Has one of the Roman Catholic Church's leading conservative cardinals been ousted?
American cardinal Raymond Burke has always been a strong voice for traditional values, especially during the ongoing Extraordinary Synod on the Family, but he is reportedly expecting a substantial demotion by Pope Francis.
Former archbishop of St. Louis cardinal Raymond Burke leaves the Synod Hall at the end of a session of the Synod on the themes of family on October 7, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. In his 'Report prior to discussion' presented Tuesday morning to Synod Fathers and Fraternal delegates, the relator general Cardinal Peter Erdo, pointed to the 'privatization of love' as the greatest challenge to the family. Franco Origlia/Getty Images
As BuzzFeed News reported late Friday:
In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told [Pope] Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of canon law to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”
In the same interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke reaffirmed his position: the ongoing synod, despite its much-hyped discussions of the church's possible changes in regards to communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics and LGBT issues, simply cannot lead to a fundamental change in church teaching on sex and marriage — even if the pope is for such changes.
“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke said. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”
Burke has previously decried a "media hijack[ing]" of the synod, telling the National Catholic Register, "The media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, of the United States, arrives at the morning session of a two-week synod on family issues including contraception, pre-marital sex and divorce, at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. 200 cardinals and bishops from around the world have arrived in Rome for the meeting. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Burke's reported demotion came as other leaders within the Catholic Church seem to be pushing towards liberalization — German cardinal Walter Kasper is advocating a path towards communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics, and Pope Francis famously said, "Who am I to judge?" gay individuals who search for Christ.
Some, including Edward Pentin writing in the National Catholic Register, have speculated that the ongoing synod is being "engineered" by a small cadre of radicals to destroy traditional church teachings, while Australian cardinal George Pell claimed that the majority of the synod's participants actually reject the much-publicized working reports from the synod, which seemed to indicate radical acceptance of gay couples, people who cohabit before marriage and those who have been divorced and remarried.
The synod is scheduled to wrap up Saturday.
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