VATICAN CITY (RNS) As Pope Francis led the world’s cardinals in talks aimed at shifting the church’s emphasis from following rules to preaching mercy, a senior American cardinal took to the pages of the Vatican newspaper on Friday (Feb. 21) to reassure conservatives that Francis remains opposed to abortion and gay marriage.

(RNS4-MAY08) Archbishop Raymond Burke gives the keynote address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on Friday, May 8, 2009. Religion News Service photo by David Jolkovski

Archbishop Raymond Burke gives the keynote address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2009. Religion News Service photo by David Jolkovski


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Cardinal Raymond Burke acknowledged that the pope has said the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” But in his toughly worded column in L’Osservatore Romano, the former archbishop of St. Louis blasted those “whose hearts are hardened against the truth” for trying to twist Francis’ words to their own ends.

Burke, an outspoken conservative who has headed the Vatican’s highest court since 2008, said Francis in fact strongly backs the church’s teaching on those topics. He said the pope is simply trying to find ways to convince people to hear the church’s message despite the “galloping de-Christianization in the West.”

Burke added that the “false praise” from those who highlight Francis’ shift in tone and practice actually “mocks” his role as pope. Francis, the cardinal said, trusts God alone and “rejects the acceptance and praise of the world.”

Burke said he was prompted to write his column after a recent visit to the U.S. in which he became alarmed that so many people wanted to know whether the pope’s statements about not judging gays and his stress on mercy and welcoming everyone augured a change in church doctrine.

Burke has a long-standing reputation as one of the church’s most vocal hard-liners, with his broadsides on abortion and gay marriage even targeting his fellow American bishops. When Francis last year dropped Burke from an influential Vatican body that helps pick new bishops, it was seen as a significant shift in the church’s political dynamic.

Burke’s piece in the pages of the Vatican’s own semiofficial newspaper is an indicator of conservatives’ unease that their priorities are viewed as out of favor. Burke wrote that Francis’ new approach “cannot change the duty of the Church and her shepherds to teach clearly and insistently about the most fundamental moral questions of our time.”

At another point, he said that what Francis has called a “new balance” in the church’s approach does not require anyone to be “silent” about sexual morality; he argued that those issues must remain central to the church’s message.

In another sign of conservative unease about Francis, Sandro Magister, an Italian journalist who often channels the views of the Vatican old guard, on Friday wrote a column that pointedly questioned “the risks of the strategy of silence” that Francis is following by not speaking out on issues like the child euthanasia law recently passed in Belgium.

“He never proclaims Church teaching out loud at a moment when the dispute over an issue has become heated,” Magister wrote.

But that seems to be the way Francis wants it.

As he opened the second of two days of meetings with the world’s cardinals, Francis went out of his way to praise Thursday’s talk by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is a leader in pushing the church to carve out more space for Catholics who, for example, have divorced and remarried outside the church.

Those Catholics currently cannot receive Communion, and how to welcome them was a major topic of these closed-door talks among the 150 cardinals. They were joined by nearly 20 bishops who are to be made cardinals by Francis in a ceremony on Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope summoned the cardinals to Rome a few days early so that they could discuss a range of challenges on family life, such as cohabitation, contraception and same-sex marriage.

Commenting Friday on the lengthy introductory talk by Kasper — who had often been a theological sparring partner with Francis’ predecessor, the more conservative Pope Benedict XVI — Francis praised Kasper’s “profound” and “serene” theology.

According to the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the subsequent private discussions among the cardinals on Friday ranged over many topics and included suggestions for “improving and simplifying” the process for getting an annulment.

But Lombardi repeatedly stressed that the talks were not aimed at crafting proposals but were part of a two-year process of “discernment” as the church looks for “a better way” to deal with the complex issues of modern family life.

Francis will convene a major meeting of many of the world’s bishops, called a synod, this October and in the fall of 2015 to come up with more concrete proposals that the pope can then accept or modify.

In the meantime, Francis clearly hopes that these kind of meetings will herald a new era of collegiality and dialogue in the church. As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston told a fellow cardinal before the morning session began: “We’re here to learn today. It’s back to school!”

KRE/AMB END GIBSON

25 Comments

  1. Interesting. Burke’s words sound good on paper, but they’re coming from somebody who Pope Francis made a point of kicking to the curb, in favor of people like Kasper. So such words can’t be taken seriously on their own.

    It sure would be nice if Pope Francis would stop hiding behind the mouthpieces, and just say out loud what he really believes. Does he agrees with the Catechism, or not? Does he agrees with the Bible, or not? Just plain spill the beans, that’s all. Transparency is no sin.

    Meanwhile, we see Catholic folk still trying to reassure Catholic folk that Pope Francis isn’t Catholicism’s first gay-marriage pope, when in fact the year 2013 proved that Francis really is. These are bad times for Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant.

    • The Pope puts out Youtube videos and has a twitter account. If he wants to say something or clarify his position, he doesn’t need someone to speak for him in public.
      http://www.religionnews.com/2014/02/20/pope-francis-uses-smartphone-video-urge-christian-unity/

    • “Meanwhile, we see Catholic folk still trying to reassure Catholic folk that Pope Francis isn’t Catholicism’s first gay-marriage pope, when in fact the year 2013 proved that Francis really is.”

      O really? So if Pope Francis is the first gay-marriage pope, then why did he speak out for marriage as the union of one man and one woman in his first encyclical? (Lumen Fidei 52) Why did he specifically criticize the attempt to modify the definition of marriage and destroy traditional values in his Apostolic Exhortation? (Evangelii Gaudium 66, 62) So far, the pope is 2 for 2 on defending marriage in public documents.

      Was he “hiding behind the mouthpieces” when he did his interview with the press and declared that “The teaching of the Church [on abortion, same-sex unions and contraception] is clear and I am a son of the Church”? Was he hiding behind the mouthpieces when he sent out his twitter messages asking the faithful to stand up for life?

      I, for one, think the pope has been pretty clear that he backs up the Church on all matters of faith and morals, and will be a leader for our new challenges on these points, and I just wish the Media would stop trying to play him into something else. (Which he has also spoken out against. Not that you’d know it from your comment.)

    • “These are bad times for Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant.”

      Critics have been opposing Christianity since the early days after Jesus, 2,000 years later and it’s still here. Go do something productive.

  2. Assuming this is Francis’ vision for the new evangelization, I can’t see how it would work in practice. I need to see some explanation of how this tolerance of moral relativism would work in the real world, in real parishes, not just lofty talk.

    • Oh please. Give me a break. There is nobody who embraces moral relativism more than your average conservative Christian. They constantly use legalistic approaches to their own scriptures to justify activities and ideas which were generally frowned upon by Jesus and pals.

  3. Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    I would urge readers to read the entirety of Cardinal Burke’s piece — it’s not how Gibson is portraying it. Cardinal Burke affirms everything that Pope Francis has said and Pope Francis has said nothing that contradicts what Cardinal Burke has said.

    • This is a really twisted slant. From the election of Francis, Burke has exploited outlets like EWTN to challenge the pope as much as he dare without using blatantly negative comments. Read the man’s history. He has been downright daring. Study his reactionary activity ever since Francis was elected as his boss. Burke has always been more reactionary than John Paul II and Benedict put together. You can be sure of one thing without any cardinal breaking the conclave secrecy, Burke did not vote for Bergoglio. Burke would not be wearing a red hat or working at the Vatican except for other reactionaries like Benedict. At least St. Louis is rid of him. Burke should join the Pius X Society. It needs a cardinal.

  4. Priests are arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
    Quit the church, folks. No point to it anymore.

    1. Thanks to the internet it has no authority on questions of what is true. Is there a Heaven? A Hell? A God? We find out ourselves and the answer is No.
    2. Thanks to the internet 22,000 victims of pedophile priests have a voice.
    3. Thanks to the internet Catholic crimes in Africa and elsewhere are no longer in hiding.

    Good riddance.

    • @Max- You are correct in that “Priests are arranging deck chairs on the Titanic”.
      Even God said for “His people” to “get out of her”. (Rev.18:4-5) And I heard another voice out of heaven say: “Get out of her, my people, if YOU do not want to share with her in her sins, and if YOU do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.” The Catholic church is a big part of “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” God has judged her and will soon destroy her Himself! So, your words are quite prophetic….

    • Nonsense and poppycock! Listen you vultures, take the plank out of your own eye before salivating over the wrongs of another! The Catholic Church may be down and I’ll acknowledge you that much but it no way is it out! The Church has endured many a schematics and heretics of your like and it still has rebounded in being Christ’s Church here on earth. Woe you Pharisees!

      As for our atheist; there are no such thing as a natural atheist. All so claimed atheist are either fallen Christians or ill-informed believers! Anthropologist have never uncovered any civilization on this earth who did not in some crude or intermediate way understand a supreme being of some sort. Many years ago I debated an atheist on line and he himself revealed that he was a former Methodist minister!

      There may be those who claim no religion but they for sure are not running into the claws of atheism…because they have learned too my friend from the internet the butchery of atheistic Communist of China; the many slaughtered under the “no God” philosophy of mother atheistic Russia; the hundreds of thousands of lives snuffed out in atheistic North Korea.

      The following article further explains the illogical constructs of atheism.

      From an article called The New Intolerance by Melanie Phillips http://melaniephillips.com/the-new-intolerance

      It is atheism, in fact, that is innately hostile to reason. Instead of worshipping God, man worshipped man. To be more precise, man’s ideas became the articles of faith. But instead of wrestling with God, man’s ideas brook no dissent, no argument. That’s because they are not actually ways of making sense of the world, of asking the great questions of why am I here, what is the purpose to my life, how should I behave in ways that give my life meaning. The ideas that man worships are instead ideas he invents to gain power over his fellow human beings. They are ways not of explaining the world but of controlling the world. Therefore they cannot be resisted or argued against. There cannot be any alternative set of propositions. There cannot be any debate. They are a doctrinal belief system of power.

      Indeed, atheism has given us through such ideologies a faith which repels reason. Ideologies such as environmentalism, or the belief in the innate harmony of the natural world; scientism, or the belief that everything in the universe has a scientific explanation; moral relativism, or the belief that everyone’s value system is equal to everyone else’s; multiculturalism, or the belief that no culture can take precedence over any other; egalitarianism, or the belief that everyone is entitled to identical outcomes regardless of their behaviour. These all repel reason because, instead of looking at evidence to reach a conclusion, they start with the governing idea and force the evidence to fit it.

    • “Is there a Heaven? A Hell? A God? We find out ourselves and the answer is No.”

      How is the answer no? Have you come across empirical evidence that proves your DISGUSTING atheistic world-view correct? No, so shut up and get out.

      P.S

      Greetings to the Gabriel above me. I was surprised to see someone else with the name here :D

      • Be quiet and get out! Why if I do you’ll have a boring monologue with yourself and that won’t be interesting would it? It’s more fun bobbing back and forth with another than talking to yourself in the mirror!

        Empirical evidence? Have you been living in a world not knowing of the great massacres that occurred in Nazi German; Stalin’s genocide; Pol Pot’s butchery and many more GODLESS atheistic man worshipping man empires?

        Regarding historical proof of a man called Jesus I’ll be happy to inform your ignorance of the Jewish historical writer called Josephus: In Rome, in the year 93, Josephus published his lengthy history of the Jews. While discussing the period in which the Jews of Judaea were governed by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, Josephus included the following account:

        About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
        – Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63
        (Based on the translation of Louis H. Feldman, The Loeb Classical Library.)

  5. Burke is trying to paint Francis into his extremist, reactionary, corner. The big question is why would Raymond Burke, one of the most obvious of the homosexuals in the hierarchy from the United States, add further exposure to his already obvious position as one of the gayest bishops in that hierarchy?

    Consider Burke’s retrenchment into long trains and other royal regalia, retinues, and rituals, everything old church, his ridiculous cardinal’s galero over his chubby cheeks–without even a cathedral ceiling from which to hang it until it falls to pieces or dust. “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

  6. You know, Pope Francis is fairly familiar with social media, the press and has a twitter account. He can speak for himself to a large audience pretty clearly.

    I don’t think we need a functionary from several thousand miles away from him to tell the world what he is really saying. He is pretty good at saying these things himself, in his own words, without having to go through any kinds of official channels.

  7. Burke is a prime example of what’s off-base in and about the Roman Catholic Church. We’d expect his female “followers” to be sparse and indignant if not downright offended. Let’s reexamine the Church’s sad, intractably willful and benighted backhanded maltreatment of women.

    ===

    “Cutting Commentary”

    Abortion foes never want
    to admit the fact they won’t confront:
    Those unviable tissues that they treasure
    Are not babies by any measure.

    Yet righteous guys, who never bear
    a mote of life, will fiercely swear,
    It’s against God’s will to terminate
    cells gals alone can germinate.

    As long as dogma directs the issue
    of what to make of useless tissue,
    A woman’s rights will be repressed
    by those who think they know what’s best.

    — By Kenneth S. “Ken” Spalding .

  8. Confusion is from the devil. Antipope Francis is causing confusion by not speaking the Truth. The cross that fell on John XXIII Street is punishment for making John XXIII, a known MASON, a saint. Note: I am not saying Angelo is in hell. I cannot judge that. But you cannot be a Pope and be a Mason, too. Truth does not allow that confusion!!!!!

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    […] To observers and participants of that February meeting, it was as if Francis was trying to retrain the churchmen to speak openly after so many years of looking over their shoulders in fear of Rome’s disapproval. “We’re here to learn today. It’s back to school!” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said with a laugh at the start of one of the sessions. […]

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