal Mueller, now Prefect of the CDF, has vehemently opposed Cardinal Kasper’s so-called “pastoral” proposals, including his pressing to allow validly married, then divorced and ‘remarried’ persons to be able to receive the Eucharist (clearly against Church Teaching). Christ taught that such persons are adulterers. Therefore, those persons are in serious sin and cannot worthily approach the Eucharist.
With such free rein, Cardinal Kasper’s consistory speeches (prevented from dissemination, but parts are leaking out) primed the pump as early as February 2014, to prelates preparing an agenda for the Synod, effectively spotlighting who would likely be the supporters of Cardinal Kasper’s position, and who would not. A majority of those invitation-only attendees of the first Synod session, in October 2014, voted ‘yes’ on three separate matters of controversy, although a necessary 2/3 majority vote was not achieved. To complicate matters further, the three items rejected should have been left out of the final “Relatio” that was issued, but it was (questionably) attributed to Pope Francis that it should be left in, but with a mention that it had not passed the 2/3 vote. Apparently that footnote is lost in some translations, and by the time the delayed English translation was available, marriage was no longer being described as just between a man and a woman, text on which the delegates had voted, adding further to the impression of a high level of manipulation in the document that is supposed to become a working document for the 2015 Synod session. It is no wonder that faithful Cardinals, bishops and priests, as well as the laity, have a high level of concern and skepticism.
Duel of the Authors — not a level playing field
The February 2014 consistory meeting, in which Cardinal Kasper trumpeted his so-called “pastoral practice,” inevitably led to the realization that it would only undermine doctrine as well as true pastoral care, if implemented. But, by then, the content was already in the Synod plans. Such error was the real wake-up call for many traditional and faithful prelates, especially Cardinal Burke. Many of the laity didn’t “get it” until the two Relatios were released during the eventual Synod. Then the Catholic media and blogosphere were outraged, and the full import of the Kasper solution and its divisiveness in the Church was understood.
But Cardinal Burke did “get it”, at least as early as the consistory, if not earlier. Over the next 6 months, in cooperation with Cardinal Mueller of the CDF and other noted theologians and experts, a book was produced, Remaining in the Truth of Christ. It was an extraordinary effort that must have been especially blessed by the Holy Spirit to have been completed and readied in such a short time, a noble effort to educate the prelates who would be attending and voting in the Synod. Cardinal Burke addressed head-on why there is no “annulment problem” in his chapter: “The Canonical Nullity of the Marriage Process.”
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