Cardinal Burke Prey to Office Politics

Getting our head around the latest Vatican action involving the removal of Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from his high-ranking position as prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura—the highest court of the Catholic Church—is challenging but not impossible to understand. After all, only months after Pope Francis was elected he made the move to take Cardinal Burke off of the Congregation of Bishops and replace him with the liberal Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

Cardinal Wuerl is one of the prelates who refused to obey Canon 915 requiring that pro-abortion public figures be refused the Eucharist until they repent of their sins.

So Wuerl’s move as the replacement for Burke should have been a warning signal to all of us. 

But lest we forget, Cardinal Burke is no stranger to controversy when it comes to defending the Church against those who would diminish it into nothing more than a human institution.

In 2007, the cardinal denounced the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation because of its decision to invite pro-abortion singer Sheryl Crowe to sing at an event it was hosting. At the time then-Archbishop Burke said, “A Catholic institution featuring a performer who promotes moral evil gives the impression that the Church is somehow inconsistent in its teaching.” Cardinal Burke then resigned from the board of the foundation, making his comments and his action fodder for the jibes of Bob Costas and Billy Crystal as they mocked the cardinal for standing for truth.

In the secular world such actions are really not that surprising, but when they start coming from inside the Church itself, that’s another story. 

Fast forward to a steamy controversy in 2012 involving Cardinal Wuerl’s refusal to support the actions of a Catholic priest in his archdiocese. This priest, who denied the Eucharist to a lesbian Buddhist, prompted commentator George Neumayr to publicly proclaim, “If Cardinal Wuerl doesn’t have the guts to deny Communion to an agitprop lesbian Buddhist, he should just close up shop and hand the keys to his chancery over to Obama.”

And Wuerl is just one of Cardinal Burke’s colleagues who not only does not agree with the cardinal’s defense of the truth about Canon 915, but who would go to any length to get him silenced. 

I do not make that statement lightly, for I know firsthand—from conversations I have had with folks in the Vatican—that trouble has been brewing inside Vatican politics for some time. 

Cardinal Burke is not the favorite among those who allegedly have had the pope’s ear—including German cardinal Walter Kasper. In fact, prior to the synod Cardinal Burke took issue publicly with Kasper’s proposal regarding giving Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. When Kasper claimed to be speaking for Pope Francis, whom he stated agreed with him, Cardinal Burke remarked during an interview: 

I find it amazing that the cardinal claims to speak for the pope. . . . The pope doesn’t have laryngitis. The pope is not mute. He can speak for himself. If this is what he wants, he will say so.

And so we arrive at the current point in time. We witness the transfer of Cardinal Burke from the curial office he has held for the past six years to an honorary post where he will no longer be part of the Roman Curia at all. In my mind, this latest Vatican move is not really that surprising. After all, the curia is steeped in political intrigue that rivals the halls of the United States Congress. But what we have to remember during these times of conjecture, hyperbole, and mudslinging is that the curia is composed of human beings, not gods. There are perhaps as many political agendas at work within the Vatican as one has fingers to count, but not a single one of them can ever change infallible doctrine.

Cardinal Burke deserves our appreciation, our prayers, and our continuing respect for his courageous defense of truth. You can share in that expression by signing the LifeSiteNews petition thanking him for all he’s done. 

Pope Francis deserves our prayers during this difficult time. 

And finally, we can be thankful that Christ promised long ago, when He proclaimed to the Church’s first pope, St. Peter: “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

God bless you and keep you strong, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.