Pope Demotes Powerful Conservative Cardinal

You may recall that Cardinal Raymond Burke recently said that gays are so unrelentingly evil that a parent shouldn’t even allow their children to be around gay relatives on holidays. Pope Francis is now removing Burke as the man in charge of church doctrine and putting him into a largely irrelevant and ceremonial position.

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told 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.”

When the pope first took office, his pivot away from an emphasis on questions of sexuality were more a matter of personal tone rather than changes in church policy or personnel. There were rumors that he was trying to oust the man chosen by Pope Benedict to head the church’s office responsible for doctrine, Gerhard Müller, but last winter he instead elevated him from archbishop to cardinal. When word that Burke was on his way out began circulating last month, it signaled that Francis would take major steps to reshape the church. It coincided with the selection of a new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, whom Catholic progressives celebrated for positions like breaking with the American church hierarchy when it withheld its support for President Obama’s health reform law over questions of abortion and contraception.

This is how a pope slowly changes the course of the massive ship that is the Catholic Church, by putting allies into key positions to affect future developments. I think the pope is quite sincere about wanting to make the church less focused on sexuality and abortion and more focused on serving the poor and oppressed, but that is going to take a lot of time and will be a slow and halting process.

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  • Johnny Vector

    Well they only held out for 300 years before officially accepting eppur si muove. Next thing you know they’ll be hauled kicking and screaming into the 20th century, allowing gays to take communion and everything.. It’ll be the 30th century by then, but still.

    I guess that counts as progress.

  • raven

    The gay hate epoch is winding down. It had a good 14 year run but fewer and fewer care.

    It’s time for Xianity to evolve some new targets to hate.

    The betting is, it will be Moslems and atheists.

  • raven

    and more focused on serving the poor and oppressed, but that is going to take a lot of time and will be a slow and halting process.

    Sounds good but:

    1. They’ve tried this before. In the late 20th century they had Liberation Theology which supported the poor and oppressed in Central and South America. It didn’t get too far, some priests, Bishops and nuns were murdered and nothing much changed.

    That is why we end up with children from Honduras and El Salvador fleeing to the USA.

    2. OTOH, that is why the fundie Protestants are eating their lunch in the USA. The RCC is losing Hispanics by the millions, their last great hope. A lot of them join fundie churches because they are more egalitarian and address day to day social problems. It’s a way for them to band together in a strange and difficult land.

    3. And what about their donors? What keeps the RCC going is a few very rich but wild eyed Catholic fanatics who send them money. These guys tend to be rightwing nuts. The Domino pizza guy (Ave Maria, Monahan?, the Home Depot slimer.) Not to mention the Hollywood guy, Charlie Sheehan.

    I suspect the church will do what it always has done. Follow the money!!! It’s just business.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    …and putting him into a largely irrelevant and ceremonial position.

    I find it hard to believe that an organization as tight as the RC would have those kinds of positions. In any event, how would you tell?

  • khms

    Liberation Theology was essentially shut down by our old friend Ratzinger. However, both Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) as well as Bergoglio (Francis) supported the focus on social problems back then, as long as any politics and system criticism was taken out. Where they seem to differ is the relative weight they give doctrine compared to social problems. But don’t talk about the real sources of the problems!

  • se habla espol

    …God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.

    Yup. Christian selflessness on display. “Me” is “what’s … most important.” Sounds right for a priest.

  • http://zenoferox.blogspot.com/ Zeno

    It’s nice of Raymond Burke to obey the pope in this instance. He’s long fancied himself as “more Catholic than the pope” and been willing enough to ignore other papal proclamations. Paul VI did away with the fancy hat (the “galero”) that cardinals used to wear, but Cardinal Burke got himself one anyway. Burke really likes to play dress-up.

  • Sastra

    I think the pope is quite sincere about wanting to make the church less focused on sexuality and abortion and more focused on serving the poor and oppressed, but that is going to take a lot of time and will be a slow and halting process.

    It’s also going to speed up the replacement of a unique doctrine with humanism. Which is why I agree that it’s going to take a lot of time. The more emphasis placed on “showing God’s love through helping others” the less important it becomes that you a.) believe in God and b.) God actually exists.

    That’s why so many religions focus on following rationally indefensible moral views which make them stand out as unique, as apart from or against the world. Otherwise, they start to merge into ethical philosophy and that way lies irrelevance.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R2XG9CnOj8 Olav

    I am still waiting for the secret video tapes from the dungeon of the Buenos Aires brothel where Jorge Bergoglio liked to be tied up and be whipped raw by naked prostitutes. Mortification of the flesh, he called it when he masturbated furiously while they spat him in the face.

    I mean to say: there must be something wrong with him. When will it come out? No one knows.

    But meanwhile, yes, it does look like he sincerely wants to turn the church around. In some direction or other, at least. Whether it will save that corrupt institution or just delay its demise still remains to be seen.

  • otrame

    If I were Francis, I would be very careful about his food tasters and security and such.

  • bobwoodruff

    The popemobile will need to be downsized. Francis will need a plexiglass electric scooter to move around the Vatican. The long knives will be out.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R2XG9CnOj8 Olav

    Bob #11, he was given an old but well maintained/functioning Renault 4 by an admirer which he is told to be using to move around the Vatican, driving it himself. Adding to the myth, of course, that he is a very modest pope and blah-di-blah.

    If you ask me a Renault 4 is still quite decadent when you consider most of his predecessors would have had to just walk around the place.

  • Carlos Cabanita

    The Catholic Church is a very complex wordwide organization. The USA catholics are important with their dollars, but the organization is fabulously rich and much of its income comes from small donations from not rich or even poor people, state subsidies in lots of countries and the profits from its financial structure. It is essentially independent from USA donnors. At its core, it is a profoundly reactionary organization, but extremely aware of any threats to its survival. The rudder turn by Francis I is surely motivated by this awareness.

    The two pillars of catholic doctrine have been, for many years, two enciclicas, Populorum Progressio and Humanae Vitae. The first establishes a political directive for catholic parties that can easily be read into center-right (like the Democratic Party of the USA or the British conservatives) or to center-left (like the Socialist Party of France or the social-democrats of Germany or Sweden). The second encyclica mandates their oposition to contraception and abortion. I mean, they can lean considerably to the left within the bounds of Populorum Progressio, but Humanae Vitae gives them no leeway on sexual politics. Probably that encyclica will have to go, but it will take a painful time.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Modus@#4 – where do you store all your internets? I mean, you must have won so many of the darned things…

  • anubisprime

    I think the pope is quite sincere about wanting to make the church less focused on sexuality and abortion

    Wanting and being able to are two different critters.

    This will not end well for the RCC…if they refuse to grow up, as the latest synod vote tends to indicate,( link at bottom) they will fade away and they know it deep down, but old ignorant sexually dysfunctional men, that comprise the hierarchical curate are paralysed by fear, bigotry, and loathing allied to the real problem that the modernisers are to few in bodies to make a real change bloodless, recruitment is at an all time low and there are no obvious shining stars amongst the younger echelons of the magisterium who are agitating for fundamental change.

    So pragmatically it will be a couple of decades before any meaningful changes are possible, if at all.

    Burke has been sailing close to the wind for a while by openly challenging a sitting popes personal doctrine.

    He was canned not so much for his anti-homosexual venom as his hostility to the seat of traditional popehood…you do not get in the popes face…simples!

    He was going nose to nose with Franny on to many occasions and on to many subjects.

    But his attitude does suggest that a split is brewing, fancy that the RCC in schism territory…not where is that popcorn?


  • Larry

    I think he was originally going to retire to spend more time with his grandchildren but cooler heads prevailed…

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Marcus Ranum “Modus@#4 – where do you store all your internets? I mean, you must have won so many of the darned things…”

    Thanks, but I have no room. I earned plenty back when I was put in charge of figuring out which were Latin terms and which were Harry Potter spells. I got pushed out when the head of the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, the Wingardium Leviosa, got wind of my program. The day that owl brought me the message was the saddest day of my life. On the plus side, for dinner I had owl.

  • http://www.themindisaterriblething.com shripathikamath

    Yes, he does it to counter the bad PR. Not because it’s the right thing to do.


    1. he welcomed gays and same-sex marriages. As to what the welcome entailed in practice, no one can say, but he got great praise in the media.

    2. he forgot to brief the homophobes that it a “show only” gesture, that they should accept it and move on. they did not, instead they rebelled openly.

    3. Francis saw the backlash and watered down the welcome.

    4. The press took notice, this was not going the way he wanted, so he is now making more meaningless overtures.


  • http://www.clanfield.net janiceintoronto

    It’s wonderful the entire world is witnessing the antics of the Catholic Church.

    Expose them to the bright light of day and let people see what the Church really is all about.


  • dean

    I am still not impressed with this pope. His ties to the generals in his country, plus his lack of action on his “profound changes” for the church, re-emphasize to me that he is a master of public relations and nothing else.

    It would be difficult for anyone to look worse than the nazi pope ratzinger – author of several documents detailing how officials around the world could hide abuse of minors by priests – which explains the friendly press the current rule receives, but he (the current pope) really has played words more than actions. His position on homosexuals has been to change the traditional “tell them why what they do and are is sinful, and then welcome them to the church” to “welcome them to the church and then tell them why what they do and are is sinful.” Big whoop.

    Those in and outside the church who hoped for even minor change from this latest get-together of old privileged men were setting themselves up for disappointment, and it was delivered in this document.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I think the pope is quite sincere…

    I doubt his sincerity about anything. His sole purpose is to get child raping priests out of the headlines and he will say and do anything to make sure he succeeds. You watch – next time you hear about a rapist priest the Pope will change the subject by saying something unexpectedly nice about gays, or atheists, or muslims.

  • Bruce

    Hi Ed,

    When will FTB resume having a place that lists ALL recent posts by all FTB bloggers? You already have this on the home page for several categories. It should be trivial to add a listing that includes posts in Any category. Thanks,


  • anubisprime

    I think the pope is quite sincere about wanting to make the church less focused on sexuality and abortion and more focused on serving the poor and oppressed

    With respect Ed that is the line that they want folk to swallow with the hook and sinker!

    This Pope is just a PR smoke and mirror distraction from the last utter disaster of a katolik’ catastrophic incompetent.

    As far as I am aware incitement to performing a criminal act…the insistence that paedophile priests be handled in house and secretly without recourse to the secular authorities… was a basic sin in ‘katolik feelology’ apparently it is not regarded as a particularly heinous one, possibly mitigated and absolved by a few muttered ”hail mary’s?’

    Whatever I doubt that there will be many calls to sanctify ‘benny’ as a saint when he trots off from this mortal coil, not his fault really just unlucky, if not unfortunate, that it got revealed to the public, it has never happened in the past!

    Not hard to get the unmistakable impression that ‘franny’ is a panicked set up by the hierarchical steering committees in Vatican central.

    They are banking on a idealistic doofus to kick the traces over their obvious insanity.

    The fall out from modernization prattles likely to dominate the media for the foresseable, and abused kiddies glossed over and forgotten in the outpouring of a manufactured ‘feel good pope’ articles praising a ‘modern church outlook.

    The flavour of the scam reflecting ‘katolik tastes in misdirection and deception on a grand scale, by holding a puppet pope dressed up in pink and fluffy, and a tale told to the media of a simple man, a totally non-threatening man ‘o’ the simple folk with ‘modern’ ideas and an object lesson in pragmatic delusion.

    And there by take the heat and focus off their opprobrium splattered all over the media.

    They thought it was a passing storm, not unlike many such storms from the past that snapped their rigging and sprung a few planks, turns out it is a full scale hurricane of indefinite duration with extra added vortex.

    Vatican laundry is at breaking point and has been from some time.

    Now like never before they need a distraction of monumental import… cue…roll out ‘franny’ their ‘ace in the hole’ to preach 180 degrees from traditional dogma and so generate a ‘look over there’ moment.

    Absolutely no intentions of following this pope at all…not a bit of it.

    He is the only cover they could fashion given the circumstances.

    If they were really serious it would be a done and dusted deal.

    The RCC can turn on a dime if the advantages are apparent.

    So this is just a PR stunt nothing more and a whole lot less.

  • eric

    This is how a pope slowly changes the course of the massive ship that is the Catholic Church, by putting allies into key positions to affect future developments. I think the pope is quite sincere about wanting to make the church less focused on sexuality and abortion and more focused on serving the poor and oppressed, but that is going to take a lot of time and will be a slow and halting process.

    On one hand, this is good. Better than his predecessor to be sure. Its progress, albeit very slight. OTOH, this is the same strategy the Democrats wanted to follow for slavery (a slow phase-out)…and history does not view them as the heroes of the story.

  • tbp1

    It’s a start, and perhaps more than I expected to see in my life, but the RCC remains fundamentally an international crime syndicate, in bed with dictators all over the world. Despite the occasional good works, it exists primarily to benefit the old men at the top of the heap. Anything actually beneficial to any one else is strictly secondary.

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  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    Empty pews mean empty coffers, so the cult can no longer get away with empty rhetoric. They have to change the sales pitch or nobody will buy the product. The problem is, fewer and fewer people want their product.

    Catholicism has become the Radio Shack of religion.

  • Nick Gotts

    I mean to say: there must be something wrong with him. When will it come out? – Olav

    He was, at the very least, complicit by his silence with the vicious Argentine military junta of the 1970s, at which time he was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. There was a marked contrast between the Argentine and Chilean church hierarchies. In Chile, after initially welcoming Pinochet’s coup, the hierarchy took a significant part in opposing the regime’s brutalities. Nothing comparable happened in Argentina. Bergoglio has also had a long association with the “integralist” (i.e. clerical-fascist) organization Communion and Liberation.

  • colnago80

    Re Nick Gotts @ #27

    There is a Fascist organization known as Opus Dei that operates in the US which includes a number of politicians and talking heads in its membership. The FBI traitor Robert Hanssen was a member of this gang of thugs as was the late and unlamented anti-Semitic columnist Robert Novak. The Communion and Liberation organization sounds a lot like Opus Dei.

    There is also the Legion of Christ and it’s notorious founder, Marcial Maciel, about whom Andrew Sullivan has written extensively. This guy, a favorite of the previous two popes, was a scumbag’s scumbag.