Cardinal Burke, probably the greatest champion at the Vatican of those of us who love and defend Catholic teaching, has been exiled by Pope Francis. The Anchoress opines here. Father Z opines here. We can try to pretend that he’s not being exiled, but…it is what it is.
Exile – expulsion from one’s native land by authoritative decree.
The Vatican is his native land, as he is a cardinal, and he was expelled by authoritative decree, having his authoritative role diminished. He was exiled.
The question is, why was he exiled? It seems natural to assume that this very public act was because of the most recent public thing that he did, and that was to say in regard to Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge” remarks that “We have to judge acts.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court – the Apostolic Signatura – has given a lengthy televised interview in which he decisively rectifies the false notions about Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” quote that has been used frequently to suggest a change in Church teaching on the matter of homosexuality.
Host Thomas McKenna of Catholic Action Insight questioned Cardinal Burke about instances where people must make judgments in light of Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” phrase.
“We have to judge acts, we have to,” Cardinal Burke replied. “All day long we make judgments with regards to certain acts; this is what the natural law is: to choose good and to avoid evil.”
Pope Francis is a Jesuit, and this article yesterday at the Washington Post by a former Jesuit seminarian saying that Jesuits accept openly homosexual candidates for the priesthood isn’t exactly helpful in dispelling notions that Jesuits do not uphold Church teaching on this very grave matter.
But I was open and transparent about my sexual orientation from the beginning. Before I committed, I talked to my vocation director. He was a gay Jesuit; he assured me I’d be welcomed into the Society of Jesus, that I wouldn’t have to go back into the closet. I met other gay Jesuits who told me the same.
So, what is official Church teaching? When Pope Benedict [then Cardinal Ratzinger] was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Saint John Paul the Great, he issued what continues to be the primary guide for the pastoral care of homosexual persons in the Church. The laity are most certainly bound to obey it as a matter of discipline, but we are also bound to obey our bishops (like Cardinal Dolan) and, of course, the Pope….all as a matter of discipline. In it, Benedict (then-Ratzinger) referred to some in the Church who consider same-sex attraction to be “neutral” or even “good,” and he corrected them.
In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Though we are all bound to hold to then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s guide (and our bishops, and Pope Francis, as a matter of discipline), and though it is completely in tune with Catholic understanding of human nature and salvation, the current Magisterium seems to be in some kind of “debate” mode on this subject. Pope Francis, with his “who am I to judge” remark appears to be in the “neutral” camp while Cardinal Dolan, with his “bravo” comment, appears to be in the “good” camp. Pope Francis’ remark “who am I to judge” could not be strictly held to by the laity considering that it was so vague, whereas Cardinal Dolan’s “bravo” remark is not vague at all and completely contradicts Benedict’s letter. The rest of us are bound to adhere to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons direction and to the very consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on this for two millennia, which is what Cardinal Burke was doing in his remarks on judging acts.
At this point, Pope Francis’s view seems no longer vague. Just after Cardinal Burke publicly championed Benedict’s rule and the constant teaching of the Church on human nature and objective disorder, Pope Francis exiled him. Cardinal Burke sent a very public message in his capacity as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and he was subsequently expelled and sent to Malta.
My question is this. Given that it seems clear now that Pope Francis is “neutral” on the matter and expels those who do not hold to the “neutral” line, can we expect him also to discipline Cardinal Dolan for his “bravo” position?
I am not holding my breath for an answer.
To those of you who wonder whether we are to obey Pope Francis or the letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons or, in the case of New Yorkers, Cardinal Dolan, I can only say that the Church is currently not very clear on this based on the messaging of Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke, and Cardinal Dolan. When such things happen, we have to look at the clear teachings of the Church for two millennia to determine what the truth is. My conscience is clear on this, and it is consistent with Benedict’s letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, therefore that is what I will be defending. Having said that, if you see people defending neutrality or “bravo,” you can’t really blame them as they are following the Pope and Cardinal Dolan. It seems clear that given the grave matter involved here, the laity will have a tough row to hoe in defending that which had been so very clear in the Church’s teaching before Pope Francis was elected, which they still have every right (and I would argue duty) to defend.
Am I saying that Pope Francis is not a faithful Catholic? No. I’m saying that how we approach this subject is currently debatable, though Pope Francis’ exile of Cardinal Burke should give us all great pause. How far is he willing to go to silence people who will not hold to the “neutral” line? He is not silencing Cardinal Burke in the sense of putting duct tape over his mouth, but he has certainly removed his credibility in demoting him. My heart sorrows, but I will not panic because, as I said, my conscience is clear. It is also well-informed.